What were the features of the Second Revolt against the British?

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The peace arranged through the mediation of the Raja of Chirakkal between the English and the Raja of Pazhassi was not destined to last long. On the other hand it was a time for further preparations. In 1800 the English took possession of Wynad under the pretext that it was given to them by the Partition Treaty of 1799.

This time Pazhassi got the support of a large section of the people including Muslims. The British authorities were firm and ready to take up the gauntlet thrown by Pazhassi. The heroic resistance of Pazhassi began in June 1800, ably assisted by loyal lieutenants like Kannavat Sankasran Nambiar, Kungan Nair, Talakkal Chandu and others. Himself a brilliant strategist, Pazhassi’ guidance and supervision ended in the creation of an efficient force to meet any catastrophe.

The supreme government appointed Col. Arthur Wellesley, the later Duke of Wellington as the Commander of British forces in Malabar. He, for the first time, introduced the Block House System, constructing small forts all over the country. But Wellesley’s lieutenant had to struggle relentlessly for over four years to reduce the Raja to submission. In his dispatch to Col. Sartorius dated 18th September 1800, he wrote, “the most difficult problem facing us in the question of resisting Pazhassi Raja. If he is defeated, everything will be quiet.”

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By May 1803 almost all places of importance in Wynad fell into the hands of the British. The capture and hanging of Kannavat Sankaran Nambiar was a serious blow to the cause of Pazhassi. In fact he became a wanderer in the jungles of Wynad along with its followers. Meanwhile the injudicious and oppressive revenue policy of Major Macleod, Collector of Malabar, further aggravated the political situation in Malabar and added strength to Pazhassi Raja’s hands. In 1802 he disarmed the district. His order enhancing the land assessment in September 1802 fanned into flame the dying embers of revolt. An insurrection followed and in the beginning of 1803 the Malabar province rose en masse.

During this period, the Raja had a few substantial victories. But the arrival of Thomas Harvey Barber, the new sub-collector of Tellicherry in 1804 worsened the possibilities of success for the Raja. Baber made local people responsible for the maintenance of law and order. In June 1805 a proclamation was issued offering rewards for the apprehension of Pazhassi and his adherents. The rewards for Pazhassi’s head were 3000 pagodas. The British forces pursued the Raja further into the jungles of Wynad and his retreat was blockaded. At last on the 30th November 1805 he fell fighting against a body of soldiers under captain Clapham.

According a British official Pazhassi was shot dead by the British forces while the traditional view holds that the Raja swallowed the diamond out of his ring when the enemies surrounded him and ended his life. The body of the Raja was taken to Manantoddy by Thomas Baber and was cremated with customary honours on the consideration that he was one of the ruling chieftains of the country. Baber wrote in his report to the Madras (now Chennai) government, “In all classes, I observed, a decided interest in Pazhassi Raja towards whom the inhabitants entertained a regard and respect bordering a veneration, which not even his death could efface.”

The failure of Pazhassi to defeat the British and get back his possessions is attributable to the superior military power of the British. No military strategist, even of the highest valour and genius, with an irregular force of untrained men equipped with native bows and arrows could possibly defeat the mighty forces of the British. However, it must be said that the heroism of Pazhassi knew no bounds, for even the Zamorin of Calicut and the Raja of Cochin acknowledged the supremacy of the British in Malabar.

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But this disaffected lion of Kerala alone, even though for purely personal reasons (once an ally of the British at the time of Tipu’s invasion of Malabar) thought of resisting the British by open rebellion. Though his mission failed his intentions and efforts towards the target made him occupy high position among the heroes who fought for freedom from foreign domination in India. His target, of course, was not India’s freedom but freedom for his own kingdom.

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