Mysore Invasion Of Kerala: Part 2 (Tipu Sultan)

As stated in the precedent article of this series, the invasion of Malabar by the Sultans of Mysore transmuted the dharmic nature of the state of Kerala weakening it both economically and spiritually. Though Hyder Ali massacred many Hindus who refused to accept Islam on his way, he didn’t ravage temples as he looked at temples as a way of filling his coffers by imposing heavy taxes on them whereas his son Tipu Sultan destroyed many temples till Aluva where he was subjugated by the Nairs of TravancoreWe shall see about the atrocities of Tipu Sultan on Hindus of Kerala during his incursion in this article.

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Tipu Sultan (Portrait in London Library)

After the Second Anglo Mysore War, the Mysore ruled Malabar experienced numerous anti-Mysore uprisings against the incipiently imposed land taxes. In 1787, the Mysore sultanate captured Iruvazhinadu by murdering Kurungothu Nair, the ruler of Iruvazhinadu and an old ally of the French. The French then became the most proximate ally of Mysore and continued to supply arms to the kingdom.

In 1788, Ravi Varma, a rebel hailed from the Samuthiri(Zamorin) dynasty, proclaimed his rule of the region and marched to Kozhikode with his Nair army. Though Tipu conferred on him a jagir (vast area of tax-free land) to appease the Samuthiri prince, after promptly taking charge of the jagir, he continued his rebellion against the Mysore puissance. The Nair army was defeated by the superior Mysore lines led by M. Lally and Mir Asar Ali Khan. However, during the above operations, Ravi Varma assisted about 30,000 Brahmins to flee the country and take refuge in Travancore. In 1789, Tipu marched to Kozhikode with a 60,000 men vigorous army, ravaged the fort and razed the town to the ground.

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Thiruvavaya Nava Mukunda Temple

In August 1788, the ruler of Parappanad, the chieftains of Nilamboor, Trichera, Thiruppad and many other Hindu nobles who had been carried away earlier to Coimbatore by Mysore under Tipu, were forcibly converted to islam. Tipu on his way also totally destroyed many Hindu temples and damaged the murtis of some temples. The effect of these assailments on temples by Tipu can be seen in Trimittacode where the murti of Vishnu is seen damaged. Thirunavaya Nava Mukunda temple which was the seat of the prestigious Mamankam festival also served as the only university of astronomy in south India during that time. The university was extirpated by Tipu and students of that university were mercilessly massacred along with the 3000 families of Brahmins in the banks of Bharathappuzha river from Trimittacode to Thirunavaya. In the famous Gurvayur Shri Krishna temple, the moola murti was hidden underground and the utsava murthi was taken to Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna temple on the news of advent of Tipu. Tipu on reaching the temple and getting to know that the Hindus of the area have eluded with the riches of the temple, set fire to the entire temple and moved south.

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Guruvayur Sri Krishna

Tipu Sultan turned his attention towards Travancore as control over Travancore was always been a dream of the Mysore sultans and Hyder Ali’s endeavor to vanquish Travancore failed in 1767. The Kingdom of Travancore had been a target of Tipu Sultan since the end of the Second Anglo Mysore War. Initially Tipu Sultan tried to induce Travancore tactically with the help of the Kingdom of Cochin, but the Raja of Cochin refused and allied with Travancore. On seeing the conquest of Mysore on Malabar and the making of Cochin to a tributary state, Travancore had bought Kodungallur and Pallippuram forts from the Dutch. Travancore deteriorated cognations by extending the Nedumkotta fortifications along the border with Mysore into territory claimed by Mysore in Cochin.

In late 1789, Tipu commenced to build up troops at Coimbatore in preparation for an assault on the Nedumkotta, the fortified line of defense built by the Karthika Thirunal Dharma Raja Rama Varma of Travancore. In December 1789, Tipu Sultan attacked the Nedumkotta from the north, signalling the commencement of the Battle of Nedumkotta.

By the end of December 1789, a large portion of the right flank of Nedumkotta was under the control of Mysore army. Only a 16 feet wide and 20 feet deep ditch separated the Kingdom of Travancore from Mysore forces. Tipu Sultan commanded his soldiers to level up the ditch, so that his army can advance, while receding Travancore soldiers regrouped on the other side of the ditch. Unable to fill the ditch under heavy fire from the enemy, Tipu ordered his soldiers to march forward through a very narrow passage. This move backfired on the Mysore, as a group of two dozen Travancore soldiers from the Nandyat kalari under Vaikom Padmanabha Pillai ambushed their enemies halfway. A few hundred Myore soldiers died of direct gun-fire, and the commanding officer was killed. Many more panicked and in the ensuing chaos fell into the ditch and died. The reinforcements sent by the Mysore were obviated from merging with the main contingent by a batch of the Travancore regular army. The Mysore army suffered 2,000 deaths and many thousands were injured. Several high-ranking Mysorean officers were taken prisoners, including five Europeans and one Maratha.

However, after the embarrassing defeat of Tipu, whose force was panicked by fire from a small number of defenders, Tipu Sultan regrouped his army and captured the Nedumkotta line several months later. While Tipu regrouped, Governor Holland of the English East India Company, engaged in negotiations with Tipu rather than mobilizing the military. The Mysore army broke the Nedumkotta lines and the Travancore army made a strategic retreat, leaving the Mysorean army in command of Aluva. Later Mysore captured the Kodungallur Fort and Ayacotta. The Travancore forces regrouped, but the onset of monsoons prevented Tipu from moving south and he retreated once he heard about the attacks by the English at Mysore. Afterwards, the Soldiers of Travancore recovered the sword, palanquin, dagger, ring and many other personal objects of Tipu Sultan from the ditches of the Nedumkotta and presented them to the Maharaja of Travancore.

Later in April 1790, Tipu came back with reinforcements and this time was able to break into the territory after making the way through Nedumkotta. He destroyed the wall at Konoor kotaa or Kottamuri and advanced further. He filled trenches for a few kilometres to enable his army to move forward. He eradicated many temples and churches and brought enormous harm to the people. The damages caused during these campaigns can be found at the temples of Triprayar, Thirumuzhikkulam and Payammal. The murthi of Sri Ramachandra Swamy was damaged by the forces of Tipu in Triprayar while the temple of Payammal was extirpatedThirumuzhikkulam which housed the Patashala for Yajur Veda during that time was completely razed down with the schools being burnt and the students mercilessly massacred. The upper hands of Lakshmana murthi in Thirumuzhikkulam was also cut by Mysore forces. The moslem forces of Mysore finally reached the Periyar river banks at Aluva and camped there.

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Thirumuzhikkulam Lakshmana Murthi Temple

However, by this time a dimunitive group of 300 Nairs led by Vaikom Padmanabha Pillai and Kunjai Kutty Pillai went upstream and managed to break the walls of a dam at Bhoothathankettu causing heavy flash floods downstream Periyar river.  A large part of Tipu’s infantry was washed away and all the ammunition and gunpowder of Tipu’s army got wet and became dormant. He was thus coerced to retreat, ending his invasion of Malabar. The joint attack of Travancore and British East India Company forces in Srirangapatnam saw Tipu die in battle thus ending the rule of Mysore sultanate. Thus, Tipu Sultan widely regarded as the greatest freedom fighter in the history of India was also responsible for the economic and spiritual turmoil witnessed by Kerala in the past two centuries as the wealth of Kerala was largely looted and Hindus of Kerala went down in number because of the massacres at various parts of northern Kerala.

Note: This article first appeared at https://paanchajanya1284.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/mysore-invasion-of-kerala-part-2-tipu-sultan/ and is being republished here with the permission of the author.


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