Pazhassi Raja - an artist's view on a laterite wall

As a royal clan, Purannattu Swarupam had three branches, a western branch or Padinjare Kovilakam at Pazhassi near Mattannur, an eastern branch or Kizhakke Kovilakam at Manatana near Peravoor and a southern branch or Tekke Kovilakam at Kottayampoil near Koothuparamba.
Originally the headquarters of this kingdom was based at Muzhakunnu near Mattannur, as they followed a system where the eldest male of the clan became the Raja of the kingdom and chief of whole royal clan. The headquarters was later moved to Kottayampoil or Kottayam, a small town, located 7 k.m. east of Thalassery and Koothuparamba. Thus the name Kottayam came to be identified with this kingdom and her royal clan.
his nephews, Ravi Varma and Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja now took over reins of government. Vira Varma was a skilled in political intrigue and manipulation whereas Ravi Varma was too incompetent to play any serious political role and hence his role only was nominal. Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja was only one capable of meeting challenge of foreign threat and he rose to become most powerful figure in Kottayam, much to chargin of his jealous and vengeful uncle Vira Varma. Hence Vira Varma played a series of power games with aim to check growing clout of his nephew. So relations between Vira Varma and Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja was one of enmity right from onset.
War on Triple Alliance of Mysore-Coorg-Chirakkal
Military situation was grim for Pazhassi Raja and his troops - in 1774, Coorgs had joined hands with Hyder Ali on promise of being gifted Wynad and a large Coorg army camped in Wynad to help Mysore troops. In 1776, Hyder Ali re-installed Hindu Raja in Chirakkal and latter joined Mysore war effort to crush Pazhassi Raja. This triple alliance which lasted till 1780 reached nowhere near defeating Kottayam army.
Thalasseri or Tellicherry in late 18th century was a harbor-fort which was held by British East India Company as a factory. Value of Tellicherry as a naval base meant that her capture could seriously impact British naval situation in West Coast. Also rebels in North Malabar bought arms and ammunition from British in Tellicherry. So if Hyder could capture this fort, he could in a stroke cripple both rebels in North Malabar as well as British military power at a regional basis.
So in 1778, Hyder’s vassal, the Raja of Chirakkal, besieged Thalasseri and enforced an economic blockade-under orders from Hyder himself. The British factors at Talassery armed Pazhassi Raja’s men to enable them to recover Kottayam from the Mysorean occupation army. This move by the British ensured that the Chirakkal army was now at risk of being struck in the rear by Pazhassi Raja’s force. The Chirakkal troops began to retreat. But Pazhassi chased and devastated the Chirakkal army, and then marched to Kottayam where he obliterated the Mysorean occupation and over-ran all of Western Kottayam. But at this critical moment when the Mysorean army in Malabar could have been destroyed by a joint action on the part of British and the Rajas, the British factors at Talassery were instructed by the Governor not to upset the nominal peace with Hyder. Destruction of Coorg army in Wynad enabled Raja to throw a whole new army into contest at Thalasseri.
In 1780, Pazhassi Raja proposed a plan to the British to break the Mysorean siege of Thalassery: he and his men would strike the enemy in the rear from the east as the British came out of the fort and struck the Mysorean line in front. Both armies would effect a junction that would split the enemy into two. The Mysorean and allied troops could then be routed easily. But it was only in 1781 that the British understood the value of this plan and their Bombay authorities agreed to it. An operation was carried out as per Pazhassi's plan; it ended with the destruction of the Mysorean forces. Sardar Khan himself was killed. What followed was a rebellion in Kottayam by the Nayar militia led by Pazhassi Raja. Soon, the Mysoreans were ousted.
What angered Pazhassi Raja even more was that his brother Ravi Varma who paid visit to Tipu Sultan in 1786 for peace talks was forced to sign a treaty which ceded Wayanad to Tipu Sultan. Pazhassi Raja decided not to let Tipu enjoy Wayanad in peace and kept up a guerrilla warfare that constantly harassed Mysore troops in Wayanad and neighborhood. War in Wayanad lasted for seven years - till 1793 - when the last of Mysore garrisons were expelled from soil of Wayanad.
Pazhassi Raja was disturbed when he heard about the terms which British put forward to Rajas of Malabar in 1792 because British had signed a cowl with him in 1790 which promised to respect independence of Kottayam. The summary of the British terms in 1792 were as follows:

  • The Raja to be able to rule as before but British to control him “in case of oppressing inhabitants”.

  • A resident to be appointed to enquire about “complaints of oppression”.

  • Two persons on the part of the British and two persons on the part of the Raja to make valuation of land revenue of Kottayam.

  • The Tax to be paid by each subject to be ascertained.

  • The Raja’s tribute to be settled in October 1792 according to the appearance of crop.

  • The British share of the pepper to be delivered at a price fixed by the British in December 1792.

  • The remainder of the pepper to be bought only by merchants appointed by the British.

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