Sunday, February 01, 2009
The legend of Pazhassi Raja
We visited the place where Veera Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, also known as the Lion of Kerala, the ruler of Kottayam and one of the first martyrs in India in the struggle against the British, lay buried. Pazhassi Raja died while fighting against British occupation.
In the late 18th century in India, the Marathas and Tipu Sultan were fighting the British. Pazhassi Raja helped the British in their fight against Tipu Sultan, but soon the relationship soured. Exactly what the reason was it is not clear, but it may have been due to taxation rules imposed by the British on the locals.
It is said that after Tipu Sultan left, the British ignored Pazhassi Raja and gave the land in Kottayam to his uncle on lease. Feeling snubbed, Pazhassi Raja stopped collecting taxes in Kottayam. Angered, the British extended the lease given to his uncle, but they were helpless. In 1795, Pazhassi Raja stopped collecting tax. He also sheltered the locals from the British. The Raja escaped to Wayanad when the British went after him. Two years later, the Raja, with the help of an army of thousands of Nairs got the British to retreat. The British cancelled the lease with his uncle and all was peaceful. However, in 1799, after the fall of Srirangapatbam, the British decided to move into Wynad, the Raja’s territory. Pazhasi Raja fought a guerilla war from the mountains of Wynad. He finally died in 1805, shot by a British officer.
Pictures show the place where Razhassi Raja lies buried, and bows and arrows used by the local warriors at that time, now kept in a small museum opposite the tomb.