Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Day 6, The Road to the Wynaad.

The Wynaad, as my forebears had spelt it, or Wayanad, as I must learn to write it today, featured strongly in many of the accounts that I had read.

It was the place where Thomas Baber finally cornered the Pyche Raja, but it was also where Thomas appears to have formed some of his strongest bonds with the country.

This was also the place that was described so fully in Thomas report on slavery.

My kind hosts in India had laid on a series of guides and contacts in Calicut and the Wayanad to help ensure that we could visit as many of the locations as possible.

So on this bright and sunny Sunday morning, just like one of the most perfect of English summer mornings, we were setting off to Sultan Batheri to meet Mr. Johnny, a local newspaper journalist, filmmaker and author with a keen interest in the Pyche Raja, who was going to show us the location where the Pyche Raja had been killed.

Driving out of Calicut we were soon climbing up the gently sloping road towards Thamarassery. Soon we had cleared Calicut and were out into paddy fields and palm groves. Small houses, farms and villages lined the road.

On both sides of the road we were met by files and files of young children in their Sunday best off on their way to the Madressa. [1] These children were often only four or five years of age and were usually completely on their own without the least parental supervision, and very largely oblivious to the oncoming traffic, which as so often in India seemed to charge along at break neck speed, often coming within inches of these smarly turned out little kids happily on their way to learn another verse or two of the Koran.

It is so sad that the huge growth in traffic here in the present and coming decades will in time, surely put an end to the freedom to roam that these children have, as the horrendous toll of small lives grows ever higher.

Suddenly just beyond Thamarassery I first became aware of a dark shadowy line of the Ghats rearing up far above the nearby horizon. I knew that the Ghats would be quite high, but I had not realised quite how high or majestic they would turn out to be.

Coming from a "flat" part of the world, it is not often that I get to see such a site, so my sense of excitement was rapidly growing, as the car climbed more and more steeply with every minute.

Soon the shadow had become a firm line, resolving itself into a number of distinct peaks, and valleys, and could no longer possibly be clouds.

Over the preceding couple of years, I had read so much about the various castes and tribes in the old 19th Century accounts of the Waynaad that I was beginning to feel that I was finally climbing perhaps like a Ryder Haggard character into the lost kingdom.

This effect was enhanced by bands of pilgrims on their way to one of the great festivals. These pilgrims, in groups of threes and fours were dressed in black tunics or tee shirts and shorts, and often carried bedrolls on their heads, held in place by the strap of a small “shoulder” bag, slung on their backs by the strap which was passed over their foreheads. These young men with their tousled hair, and extremely muscular calves were walking at a terrific pace down the escarpment.

The determined way in which they travelled and the Spartan way they were living, certainly spoke of great faith. I could only regret that I could not ask them how far they were going, or where they had come from.

They certainly deserved to benefit from their pilgrimage for the amount of effort they were putting into it. I felt a certain fellow feeling for them, being in many ways my own "pilgrimage", and with a passing regret that I had not the time to walk as well.

In the space of a few hundred yards the road suddenly became really steep, and commenced the first of a series of very sharp hair pin bends. Soon we were climbing up into the canopy of the trees. I was extremely pleased that we had chosen a truck drivers rest day for the trip, for we knew that during the week traffic would have been far heavier, on what is rapidly becoming a very inadequate road for the volume of traffic it carries.

From time to time we would meet trucks lurching down around the bends and the pot holes towards us. In every cab, a tiny wiry man was hauling onto the steering wheel with all of his might, working it rapidly from side to side. His foot pumping the brake pedal with all his might, whilst his assistant was leant first this way and then that, looking out for trouble, and hoping for the best. As we neared the top we came across the almost inevitable accident, fortunately in this case causing only bent bodywork, and damaged pride.

The escarpment rang to the sound of air horns as the car and truck drivers signalled their progress, around the blind bends.

As a road builder I could not help but wonder at the men who had first carved these roads out of the jungle. In my western arrogance, I assumed that these roads were the product of some East India Company engineer.

What I have since learned is that these roads were first cut by Indian’s operating under Tippoo Sultan.

For this was originally one of Tippoo Sultan’s gun roads built when he brought cannons down from Mysore into the Malabar in an attempt to capture a route to the sea through the Hindu states of Calicut, Travancore and Cochin.

It is hard to imagine the effort that must have gone into passing two or three tonne brass cannon, with no brakes, down these precipices. The hill sides are scarred by deep gullies caused by the monsoon rains, and in places the road shows signs of having been washed away.

All to soon we were at the very peak, where we passed a sign welcoming us to the Wayanad.

[1] Madressa, Islamic School.

Copyright Nick Balmer, March 2007.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Day 5 Nairs and their monuments

Courtesy of the British Library

One of my prime objectives for my making my trip to India was to try to be able to understand and especially to be able to visualise what the people and places described in the many letters and documents I had transcribed in the British Library had looked like.

Amongst the most interesting of the characters described in the letters and documents I had come across were the Nairs, a Hindu warrior and farming community.

Thomas Baber had obviously come to greatly admire this community, and he seems to have formed his closest links with the Indian communities he lived amongst through the mediation of one particular Nair, Kulpilly Caranakera Menoen.

In 1812 Colonel James Welsh described him as follows: -

“One of the bravest, most intelligent, most indefatigable, most liberal, and most honourable men, I ever knew in my life, was a native of Malabar; a Naire by birth & education….

“A soldier at heart, though not by profession, he had long been accustomed to such service, and had attended Mr. Baber for years in similar wars; both on the coast and in Wynaud. He was clad in the plainest garb; and, on the march, wore a brown cloth waistcoat, buttoned over his angrekah, or white jacket, and had an English hunting cap on his head; carrying a single barrelled fowling piece over his shoulder, and a sword by his side.”

Kulpilly Caranakera Menoen came originally from the village Ramnaad which according to Colonel Welsh was twelve miles south east of Calicut and six miles from the sea shore.

Professor Narayanan in his book "Calicut. The City of Truth" calls this man Pulapra Kanaru Menoen, calling the village Ramanattukara.

Thomas Baber's high opinion of Menoen is shown in the following extracts in letters written by Thomas in 1817 to Sir Thomas Munro.

. I have given this note to Carnakera Menoen, who will most readily accompany you as far as you think his services may be useful---

I am dear sir
Most faithfully yours
April 17th 1817 T.H. Baber

That Sir Thomas Munro made use of Tom’s suggestion, that he should take Carnakera Menoen, as a guide is clear from the next letter written by Tom to Sir Thomas Munro on 28th April 1817.

My dear Sir Private

I am favoured with your letter returning the Papers, and am most happy to find my old servant has acquitted himself so much to your satisfaction, I had no doubt whatever he would, the more indeed you know him, the more you must be pleased with his ……… and especially the frank declaration of his opinions – What a loss it is to the Company that they should be deprived of the services of such a man inconsequence of a vile party faction. – Cananakera Menoen was with me in Canara and will be able to give you a tolerable insight into the state of affairs when I succeeded Mr Wilson

It is not clear when Kulpilly Caranakera Menoen first entered Thomas Baber's service, but it was before 1805, and it is quite likely that it may have been whilst Thomas was first stationed at Calicut in 1797.

Menoen was probably the medium by which Thomas first came to learn and understand local cultures and languages. Together over the next thirty five years they would work together to improve conditions for the local people in the Malabar and to try to lessen the harm being done by the East India Company rule, misrule and corruption.

According to William Logan, in his Malabar Manual, Nairs numbered about 320,000 strong in 1881. They were the warrior militia of the people. Most ran farms, and in many ways they correspond to the Medieval English Yeoman.

The country was divided up into Tara, which were extended households run by Karanavar or elders. These elders ran an assembly, and amongst the assemblies roles was the protection of the people against tyranny and oppression of the Rajas who came from the higher castes.

Courtesy of the Pazhassi Raja Museum.

The Pazhassi Raja Museum has several especially fine 16th and 17th century tombstone monuments showing these fierce warriors with their large swords and wearing strings of perals around their necks. Nairs feature greatly in the events in the Malabar throughout the period of the European conquest and conflicts in the Malabar. Large numbers were hired by the British in the 17th and 18th century, to defend their settlements against Hyder and Tippu, as well as against the Canarese armies.

Traditionally they went bare chested. It is possible that the warrior in the first pencil illustration may be in the East India Company service, and he may have been issued with a shirt to differentiate him from Nairs fighting against the East India Company. Is this shirt an "angrekah" perhaps?

The Calicut East India Company Linguist wrote on the 28th May 1746:-

"These Nayars, being heads of the Calicut people, resemble a parliament, and they do not obey the kings dictates in all things, but chastise his ministers when they do unwarrantable acts."

Nairs were also supervisors and overseers.

I believe that Menoen and Thomas Baber must have come to understand and respect each other at an early stage in their relationship. Unusually, Thomas had not spent much time living with this fellow East India Company Griffins. [1] Almost immediately after arrival he had been sent out into remote and dangerous territory. With the intense hostility between the Nairs and the Mappila communities in many areas, Menoen must have been at nearly as great a risk as Thomas was himself.

Had they been together on that first raid on Chemban Pokar together?

Had this taught Thomas that western methods didn't always work?

Did Menoen teach Thomas Baber to use more appropriate local methods of jungle raiding?

Is it possible that Kulpilly Caranakera Menoen, and many other people decided that the British rule was preferrable to the rule of the Pyche Raja, who was often brutal and arbitary in his decisions, as I will demonstrate shortly.

[1] Griffins; East India Company slang for new arrivals in India.

Copyright Nick Balmer, February 2007.

Day 5, East Hill, Calicut.

From earlier research I knew that a museum called the Pazhassi Raja Museum existed at East Hill in Calicut. What I had not expected was how interesting it would prove to be.

With the help of Ramesh our driver, we discovered that East Hill is four and one half miles to the north east of the town centre, on a steep hill over looking the town of Calicut. The northern end of Calicut was the area where the European’s had been allowed to settle during the days of the Zamorin.

As we climbed and climbed up the steep escarpment to the top of the East Hill, I began to wonder if we were in fact going to the wrong location. However, as soon as we arrived at the main gate, and turned into the museum grounds, I knew we were in a location that was contemporary with Thomas Baber’s life in the Malabar.

For the museum is located in an East India Company courthouse, which appears to have, been built in about 1810 to 1820, judging from the style of the architecture. The classic education of architect of this building is quite apparent in its design, and its inspiration must surely come from someone who aspired to a Roman Villa complex.

It is also quite apparent that it was built by an entirely practical man, for located as it is on a high hill, up above, and remote from the town, it would have been defendable in the event of a rebellion, which must have been only too likely an event to occur.

The complex is formed of three buildings linked together. The oldest appears to be the courthouse. It comprises a large square court building in the centre of the building, with large wooden doors, forming entire walls, to the courtroom, surrounded by a veranda. These concertina doors could be folded back, to allow people on the veranda, which is one of the widest verandas I have ever seen, access to the central courtroom.

The ceilings are very high, and contain louvres for ventilation.

Linking corridors lead to the private quarters, which now form the Krishna Menon Museum and Art Gallery. The courthouse is called the Pazhassi Raja Museum.

Under the courtroom is a basement gaol. The jail is now a sculpture museum and is filled with extremely fascinating stone carving. The structure of this basement is very curious. For a prison it is remarkably light and airy. By the standards of 19th Century British jails like Northleach, it is remarkably pleasant.

It is very hard to tell if the cells have been altered greatly in the development of the museum, and no doubt the prisoners were down there in large numbers, in poor condition. But I couldn’t help thinking; they were probably better off than many British convicts would have been in similar circumstances at that time.

The attitude of the modern Indian authorities to the information in this museum puzzles me. Here is a museum devoted to an Indian Freedom Fighter, Pazhassi Raja, who as far as I am aware never ever came there. The Raja is a subject of huge interest in India currently, and yet there is nothing whatsoever in the museum about him.

It is really a pity that the museum doesn’t cover these events more fully. It has display cases containing some very interesting uniforms and memorabilia from the Malabar Police and Revenue Kolkars.

Amongst the staff in the museum was one young Muslim girl who was obviously interested in the artefacts. She was really surprised at my interest in the various hats, and other equipment, and even more surprised that I knew what they were. Some, I found myself explaining not just to her, but several other visitors what many of these artefacts were.

One very nice young couple later came up and thanked me for the information, and said how much they had enjoyed it. They said how sad they were that there were no guidebooks available. For the history of the building was probably just as interesting as the history of the artefacts in it.

The museum authorities also seem totally unaware that West Hill not far away was the site of one of the most successful attacks on a member of the East India Company establishment ever mounted, when Mr. Conolly, the District Magistrate and Provisional Member of the Council for the Presidency was murdered by a gang of Mappilas.

For as Mr. G. B. Tod, Assistant Collector in Malabar wrote to the Chief Secretary at 1 a.m. on the 12th of September 1855: -

“It is my melancholy duty to inform you, for the information of the Right Honorable the Governor in Council, that Mr. Conolly, the Collector of this district, was most barbarously murdered this evening, between eight and nine o’clock, in the presence of his wife. He received seven wounds, one of which at least was mortal.

So far as the details at present are ascertained, the perpetrators were three Mappilas, who rushed into the veranda and completed their deadly work before assistance could be called. In the present state of Mrs. Conolly, it is impossible to gather further particulars of the tragedy of which she was the sole witness; but immediately that I am able to do so, I will furnish more complete information.”

The Mappilas were escaped convicts from Calicut Jail (from the town Jail, not the courthouse) called Valasseri Emalu, Puliyakunat Tenu, Chemban Moidin Kutti and Vellattadayatta Parambil Moidin. They had escaped from a prison working party on the 4th of August 1855, spent the following month on the run in various houses in the foothills of the Ghats. At a place called Mambram, they prayed at a shrine of a Tangal, known as a fanatic and insurgent leader. They had then hidden in a house three-quarters of a mile away, for several days, before taking vows at a ceremony where they sang a song called Moidin Mala Pattu. Their war knives were passed through incense smoke.

On the night of the 11th at between eight and nine in the evening they crept up to the veranda, leaping up and stabbing Conolly twenty seven times in all. Two servants also received cuts as they came to see what was happening.

A huge manhunt commenced, and eventually on the 17th near a village called Eddamannapara the attackers were tracked down to a building where Major Haly’s Police Corps and a part of No. 5 Company of H.M. 74th Highlanders under Captain Davies attacked the house they were holed up in.

A mortar and a cannon were used to force the men out of the building, whereupon they were cut down, but only after they had killed a Scottish soldier and wounded another in the throat. [1]

It would appear that over the long term, these Mappilas played as serious a role as the Pyche Raja had in trying to oust the British.

Conolly himself seems to have had a lot of time for the peoples he ruled over. He is very largely instrumental in much of the development of the Teak plantations springing up in the Wynaad.

It is not clear who built the courthouse, but Mr. Pearson was Magistrate at Calicut for much of the 1817 to 1825 period, and possibly beyond.

Thomas Baber who became a Circuit Judge visited Calicut often, and must presumably have visited the courthouse. Baber was a strong critic of many aspects of the East India Company administration in the Malabar, and his strong criticism did nothing to endear him with his fellow officials.

In the following letter written to Sir Thomas Munro in 1817, several of these criticisms are aired. He believed that most of the officials running the salt and tobacco monopolies in Calicut were corrupt, and that the monopolies should he stopped.

My dear Sir
Agreeable to your request I return the A copy of my Report on the late Circuit, and also the B comparative statement, and shall be most happy to forward any of the Documents in my possession from which the matter of Public Benefit can be derived – In my report I touched upon the Subject of Reductions as far as I dared, tho’ I wished much to have said afterwards upon the large Police Establishments still kept up in Malabar, which surely cannot be necessary now that the whole of the servants in the Revenue Department – have been vested with the Police Authority. Unfortunately however there is no information before the Court upon the subject, and I should not have been warranted making my observations upon data derived from private sources of information – Whatever however Mr. Vaughan (who is a mere echo of Mr. Warden and his Party) may say upon the necessity of such an expensive Police Estab’t – be assured that one half, at the most, of the present number of peons would be amply Sufficient for legitimate Police purposes.

I ought perhaps to rest satisfied with the reduction I effected 8 years ago – When the charge was upwards of 60,000 s pags besides about 4000 more for cloathing and such nonsense – This after a years fighting with Capt Watson, Lt Grey, Messrs Warden, Chapman etc etc I got reduced to 20,000 for the whole Province – I will not impose (much?) upon you as to read the whole correspondence, which is a large volume, but send a few letters merely to give you an insight into the abuses (---?) in that productive Establishment – Captain Watson made a very handsome fortune sufficient to enable him to resign the service – and I have heard that his adjutant who succeeded him made nearly a lac of Rupees!!!

In Canara I should suppose the Revenue Establishment quite sufficient or at least with a trifling increase in the number of Peons, by way of a reserve for the districts below the Gauts – But I would not recommend a reduction of any of the Hackbundies on the Mysore, Mahratta or Portuguese frontier my argumentation made as it was on the spot, and my plan of dismissing Police Officers wherever abuses prevailed would I think prevent any serious interruption to the Public Safety.

I wished much also to have, in my Report, offered an opinion that Seringapatam was no longer of sufficient consequence to require a Zilla Court with its concomitant expenses, but I have suffered so much for my Zeal that I really now dread doing more than I am obliged – I however adverted to the present State of that Zilla in terms that must suggest to all who read my Report, the inutility for such an expensive Establishment – and I accordingly beg to submit to you how far it would not be practicable to incorporate Seringapatam with North Malabar as easily as Cochin with South Malabar – Magt and Collector with a Moorsiffar would be as much as would be required for all that has to be done at present.

I know not what the present charge is, but by some such arrangement as above suggested, a saving of at least half a lac of Rupees might be affected – I hope you approve of my proposition for employing the convicts it will I know like everything else I suggest be appealed but if I could, I would gladly hold myself responsible for its success, --- You have my full permission to make what use you will of the Comparative Statement tho’ neither Mr. Wilson’s wanton expenditure of the Publics money, nor his cruelty in allowing so many innocent people to remain immured in jail in 1812 & 14 are to be compared to what he notified during former years, particularly those in which he was wholly under the influence of Portipus and Mathapa, -- It is only a matter of surprise to me, how human nature could submit – to such unparalleled sufferings, and that people did not rise en masse and murder every European in the country. How much more does it behove Government to make what reparations they can, knowing as they now do, that all their evils have been entirely owing to the misconduct of their servants – I hope you will bring the subject to the notice of Government, and if you do, do not omit telling them, that even those who have had courage enough and been in circumstances to prosecute their oppressors, have not (excepting in 3 or 4 instances) been repaid the sums extorted from them – In my humble opinion, it would be no more than was first in a great and good Government like ours, to authorize the collector to pay at once from the Public Money under his charge, the whole that has been decreed and also such sums as he might satisfy himself had been extracted from the people without any equivalence – If the Judges of the Provincial Court had done their duty, they would have reported to Govt or at least the Fdr Court, the difficulties in carrying into execution there ---- , owing to Mr Wilson’s irregular mode of proceeding against persons and property of Portapa & Mathapar, and recommended some such mode as above suggested, to make the sufferers some amends – When I was Zilla Judge of Canara, I wrote more than enough to the Provincial Court to satisfy them, how hopeless any adjustment of the confusion in the accounts of the sequestered property was (a great part of which even had been made away) and since I have been in this court, I have done all in my power to get my colleagues to take the subject into consideration, but where there such a systematic appreciation, and such a warm interest for Mr. Wilson (and for every one who will write against me) every thing will be avoided that might eventually prove injurious to Mr. Wilson and it is in vain that as the Senior Judge, and with always inconsequence a casting vote opposed to me, introduce the subject – If however Mr. Stevens is often forced to fly in search of health (for he is still confined to his house) and I get an acting commission as one of the Senior Judges, I will immediately make an effort in favour of these unfortunate be commiserated victims of Rapacity and Injustice.

Your surprise at the treatment I received for doing no more than was my bounden Duty in bringing to light Murdoch Brown’s peculating will be still greater, when I tell you that not only in that but in a still more iniquitous affair, a traffic in kidnapped children I detected him in has been supported by the Company’s servants, and even by Provincial Court against me, I not withstanding succeeded in getting the better of them all, and actually gave liberty to upwards of a hundred poor creatures most of whom had been transported to Mr Brown’s Plantation at Angerkandy, by means the most flagrant – a conspiracy + was then formed to take away my life, in which thy were also foiled, and the ostensible persons, tho’ not the principles (One of which was Mr. Stevens) were disgraced by an exposure in a Court of Justice.

At this point in the letter a postscript has been written onto the bottom margin of the sheet.

+ In 1809 a plan was laid by Mr Douglas and his party to murder me a justice, personal friend with a Major Fortune – It succeeded upon that from obliged to call them out – I was shot thro’ the right thigh & wounded in the left in a most unfair manner, my antagonist having fired at me before the signal was given. He had been practicing at a mark two days before the meeting at Mr. Douglas house.

The letter continues;

It would in fact be endless to remunerate my sufferings for the last 10 years, and even now in the countless mortifications I am exposed to from the remorseless Persecutions of my fellow servants

-- Of the Duty of a Conservator of Forests I never could understand that it extended beyond receiving and paying for timber felled in the Malabar Forests when brought down to the coast, the whole timber being contracted for with the proprietors and former timber merchants – A greater misnomer than conservator cannot be conceived, Mr Fell, to my certain knowledge, never has seen the Forests, and although his assistant Captn Pinch has occasionally visited them, it is the most ridiculous idea conceivable to suppose that it is in his or any mans power to superintend such a prodigious extent of mountain jungle as the Malabar Forests, with an establishment of 3 inspectors and about 40 peons (that is I believe at utmost extent) and if they could, eui bono when not a tree can be exported, nor brought down to the coast without permission from the Collectors of land or sea Customs – So that in fact all that the Conservator & his officers have to do is, to take care of the Timber, which can be done just as well, and to a great deal better by a Collector than any other person – That never was a more useless appointment or establishment than that of Conservator of Malabar, and if my opinion was allowed to have any weight it should be in favour of a petition from the Merchants I sent up to Government in 1808 praying to be restored to their rights in the Forests, and to be allowed to continue to trade in such timber as the Government do not its self require for naval purposes, and all such timber they offered to give to the Company at ---- cost, and to give security, required of them, that they would not cut down any trees than such as the Government permitted them to __ I know not what the profits to the Company are upon the timber they sell, but they must be very trifling and go a very little way to defray the enormous annual expense of the Conservator & his establishment. I never heard that the cost of Timber before it reaches Bombay is more Now then when the trade was open and the company were obliged to buy their wants from the Merchants – But the monopoly is so odious a measure and one that has given rise to so much discontent , that one sacrifice a little for the care and welfare of those whom we are bound to conciliate there is most objection which seems wholly to have escaped the Consideration of Govt and that is, that the monopoly has put a total stop to ship building amongst the coast merchants, and this indeed may be considered as one of the causes of the great stagnation of trade in Malabar – The old Bupee of Cananese wanted to build a new ship of 4 to 500 tons
E burthen, and applied to the conservator of the Forests for the necessary Timber – who answered He has no orders to sell timber – I send the original answer, as a specimen of the uncourtly reception the old Lady’s application met with.

I am not at all surprised at you not having found amongst the Malabar Cutcherry Records what Europeans are employed in the Salt and tobacco department because I never can suppose Government would lose sight of what was due to the Company and their subjects as to give their sanction to such a wanton enhancement of the monopoly price (which in all conscience is high enough) of those commodities – The arrangements, I believe, to be entirely Mr Warden’s and so far from any advantage to the company from it, I know quite sufficient, of these excise agents to pronounce that they would not hesitate to avail themselves of any opening to enrich themselves at the public expense . Mr Lay at Calicut superintends the management of Tobacco sales from Beypoor to Cota River and Monsieur Declein (i.e. Swiss at Mahé’ from Cota to Cavair, there ostensible profits are 2 pagodas on every Candy but I am inclined to believe that there are not the whole of their advantages, a case I tried, when Zilla Judge, of North Malabar (go 16,369 in the file) proved that the sum of Rupees 513 had been charged to the Plaintiff by Mr Declein’s agent in charge of the Tobacco Depot at Mahé upon 34 Candies of Tobacco over and over the companies monopoly price 218 ¾ per Candy. (Which included the above stated 2 pagodas).

Mr Dineur has also the Superintendence of the Salt edas at and in the vicinity of Mahé, tho’ what the ostensible profits are I know not from an enquiry I made in 1810 I satisfied myself that there was a great deal of exposition going on, I forwarded indeed an original Olla to Mr Warden (intercepted by my police) from 2 merchants at Ponamy to Mr Dineurs Agents to dispatch all the salt to them, and not to dispose of any at Mahé and they would sell it at in 4 ½ fanems per para -- equal to 150Rs per corce or nearly an advance of 50 per cent upon the companies monopoly price.


I also reported the circumstance to Everest and another H that occurred a short time previous wherein I advanced to 4 (veliticis?) against Mr Dealein’s agents further oppressions in the receipt and sale of salt and tobacco – Me Ley’s ……..were in another Zilla consequently I know nothing more than what Reports say of his proceedings if however 2 pagodas per candy is all he receives it must be something very handsome for a man in his situation of life. The same sum would be thought a comfortable income if divided amongst 100 petty retailers who gained their livelihood of the sale of tobacco before the establishment of the monopoly – I detected Mr Ley in 1809 in receiving a commission upon freight of a vessel he had been employed to take up on behalf of the Company – Every they that could has been put in this way. He has a valuable Estate in Calicut procured of Mr. Warden’s interest, in defiance of the Regulations of Govt and Mr Pearson has given to him the use of the Convicts, while at the time he reported he had none to spare for the Public Health at Seringapatam – You will see I have adverted to this in my Report to the Fougary Court. – Mr. Thoring shopkeeper at Cananore has management of the Salt Sales at that station, his ostensible profits I am also present of had he himself not given his time and attention to the Concession for less than 100 S Pags per month – Mr Morris’s appointment is a very recent one, not more than twelve months but Mr Ley has I believe been employed since the Monopoly was first established – The latter person was Superintendent of Police at the …. Upon 150 Rps per mth at …. Establishment in 1800 and a Cutwal upon 20 Rps substituted (Mr Dipsar was immediately afterwards made Agent for tobacco and salt) – I forward a letter to Government in answer to a call upon me (in consequence of a petition he sent up to Govt backed by Coll Ben Forbes and the whole of the Officers at Cananore and Companies Servants at this place) to know what Mr Deacleins circumstances were. You will see I there told to Govt he was agent for Tobacco & Salt – and that his profits upon the former were at least 100 Pagodas per month – I believe I have now afforded you all the information I possess upon the points noticed in your letter, if however I find anything more I will …. to you, not that anything more can be necessary to Satisfy you of the existence of abuses in every branch of the administration of Malabar, and that my experience there of and opposition to whatever is prejudicial to the Company & there subjects have produced and are still operating with undiminished violence to keep up this monstrous confederacy against me – adieu.
My dear – for
Believe me
Most Faithfully
5 May 1817 T. H. Baber.

You have by this time acquired a totally one sided of the different characters who have been and who still are employed in Malabar, but none have cut such a figure as Messrs Torin & Bell (who are about to succeed to Council at Bombay) in consequence of their influence with Mr Warden I send K one more document, being my reports and claim (refused?) of Mr Fell for 60,000 Rps as the amount of his loss during the Travancore War. The never was such a gross barefaced attempt to Cheat the Company – Look at Govt laconic letter to Mr Fell – It is sufficiently expressive of their sentiments of him.

In colonial times before the British came to dominate the area the French, Danes and English each had a separate compound along the coast at Calicut. When the English eventually achieved dominance, the northern area of the city became the cantonment. A number of substantial colonial buildings remain around the Mananchira Tank, and to the north. It proved extremely difficult to get any information in Calicut on the town’s history.

However I was later fortunate enough to obtain a copy of “Calicut, The City of Truth, Revisited” by Professor M.G.S. Narayanan, a well known local historian published by Calicut University in 2006, which I greatly wish had been available during my visit, as it describes the history of the city and sets out several suggested walking routes around the important sites.

[1] Logan’s Malabar Manual Volume 1, pages 565 to 568.

Day 5 Arriving in Calicut

Arriving in Calicut [Kozhikode] towards dusk, we had passed by many rundown sawmills and boatyards, before passing over the Beypore River into the south of the town. These are the last remaining vestiges of the former seafaring glory of Calicut.

For we were arriving at what was once Calicut, the home of the famous Zamorin’s who had ruled over one of the strongest and most robust of the Indian trading states along Kozhikode the Malabar Coast.

After so many years of reading the history of the region, it was with a great deal of excitement that I looked out for signs of the remains of this fabled trading port.

I had hoped that buildings from the period of Calicut’s glory would survive, but it was in the faces of people on the streets, that one could see most clearly the traces of the former life of the city.

Very few of the buildings appeared to date back beyond the period of the British rule, but the faces of the men spoke of their origins in the Middle East, Java and even Africa.

I could not help but try to picture in my mind, what the scene must have been like in 1797, when my great great great great uncle Thomas Hervey Baber had arrived in Calicut, sighting the Malabar Coast for the first time.

We don’t know when exactly he arrived, but on February the 7th 1798, my great great great grandfather Henry Baber wrote in his diary that his father had received the following letter from his brother: -

“Feb. 7 Father hears from Tom -- Letter dated Bombay August 1797 – about the same receives a letter which came overland enclosed (by just favour) with government dispatches, requesting his consent to marry a Mrs Cameron (wife of a Major Cameron who was lately killed in an excursion down the country) she is not 18 the daughter of Mr. Fearon of Edinburgh & niece of Mr Douglas of Fitzroy Square London. She had been married to the Major about a twelvemonth.

Tom’s first appointment (upon his arrival at Bby was assistant to the Secretary in the Private Department.)”

It would appear that within months of his arrival in Bombay, Thomas was sent down the coast to Calicut. He had originally set out for India in August 1796: -

“Went to the Isle of Wight with Webb to see
Tom July 5th returned Oxford 13.
Tom sailed in the Albion (Capt Timbrel) to Bombay
Augst 12. Went out Writer”.

It is most probable that Thomas had come on down the coast by ship from Bombay, and would have landed across the beach.

Thomas appears to have only spent a short time in Calicut before being posted up country to Palghat [1], which is to the south east of Calicut.

It was whilst there, that the first recorded event, that I can connect with him occurred, when he was engaged in 1799, in an unsuccessful attempt to recapture a Mappilla rebel called Chemban Pokar who had escaped from Palghat Fort.

These events had their origins in an exemption that the Second Raja of Calicut had given to the Putiyangadi Tangal [2], a Muslim Priest from an influential Arab family, from making revenue payments on his property. This village is given as Bettapudiyangadi, in Logan’s Malabar Manual [3], and is on the north bank of the Ponnani River three miles south of Tirur. This village was one of many in the region where the Mappilas and Hindu’s were competing for dominance. It had been hoped that the Tangal would restrain his fellow Muslims.

A gang had formed run by Unni Mutta Muppan, Attan Gurikkal, and Chemban Pokar. These men who were local headmen were trying to seek revenge on the East India Company judges for the execution of Adam Khan, for a murder he had committed.

As far back as 1797 letters from Tippu Sultan had been intercepted passing to Unni Mutta Muppan, as well as the Pychy Raja and with the Padinyaru Kovilakam Rajas of the Zamorin’s house. [4]

Thomas Baber’s attempt to seize Chemban Pokar was repulsed, and this then encouraged Pokar to attempt to assassinate Mr. George Waddell, the Southern Superintendent, as he journeyed between Angadipuram and Orampuram.

The Mappillas, who were very strongly established in the Calicut area were to give the British repeated problems throughout the period of British rule, with out breaks in the 1840’s, 1860’s, 1880’s and in 1925.

They were the enemies of the Hindu landlords and had often co-operated with the British against the local inland Hindu rulers before 1799, because they saw the British in the 18th Century often as allies in their disputes against the oppressive landlords caste system, from which many of them had escaped to become Muslim’s.

With the East India Companies defeat of Tippu’s state, the Mappillas began to see the British as a bigger threat even than the Hindu’s.

It must have been a frightening but also exciting thing for a newly arrived official aged only twenty as Thomas was, to lead a raid on Chemban Pokar. So far I have not been able to locate any account of the event itself, but the higher British authorities were extremely angry about the raid, and Thomas may have been in severe trouble for some while because of it.

The raid had the effect of driving the Muslim Mappilas to make common cause with the Pychy Raja, who was at this time at the height of his success. The Malabar Commissioners sent a Major Walker to the area to investigate, and Messrs’ Baber and Waddell were condemned for their spirited action. Chemban Pokar was pardoned after he had given security for his good behaviour.

[1] Palghat, nowadays known as Paliacatta
[2] Nowadays spelt Puthiyangadi. A Tangal is a Muslim Priest.
[3] Logan, Malabar Manual, Volume II, page ccccii.
[4] Logan, Volume I, page 522.

Copyright Nick Balmer, February 2007.