Attingal Revolt of 1721-Untold Story


Kerala is a part of Indian historiography. The study of Kerala history is important as we study cultural and social unity towards Indian heritage. Same time the land have its own geography and political uniqueness. The geographical location and natural separation had given a special character to Kerala. In east The Western Ghats in west Arabian sea and lying north south direction in southern end. This helped to create distinctive atmosphere from other parts of country and more with foreign countries. Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, Israelis, Greeks, Romans, Chinese had good trade relation from pre-historic period onwards. Even though they were trade relationship it helped in bringing religions like Christianity, Jewish, Islam and helped in creating cultural unity in the diversity. The coming of Vascoda Gama in 1498 made new developments in trade. New sea route brought Europeans to the land. The Portuguese and the Dutch were first to dominate trade later the formation of British East India company in1600 paved the way for another European power.
In order to expel the Portuguese from Kodungaloor and from Kochi the Zamorin of Kozhikode made agreement with British and by this agreement British got right to trade. But the British did not do anything against the Portuguese and made an agreement with them to use the ports belongs to them in Kerala. In1636 first ship from Kochi went to British with Pepper. By this time British obtained permission to build a factory in Vizhijinjam from king of Venad. Due to the continuous problems in Kozhikode the British turned to other parts of Kerala. In 1864 the British obtained another permission from the Queen of Attingal to build a fort in Anjungo . In 1695 they finished the work of Fort. The Fort of Anjengo became important place after the port of Bombay for trade and became a hub for storing arms and ammunition. Rani gave many concessions to the British in Anjungo and this in turn made problems to local people. Farmers have to sell pepper by the price fixed by the British merchants, the most valuable commercial crop of Kerala.
Attingal was an independent kingdom which includes seven villages. The kingdom came into exist when the king Udayamartandavarma(1314-1344) adopted two princess from Kolotiri royal family of Malabar in 14th century. The adopted elder princess was given the Attingal palace and the young princess was given Kunnumal palace. They were allowed to collect the tax of their place and can use of their own. Even they don’t have sovereignty they were given some special status. Queen’s sons become the rulers of Venad.
It was Rani Aswathi Thirunal Umayamma Rnai the Queen of Attingal gave permission to build a fort in Angenjo. The Pillamar feudal chieftains/ministers who were managing state affairs opposed the idea of fortification by a foreign company. The time was not good for the kingdom and Queen faced political and administrative problems also she was in need of resources. The queen and some Pillais received large amounds from British and thus granted permission to fortify Anjengo.  The Dutch,  Kudaman Pillai and Vanjimuttam Pillai   opposed the fortification by British.

attingal, attingal revolt
Ettuveetil pillamar

Later the Queen realized that if the fortification finished the British will not pay her tax so she asked to stop the work, but the British refused. Both Pillais were against fortification eventhough they rivials.   Queen decided and sends an army of Nayars and Muslims to the fort. Vanjimuttam Pillai informed the British about the attack because of simple reason Kudaman Pillai supported queen. British decided to collect pepper not only from Attingal but also from neighborhood areas as the Bombay government had instructed to collect at least 15000 tone peppers. The Rani secured presents when British need more pepper.
English captain John Barbourne presented velvet and 250 coins on an occasion. Within a short time the Anjengo became the full settlement of British. In july 1690 they raised the British flag Union Jack. Private trade was allowed by the court of directors with a view to earn private profit. During the period from 1697-1714 4 commanders came and they obtained suspension due to over enthusiasm in private trade. Last came William Gyfford he was also no different administrator. Gyfford send more pepper to Europe and earned huge profit in the ship owned by his wife’s brother Thomas Cook. He was not a good person, he insulted Brahmins and Muslims when he gets time and he told his subordinates to do so his ill treatment was one of the reasons for revolt. Gyfford’s translator Ignaito Malhiro purchased a coconut grove of a Hindu for 1 lakh panam. This was also against the local Hindu interest because the grove had 2 small temples. Also Gyfford purchased a large sea coast area for a small sum; this became an insult for Kudaman Pillai who had with him some pepper but not money enough to purchase the grove. Gyfford and his wife found happiness in showering impure water over Muslims from fort. This incident aggravated the already bitter relationship that existed between the people of Attingal and British.
When the new Queen came as the ruler of Attingal Kingdom Gyfford was invited to pay up tributes to the new Queen and resume trade.The Nayar chiefs demanded that the presents due to the Oueen be handed over to them for transmission to her. Gyfford, the chief of the factory rejected the demand and insisted that he, along with some colleagues ,be allowed to visit Queen and hand over the present to her  in person. On 14th April 1721 Gyfford with 120 merchants and about 30 soldiers proceeded to Attingal palace about 6 kms from Anjengo fort leaving only 4 men in charge of fort apart from women, children and old. Gyfford led the march they were received by a croud carrying arms. It was normal that the Nayars always carried arms. After the transactions, Geyfford decided to stay in the palace for night. Soon Nayars disarmed the British men and collected the arms. English were advised to spend the night in the palace premises in small batches.
During night the natives fell upon the British and cruelly butchered one and all. Leaders like Malhiro, Gyfford were cut into pieces. The tongue of Gyfford was cut into pieces and threw into Vamanapuram River. Kudaman pillai was the master brain of this killing. Attack on fort took place days later and it became heavy lose to attackers. The attack took place intermittently for 6 months Queen blamed Kudaman Pillai for his act but the Raja of Travancore blamed the queen for the massacre and Attingal was annexed and consolidated to the Travancore state.    The Pillais and Madampis of Travancore were eliminated by Marthanda Varma Ruler of Travancore in 1729.
The revolt of Attingal was the first ever rebellion against British in India on the night of April 11 1721, 140 Englishmen were killed. Revolt took place 136 years before 1857 struggle for independence and 36 years before the Battle of Plassey in which only 29 Englishmen are said to have lost their lives.

courtesy:jerin jayaraj


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