Short Essay on English Relations with Kolathunad


A line of rulers Kolattiris, presumably descendants of the famous Nannan of the Ezhimala dynasty ruled over Chirakkal-Kasargod area. The original kingdom of the Kolattiri con­sisted of innumerable petty principalities and their royal house was a centre of internecine feuds and dissensions. These numerous principalities and their princes often came to clashes for one privilege or other.

It was at this time that the English made their first attempt to secure places of commercial interest in Malabar. The East India Company authorities at first made a trial with the Zamorin of Calicut. The Zamorin allowed them to open warehouses at Calicut and Ponnani but he did not even permit them to tile the factory to protect it against fire. Thereafter efforts were made by the English Company to build a factory at Tellicherry.

The Northern Regent of the Kolattiri house permitted the English to settle at Tellicherry while other princes opposed it. Kurungoth Nair in whose territory the factory was established resented the English presence. The exact date of the establishment of the Tellicherry factory is not known.


Sir George Birdwood in his Report on the old Records of the India Office suggests that the English had established a factory at Tellicherry as early as 1683 A.D. Logan put it to be around 1694-95. To quote him, “

As to when the factory was established it is certain that this event happened some time before the 24th October 1699, the first date in the “General Letter Book” of the factory extant on the 6th May, 1728, as mentioned in the factory diary of this letter date.

The Company probably had a trading post at Tellicherry for some years previously and it is certain that at the union between the Companies in 1702, Tellicherry is mentioned along with Karwar, Calicut and Anjengo as among the affiliated factories of Bombay.” These factories were administered by a Chief in Council called Factor.

The political atmosphere in North Malabar was highly advantageous to the Company. In the Kolathunad royal house the executive power was divided in theory among the five eldest male princes viz., the Kolattiri, the Southern Regent, the Northern Regent, the Nalamkoor and the Anjamkoor.


The tussle between them went on steadily that by the end of the 17th century; the whole of Kolathunad plunged into complete political confusion. Chirakkal area alone remained directly under the Kolattiri. Even Kolattiri was not aware of the right granted to the English to set up their factory in the area administered by the Northern Regent. Thus it seemed clear that these five executives administered areas under them without any mutual understanding or discussion.

The conflicting interests of the dynasty led to irregularities and armed interferences. The interference of the Iruvazhinad chief, Kurungoth Nair was an example for this. The general public rose in revolt against the English in 1704-5, with the support of the said Nair Chief.

The reason for the revolt according to Kurungot Nair was that the English attempted to take away the port royalties that were due to him, by passing the de-jure ruler, the Kolattiri Records show that the English had provoked the Nair Chief deliberately for two reasons: (1) They wanted to have complete control over Tellicherry fort which will bring them additional duties and royalties and (2) the bitter feud within the Kolattiri house encouraged them to challenge the authority of the Nair.

Whatever be the merit of the case, Kurungoth Nair was humbled by the English by their might. This source of regular nuisance was completely plugged in 1719 by a treaty with the Kurungoth Nair. The damage inflicted on the fort was compensated by the Nair. Further he gave a monopoly of the pepper trade in his domain without the payment of any customs duty.


Thus the English became masters of the entire Tellicherry region and trade brought them good dividends. It must be noted that the gain of the English on the Malabar Coast was long before the First Carnatic War or the battle of Plassey. It was the victory of the English at Tellicherry that made them supreme in the whole of the region. Encouraged by the concessions and other privileges gained out of the strike within the Kolattiri house, the English took active steps to further promote their interests.

The triumph of Haider in Mysore encouraged the Mappilas of Malabar to assert their rights and privileges. Ali Raja, the Muslim ruler of Cannanore began to mould Hindu religious susceptibilities by insulting their customary practices. This led to clashes between Hindus and Muslims. However peace was arranged by the Tellicherry chief on the 28th August 1762 by making a treaty between the Kolattiri and the Ali Raja.

The latter, a close ally of Haider, decided to teach the Hindus a lesson and invited Haider to conquer Kolathunad in February 1766. Other princes of the Kolattiri family either sided with the English or with Haider; in fact the Chirakkal Raja acted as Haider’s stooge. This position continued even during the invasion of Malabar by Tipu Sultan. The Chirakkal prince however horrified by the large scale persecution of the Hindus by the Mysore Sultan turned against him.

We have no definite evidence regarding the final disappearance of the Kolattiris. By Tipu’s own evidence the last Chrakkal Raja was attacked by his men and killed and his dead body was subjected to the greatest indignities.


Tipu’s Memoirs and the Tellicherry Diary confirmed the heinous act of dragging the dead body of the Raja by elephants and it being exposed to the public view. Tipu’s justification was that a con­spiracy against him had been unearthed in which the Chirakkal Raja was implicated. A portion of the Chirakkal kingdom was gifted to the Bibi of Cannanore.

Robert Taylor, the Chief of Tellicherry issued a proclamation on the 24th April, 1790, guaranteeing the protection of the Company to all the inhabitants of Malabar. Tellicherry Diary bears testimony to the fact that the princes of Kadathanad also took refuge in Travancore. The Raja of Chirakkal was one of the allies of the Company as per the Treaty of Seringapatam that ended the war with Tipu.

The protection of the Company was guaranteed to the Malabar princes by Lord Cornwallis in his letter dated 1st June, 1790, on condition that the princes would agree to become subjects and dependants of the Company. The Company, he said, should be contended with their paying a very moderate tribute provided they will give the Company advantageous privileges for carrying on commerce in the valuable possession of their country.

However, after Tipu’s defeat when Malabar was ceded to the British by the peace treaties, the Malabar Commissioners proceeded to effect a settlement with the Chirakkal Raja and other Rajas without reference to the above promise. The territories of the Raja of Chirakkal or Kolathunad became a part of the District of Malabar under the direct British rule.

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