|Arthur Wellesley (Duke Wellington). artuk.com|
Many of us may not have come across an important historical fact related to the early colonial era in the Malabar area of Kerala and, in particular. Waynad. Surprisingly, this place has links with Arthur Wellesley, an Irish-born soldier of the British Army who started his career at the age of 28 in Calcutta (Kolkata) by joining the 33rd regiment of the East India Company. Two years later on a war mission to Mysore, Southern India to confront the sworn-enemy of the British, Tipu Sultan. In the final Angelo-Mysore war, the regiment led by Wellesley saw the down fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799. Backed by vast experience in various phases of war and administration in India that stood him in good he took on the mighty powerful ruler Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France (June 1815) at Waterloo, Belgium and emerged victorious. In the later years, he became the Prime Minister of Britain.
|Waynad, Kerala. wayanad.com|
Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) served in Waynad as a military strategist. How did he appear on the scene here- in the Malabar area? If you turn the pages of the history of waynad that is situated in a mountainous area surrounded by thick jungles and aromatic spices for which the environmentally sensitive Western Ghat mountains are quite famous, you are in for a surprise. 'Official Records' reveal that his string of victories got broken here. Wellesley leading the colonial forces of Malabar, South Canara and Mysore, as a commander to suppress the growing aggression posed by Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan on one hand and Pazhassi Raja of Waynad on the other side. The Nair army adopted guerrilla war tactics against them and Arthur Wellesley ran out of luck and faced defeat and indignation in the final years of war duty in the subcontinent.
|Waynad,Kerala. Tea plantation. keralaholidaymart.com|
|Kottayam district, Kerala state, India.onefivenine.com|
According to the Malabar Manuel, compiled by William Logan, historian and colonial administrator of Malabar under the Madras Presidency that had jurisdiction on this land "The military control of the province was placed under the Madras government, which appointed Colonel Arthur Wellesley as Commander of the forces in Malabar and Canara as well as in Mysore," The local hill tribes had been protesting over the EIC 's threats to take over of their land under Pazhassi Raja, (reign 1774 to 1804) a highly respected and influential person in this area.
|Pazhassi Raja, Kerala. en.wikipedia.org|
Above image: Pazhassi Raja (3 January 1753 - 30 November 1805) born as Kerala Varma .was a warrior Hindu prince and de facto head of the kingdom of Kottayam ,also known as Cotiote. The kingdom cosisted of mostly rich hilly areas with tough geography. He fought wars of resistance against the Mysorian army from (1773–1782 and then to 1793). led by Hyder Ali and later by Tipu Sultan. He was young and in the early 20s. His wife was Kunjani. His consistent fight against the raiders of Mysore got the support from his people because they were demanding heavy taxes and trying to take over the Hindu temples. The EIC got the control of Kottayam region and other places after the 3rd Angelo-Mysore war that ended in a peace treaty.(Srirangapatna) and in the wake of it after 1792 the Kottayam area became part of Madras Presidency. This time the local ruler took the cudgels against the English company and tried hard to uphold the sovereignty of his kingdom. By virtue of the peace treat with the Mysore ruler, the EIC, unethicaaly, staked its claim over the land ruled by the ruler of Kottayam dynasty. Till his last days of his life the English company's army led by Col. Arthur Wellesley could not subdue the protests led by him. Puzhassi Raja died in 1804 and became a prominent freedom fighter in the South western peninsular India, frequently referred to as God's own county because of its rich flora, fauna, numerous rivers and fertile lands. ............
To suppress the activities of the tribes, Wellesley took the extreme step of strengthening the British army and started laying roads in the wooded areas - a way to displace the natives from their ancestral lands; thus Wellesley earned their ire. To add fuel to the fire, Wellesley wrote to the higher-up in Madras, his fellow army man, Lieut. Col. Kirkpatrick, (dated April 7, 1800,) expressing his displeasure over the vast tough wooded terrain where military operation was a difficult one. as the whole area was densely forested, with poor visibility for troop movement. As for the natives living there, he mentioned that they were resolute, troublesome and would cause turbulence. The unfortunate fact is, as per records, he one step went ahead and described the natives as ''savage and cruel''.
The Battle of Panamarathukotta (or Pancoorta Cottah) -Oct. 1802 was fought between the British Company and the Nairs of Wayanad.- Cotiote and after a long struggle they defeated the British army. Not withstanding his serious efforts, Wellesley made a futile attempt to round up Pazhassi Raja who hadto live in exile to get protestas against the Europeans going. The dragnet kept failing evry time the highly spirited British officer tried to catch the ruler. Both Wellesley and his brother holding the highest post of Gov. Gen. in Calcutta (Kolkata) had to return to England before Raja was defeated by the EIC. Wellesley had to leave Waynad for his home country quite disappointed over his failure to trap Pazhassi Raja as his military strategies did not work well in this land that had complex geography. Pazhassi Raja died in 1805 and his end was a controversial one. Some historians say he was captured by the British and others mention that he committed suicide before being caught by the colonial army.
Wellesley was bestowed with the covetous peerage of the Duke of Wellington in 1814 for his distinguished services in the British army and administration. In 1815, he became the ''Conqueror of the Conquer of the World'' after his war with Napoleon at Waterloo, Belgium. As Wellesley had a flair for administration of the government, being close to the King George IV, he entered British politics on Tory ticket. He ultimately became the Prime Minister in 1828 and was politically active till 1846.. He died in 1852 at Walmer Castle.
The Cotiote War
There had been continuous skirmishes and protests by the Cotiote Kottayam king, Pazhassi Raja Kerala Varma, and his subjects against the East India Company for a long time spanning between 1793 and 1806. Perhaps, longest struggle in India- longer than Anglo-Mysore Wars (beween Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, Anglo-Maratha Wars, Anglo-Sikh Wars and Polygar Wars of Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. Spear-headed by daring Pazhassi Raja who was keen to be free the land and people from the British yoke, his continuous struggle gave a big headache to the British who were determined to annex areas under his rule. Being dishonest and deceitful as usual, the English company betrayed the Raja and the natives with persistent exhortations of his two patriot noblemen, Kaitheri Ambu and Kannavath Sankaran. Consequently, war broke out between Cotiote Nairs and the EIC army.