British Hegemony and Kerala's Opposition
Fitch was the first Englishman to visit India in 1583--of course,
after the visit of King Alfred's Ambassadors to St. Thomas' Tomb
in Mylapore in the ninth century. After him came Captain
Keeling in 1615 to Calicut and entered into a commercial and political
treaty with the Zamorin. The English built trade centers
and factories at Vizhinjam in 1644, at Anchengo in 1684 along
with a fort, and at Tellicherry. During the time of Mysore invasions
(1766-1782) the English helped the Zamorin. By 1801, Malabar
became in its entirety part of the Madras Presidency. By
the end of the eighteenth century the British became the undisputed
power in the whole of India. In 1791 Cochin became a vassal
of the British, paying an annual tribute. By the treaties
of 1795 and 4-805, the Travancore Raja also accepted British suzerainty.
The British promised to help the state in the event of external
aggression. The state agreed to pay the British 800,000 rupees
a year in tribute. Lord Cornwallis, formerly Governor of
Britain in North America and at this time Governor General in
India, negotiated a favorable settlement for Travancore; Velu
Thampy Dalava represented Travancore in the negotiations for the
treaty of 1805. Because the Travancore government granted
power to the British to intervene in the internal affairs of the
state and because the state accepted to follow British advice
in administration, the king and his subjects lost their political
TO THE BRITISH
British had to pay a great price in the loss of lives to bring
Kerala under their power. In North Kerala, Kerala Varma
Pazhassi Raja of the Kottayam royal family led two revolts (1793-97,
1800-05) against the British in North Malabar. On March
18, 1797 a company of 1,100 men under Major Cameron was ambushed
and many killed while they were making their way through the Periya
Pass. The East India Company needed the military leadership
of the great Sir Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington and
commander-in-chief of British forces in Malabar, to crush the
revolt of Pazhassi Raja.
Wellesley came to Tellicherry to plan his strategy against the
Raja's guerilla war tactics; We'llesleybuilt a network of roads
to deploy troops, and set up military outposts in different parts
of the coastal area and built forts in the hills.
Travancore, Velu Thampi Dalawa led a rebellion against the British
in 1808-09 because Colonel Macaulay' demanded that the state pay
arrears of tribute promptly especially when the state was in serious
financial difficulties and because the British Resident rejected
the Dalawa's actions against Mathu Tharakan. His lands were
taken over illegally by the state in lieu of payment of taxes.
The Dalawa was assisted by Paliath Achan, the Chief Minister of
Cochin, who was disappointed by the British settlements of pro-perty
claims which were unfavorable to Cochin.
Thampy unsuccessfully sought aid from the United States and the
French against the British. First, the joint forces of Achan
and the Dalava stormed the British Resident's house in Cochin,
but the Resident escaped in a ship to Malabar. Second, the
Dalava issued his famous Kundara Declaration of Independence on
January 11, 1809 and exhorted the people to fight the British.
In a battle fought in Quilon, the British destroyed the rebel
army and the Dalawa's house. Col. St. Leger entered Travancore
through the Aramboli Pass and encamped on the outskirts of Trivandrum
with a strong army. Meanwhile Paliath Achan in Cochin defected
to the British side. The Raja of Travancore found himself
in a no-win situation and sued for peace; he ordered the arrest
of the Dalawa who sought asylum in the Bhagavati Temple at Mannadi.
Before the king's men could arrest him, the Dalawa committed suicide.
His dead body was taken to Trivandrum and displayed on a gibbet.
The Dalawa's relatives were later exiled to the Maldive Islands.