Zamorin of Calicut

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Samoothiri of Kozhikode
കോഴിക്കോട് സാമൂതിരി
c. 1124 AD–1806 AD
Chera King's Sword given to the Zamorin of Calicut. Engraved from an original sketch.
The Zamorin of Calicut (1495-1500) on his throne as painted by Veloso Salgado in 1898
Capital Kozhikode
Languages Malayalam
Religion Hinduism
Government Feudal Monarchy
 •  Fall of the Cheras of Cranganore[1] c. 1124 AD
 •  English East India Company 1806 AD
Currency Kozhikode Fanam
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Chera dynasty
Company rule in India

Zamorin of Calicut (Samoothiri; Malayalam: സാമൂതിരി/സാമൂരി, Portuguese: Samorim, Dutch: Samorijn) is the Hindu Eradi ruler of the Kingdom of Calicut (Kozhikode) on Malabar Coast, India. The Zamorins were based at the city of Calicut, one of the important trading ports on the western coast of India, at its territorial zenith in the 15th century, the kingdom covered almost all of later Malabar district and Cochin state.[2]

It was after the fall of the Cheras of Cranganore in early 12th century, the Zamorins - originally Eradis of Nediyirippu (Eranadu) - asserted their political independence, the chiefs maintained elaborate trade relations with the Muslim - Arab sailors in the Indian Ocean, the primary spice traders on the Malabar Coast in the Middle Ages. The Kunhali Marakkars, the famous Muslim admirals, were the naval chiefs of the Zamorins of Calicut.[1]

The Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama visited the Calicut in 1498, opening the sailing route directly from Europe to India. Calicut was then the most important trading centre of southern India;[3] in the 16th century the Portuguese sailors superseded the Muslim - Arab traders and dominated the commerce of the Malabar Coast. Their attempt to establish sovereignty was repeatedly prevented by the Zamorin of Calicut, the Dutch ousted the Portuguese in the 17th century, only to be followed by the English.[4] In 1766 Haider Ali of Mysore defeated the Zamorin of Calicut - an English East India Company dependant at the time - and absorbed Malabar district to his state.[2] [5] After the Third Mysore War (1790-92), Malabar was placed under the control of the Company. Later the status of the Zamorins as independent rulers was changed to that of pensioners of the Company (1806).[2][6]


Thali Temple (1951), Calicut
Thali Temple, present day, Calicut

The term "Samoothiri" appears in sources only after the c. 15th century, first time in the writings of Abd-ur-Razzaq. Ibn Batutah visited the country in the 14th century (1342 – 1347) and refers to the rulers as "Punthureshan Kunnalakkonathiri". The Eradis of Nediyirippu might have assumed the title of "Samoothiri" in a later period.

The Zamorins used these titles - such as Punthurakon - and no records indicate the actual personnel name of the ruler.[2]


The Eradi clan had their original base at Nediyiruppu (near present-day Kondotty) and were land-locked and sought an outlet to the Arabian Sea, they subsequently moved their capital to the present-day Kozhikode, then also called "Thrivikramapuram". According to K. V. Krishna Ayyar, the city of Kozhikode was founded on a marshy tract in the 11th century AD by the Eradis; in the Middle Ages, Kozhikode was dubbed the "City of Spices" for its role as the major trading point of eastern spices.[7] The Muslim - Arab interests in Malabar, the political ambition of the newly emergent rulers, i.e, the Zamorins, the new Chinese enterprise in the 13th century, and the decline of Kodungallur harbour, etc. boosted the prosperity of the port.[6]

The name Kozhikode is thought to be derived from Koyil (Royal Palace) and Kota (Fort) meaning 'Fortified Palace'. Travellers have called the city by different names - variations of the Malayalam name, the Arabs called it "Kalikooth", Tamils called the city "Kallikkottai", for the Chinese it was "Kalifo". The name of the famous fine variety of hand-woven cotton cloth called calico is also thought to have derived from Kozhikode. Other seats of the Samoothiri of Kozhikode were Ponnani, Trichur (Thrissur) and Cranganore (Kodungallur).[2]

Succession line[edit]

The family of chieftains that ruled the states in Kerala was known as the Swaroopam (the Royal House), the rulers of Kozhikode belonged to Nediyirippu Swaroopam and followed matriliny system of inheritance. The eldest male member of Nediyirippu Swaroopam became the Zamorin of Kozhikode. There was a set pattern of succession, indicated by Places of Dignity - Sthanams - in the royal line. Five Places of Dignity were defined in Kozhikode, these positions were based on the chronological seniority of the incumbent in the different Royal Collateral Branches of the Royal House and constituted what is called in the records as "Kuruvazhcha". Unlike in the case of Cochin, there was no rotation of position among the Royal Collateral Branches, thus no particular Royal Collateral Branch enjoyed any privilege or precedence in the matter of succession, as the only criterion for succession was seniority of age.[6]

Five Places of Dignity (Sthanams) existed in Kozhikode, each with its own separate property enjoyed in succession by the senior members of the three Royal Branches (Kovilakams) of the family,[2] the Samoothiri's family, being Eradis were connected to several other Eradi clans who are resident in Nilambur, Ponnani and nearby localities in Malappuram.

  • 1st Place of Dignity: Samoothiri of Kozhikode
  • 2nd Place of Dignity: The second in line successor to the throne (Crown Prince) is known as the Eralppadu (the Eranadu Ilamkur Nambiyathiri Thirumulpadu) and his official seat was in Karimpuzha (in the northeastern region of the present-day Palakkad district). This area was annexed from Valluvanadu in the leadership of the then Eralppadu.
  • 3rd Place of Dignity: Eranadu Moonnamkur Nambiyathiri Thirumulpad (the Munalpadu)
  • 4th Place of Dignity: Itattoornadu Nambiyathiri Thirumulpadu
  • 5th Place of Dignity: Nediyiruppu Mootta Eradi Thirumulpadu (the Naturalpadu)

The three Royal Collateral Branches (tavazhi) were,

  • Kizhakke Kovilakam (Eastern Branch)
  • Padinhare Kovilakam (Western Branch)
  • Puthiya Kovilakam (New Branch)

The senior female member of the whole Samoothiri family, the Valiya Thamburatti, also enjoyed a Places of Dignity with separate property known as the Ambadi Royal Branch.[2]


The post-Chera period witnessed the emergence of the three small kingdoms in Kerala - Kozhikode (Calicut) , Kolathunadu (Cannanore), and Venadu (Quilon),[6] at its territorial zenith in the 15th century, the kingdom of Calicut covered almost all of later Malabar district (South Malabar) and Cochin state.

Apart from the southern half of Kurumburanadu, Payyanadu, Polanadu, Ponnani, Cheranadu, Venkatakkotta (Kottakkal), Malappuram, Kappul, Mannarakkadu, Karimpuzha, Nedunganadu, Naduvattom, Kollangodu, Kotuvayur, and Mankara the Kingdom of Kozhikode included the following territories as tributary states in the during the late 15th century: Kottayam, Payyormala, Pulavayi, Tanore (Vettam), Chalium, Beypore, Parappanadu, Tirunavaya, Talapalli-Kakkad, Talapalli-Punnattur, Chittur, Chavakkad, Kavalappara, Edappally, Patinhattedam, Cranganore, Kollengodu, Kochi (Cochin) and all of its vassal states, Paravur, Purakkad, Vadakkumkur, Tekkumkur, Kayamkulam and Quilon.[2] However, Kozhikode's control over most of the states in Travancore region seems to be only nominal in the late 15th century.

The kingdom only included the following territories during the late 18th century: Payyanadu, Polanadu, Ponnani, Cheranadu, Venkattakkotta, Malappuram, Kappul, Mannarakkadu, Karimpuzha, and Nedunganadu, the Samoothiri claimed to be - with more or less influence - the paramount sovereign over Payyormala, Pulavayi, Beypore, Parappanadu, Tanore (Vettam), Talapalli, Chavakkadu and Kavalappara. Calicut had also taken possession of - the more full and immediate - sovereignty over Kollangodu (Venninnatu), Kotuvayur and Manakara.[2]

The chief ports under direct control were Putuppattanam, Pantalayani Kollam, Calicut, Tanur, Ponnani, Chetwai and Cranganore.[2]

A panorama of Calicut, shows several types of ships, shipbuilding, net fishing, dinghy traffic and a rugged, sparsely populated interior. Georg Braun and Franz Hogenbergs atlas Civitates orbis terrarum, 1572


Early history[edit]

Famous legends - oral traditions - such as The Origin of Kerala tell the establishment of a local ruling family at Nediyiruppu, near present-day Kondotty and two young brothers belonging to the Nair Eradi clan. The brothers, Manikkan and Vikraman were the most trusted generals in the army of the Cheras.[8][9] However, during the partition of Chera Kingdom, the Chera monarch failed to allocate any land to these two brothers. Filled with guilt, the king later gave his personal sword and his favourite prayer conch - the sword and the conch were both broken - to his general and told him to occupy as much as land he can with all his might. So the young general conquered neighbouring states and created a powerful kingdom for himself, as a token of his respect to the Chera king, he adopted the logo of two crossed swords, with a broken conch in the middle and a lighted lamp above it.[2]

Historical records regarding the origin of the Samoothiri of Kozhikode are obscure. However, its generally agreed among historians that the Samoothiris were originally the "hereditary governors" of Eralnadu region of the Chera Kingdom (9th - 12th century AD) and were known as the "Eradis", on the basis of the strength of the "Hundred Organisation" of the senior prince of Eranadu, which was Six Hundred, it has been suggested that Eranadu be of about the same size as Ramavalanadu, Valluvanadu, Kizhmalanadu, Venadu etc. during the Chera period. One comes across only one nadu in this period with a stronger force, namely Kurumpuranadu, with a force of Seven Hundred although many lesser ones with Five Hundred, Three Hundred, etc., are available. Although there is no solid basis for the famous partition legend surrounding the end of Cheras, it is a possibility that following the mysterious disappearance of the Chera ruler, the land was partitioned and that the governors of different nadus (fiefdoms) gained independence, proclaiming it as their gift from the last sovereign.[2][1]

Eralanadu Utaiyavar appears as signatories in the Jewish Copper Plate of Bhaskara Ravi (11th century) and the Syrian Christian Copper Plate of Vira Raghava (13th century). Kollam Ramesvaram temple inscription of Ramavarma Kulasekhara (12th century) and the Muchundi mosque inscription of Punthurakkon (13th century) are the other two important epigraphical sources[2][6]

Inscription [10] Year Notes
Jewish Copper Plate of Bhaskara Ravi 1000 AD The Chief of Eralanadu is described as Eralanadudaya "Manavepala Manaviyan"
Kollam Rameshwaram Inscription of Ramavarma Kulasekhara AD 1102 "Manavikraman alias Punthurakkon, the Chief of Eranadu"
Anandapuram Temple Inscription, Thrissur Immediate Post-Chera Period "Protection by Eranadu Nizhal"
Trichambaram Inscription 11th century AD "Eranatutaya Manavepala Manaviyatan"
Pulpatta Inscription, Manjeri 11th century AD "Aranuttavar of Eralanadu"
Syrian Christian Copper Plate of Vira Raghava AD 1225 "Issued with the knowledge of Venadu, Odanadu, Eranadu and Valluvanadu"
Muchundi Mosque Inscription of Punthurakkon 13th century "Punthurakkon"

There is some ambiguity regarding the exact course of events that led to the establishment of Eradi's rule over Kozhikode, their later capital.

According to traditions, after the decline of the Cheras, Kozhikode and its suburbs formed part of a kingdom called Polanadu ruled by Polarthiris, the Eradis of Eralnadu were land-locked and sought an outlet to the Arabian Sea to initiate trade and commerce with the distant lands. To accomplish this, the Eradis marched with their Nairs towards Panniyankara and besieged the Polartiri in his headquarters, resulting in a 48 - year - long conflict, the Eradi was unsuccessful in his attempt, and the he propitiated the Bhagavati, bribed the followers of Polarthiri and even the consort of the ruler of Polanadu and won them to his side. Learning of this treachery Polarthiri fled from his fort at Kozhikode. Eventually, the Eradis emerged victorious in their conquest of Polanadu and shifted their headquarters from Nediyiruppu to Kozhikode. Eradis built a fort at a place called "Velapuram" to safeguard their new interests, the fort most likely lent its name to Koyil Kotta (the precursor to the present name Kozhikode).[11]

The stories about the origin of the Kadathanadu dynasty (Vatakara) are associated with battle of the Eradis with Polanadu. When the Samoothiri attacked Polanadu, he exiled a Polarthiri royal princess and she was welcomed in Cannanore - one of the Samoothiri's rivals states, after the marriage of a Cannanore prince with this princess the Kadathanadu dynasty was born. The name Kadathanadu refers to as the passing way between Cannanore and Calicut.[12]

Some historians are of the view that the Eradi was in fact a favourite of the last Chera king as the Eradi was at the forefront of the battles with the Chola - Pandya forces in south Kerala and led the army to victory, the king therefore granted him, as a mark of favour, a small tract of land on the sea-coast in addition to his hereditary possessions (Eralnadu province). This patch of wasteland was called chullikkadu, the Eradis subsequently moved their capital to the coastal marshy lands and established the city of Kozhikode, then also called "Thrivikramapuram". To corroborate his assertion that Eradi was in fact a favourite of the last Later Chera, scholars cites a stone inscription discovered at Kollam in southern Kerala, it refers to "The Four Councillors, The Thousand, The Six Hundred, along with Mana Vikrama - the Governor of Eralanadu and other Feudatories". This may indicate that Kozhikode lay in fact beyond and not within Polanadu and there was no need of any kind of military action for the control of Kozhikode.[13]

A later study of M. G. S. Narayanan concerned with "Manavikrama", the governor of Eranadu who is supposed to be the ancestor of the Zamorins of Kozhikode.[14]

Access to the sea helped the Eradi chief to develop the city into one of the major trading centres in south India abounding in a wide variety of goods like black pepper, textiles, lac, ginger, cinnamon, myrobalans, and zedoary. Vessels of various sizes from around the world - like Chinese junks - arrived at Calicut.[2]

Early conquests in central Kerala[edit]

The power balance in Kerala changed as Eralnadu rulers developed the port at Kozhikode, allied with Muslim-Arab merchants, the Samoothiri became one of the most powerful kings in Kerala.[2] In some his conquests - such as that of Valluvanadu - the ruler received assistance from the Arabs.[6]

Smaller states south of Kozhikode - Chalium, Parappanadu and Tanore - soon had to submit and became their feudatories one by one, the rulers of Payyormala, Kurumbranadu, and other Nair chiefs on the suburbs of Kozhikode also acknowledged the supremacy of Kozhikode. There were battles between Kozhikode and Kurumbranadu for a long coastal region called Payyanadu. Payyanadu was a part of Kurumbranadu in early times, and was given as a royal gift to Kozhikode. Kozhikode easily overran the Kurumbranadu forces in the battle and Kurumbranadu had to sue for peace by surrendering Valisseri.[2]

Modern replica of the stele installed at Kozhikode by Zheng He. This is a modern replica, seen along with other steles in the Stele Pavilion of the Treasure Boat Shipyard in Nanjing.
Muccunti Mosque Inscription. Inscription specifically mentions the word "Punturakkon"

It took almost a hundred years for Kozhikode to organise an attack on Valluvanad - the most powerful adversary of Kozhikode in their early conquests - after the possible conquest of Kozhikode, the immediate aim of the Kozhikode rulers was to capture the holy centre of Thirunavaya. They took advantage of the so-called Kurmatsaram between Panniyur and Chovvaram villages in western Valluvanad; in the most recent conflict, the Brahmins of Tirumanasseri province of Valluvanad had attacked and burned a nearby rival village. The rulers of Valluvanad and Perumpadappu (modern Kochi) came to help the Chovvaram and attacked the Panniyurkur simultaneously. Tirumanasseri province was soon occupied by its neighbours on south and east, Perumpadappu and Valluvanad, the ruler of Tirumanasseri appealed to Kozhikode and Tanur for help, and promised to cede Ponnani to Kozhikode as the price for his military protection. Ponnani was an important port in the Tirumanasseri province, and was a centre of Muslims in Malabar. Kozhikode, looking for such an opportunity, gladly accepted the offer. Along with the combined armies of their subordinate kings (the kings of Chalium, Beypore, Tanur and Cranganore) and that of "Shah Bandar" Koya's, Kozhikode army advanced by both land and sea on their first major expedition to the south.[2]

The main army under the command of Samoothiri himself attacked (encamping at Trpangode) an allied army of Valluvanad and Perumpadappu from the north, initiating the Thirunavaya battles, the battles were fought between Tirunavaya and Vakayur. Meanwhile, another huge force under Eralppadu (crown prince) commanded the navy across the sea and landed at Ponnani and later moved to Tirumanasseri, with intention to attack Thirunavaya in Valluvanad from the south with help of the army of the Brahmins. Eralppadu also prevented the army of Perumpadappu joining Valluvanad army, the Muslim naval merchants and commanders at Ponnani supported this army with food, transport and provisions. The army of the Eralppadu moved north and crossed the Nila river and took up position on the northern side of the river.[2]

In spite of the fact that the soldiers of Valluvanad did not get the timely help of Perumpadappu, they fought vigorously and the battle dragged on; in the meantime, the Kozhikode was also successful in turning Kadannamanna Elavakayil Vellodi (junior branch of Kadannamanna) to their side. Finally, two Valluvanad princes were killed in the battle and Kozhikode annexed Tirunavaya.[2]

The Thirunavaya battles were not the end of Kozhikode's expansion into Valluvanad, the Samoothiri continued attacks on Valluvanad. Malappuram, Nilambur, Vallappanattukara and Manjeri were easily occupied from Valluvanad. He encountered stiff resistance in some places and the fights went on in a protracted and sporadic fashion for a long time. Further military operations (in the east) against Valluvanad were neither prolonged nor difficult for Kozhikode. Moreover, Samoothiri successfully followed a policy of appeasing the feudatories/governors of Valluvanad and conferring upon them the areas they originally held under Valluvanad.[2]

The battles along the western borders of Valluvanad were bitter, for they were marked by treachery and crime. Pantalur and Ten Kalams came under Kozhikode only after a protracted struggle, the assassination of a minister of Kozhikode by the Chief Minister of Valluvanad while visiting Venkatakkotta in Valluvanad sparked the battle, which dragged on for almost a decade. At last the Valluvanad minister was captured by Samoothiri's forces and executed at Padapparambu, and his province (Ten Kalams, including Kottakkal and Panthalur) were occupied by the Samoothiri, the Kizhakke Kovilakam Munalappadu, who took a leading part in this campaign, received half of the newly captured province from Samoothiri as a gift. The loss of this brave and fiercely loyal Chief Minister was the greatest blow to Valluvanad after the loss of Tirunavaya and Ponnani.[2]

Conquests in Cochin[edit]

Kozhikode forces faced defeat in their next attack on Perumpadappu, the combined army of Perumpadappu and Valluvanad resisted Kozhikode forces and a bloody battle ensued for three days, at the end of which Kozhikode army was on the retreat. After a period of uneasy calm in Kerala, Kozhikode invaded Nedunganadu, a small state between Valluvanad and Palghat. Nedunganadu was annexed without striking even a single blow, at Kodikkunni, the chief of Nedunganadu surrendered to the Kozhikode forces. Then the Kozhikode forces annexed a number of smaller villages around Tirunavaya - such as Tiruvegappuram - from Valluvanadu. But, at Kolakkadu, the Valluvanadu governor tried to overcome the Kozhikode prince’s advance, near Karimpuzha in Valluvanadu, the common people - the Cherumas and Panans of Kotta - resisted the advancing army. The Kozhikode won their affection by gifts and presents, at Karakkadu, Kozhikode prince was met by an ancestor of Kavalappara Nairs, a vassal of Valluvanadu. At Vengotri, Nellayi and Kakkathodu, the governors of Palakkad surrendered to Kozhikode. Samoothiri of Kozhikode appointed the Eralppadu as the governor of southern Malabar region during this time, the provincial capital was at Karimpuzha. Talappilli (present day taluk of the same name and coastal regions from Ponnani to Chetwai) and Chengazhinadu(ruled by Chengazhi Nambiar) submitted to Kozhikode without any resistance after an invasion by Kozhikode’s army.[2]

Portuguese fort at Calicut

Kozhikode then annexed the whole of Ponnani taluk from Valluvanadu and captured Vannerinadu from Perumpadappu. The Perumpadappu ruler was forced to shift their capital further south to Thiruvanchikkulam.[2] Even Trikkanamatilakam near Thiruvanchikkulam was under their control and Perumpadappu ruler again shifted their capital further south to Kochi (Cochin).

Kozhikode conquered large parts of the Kochi Kingdom, and reduced it to a vassal/feudatory state, the family feud between the Elder and Younger Branches of the Royal Family of Kochi was exploited by the Kozhikode. The military intervention was initiated as Kozhikode’s help was sought against the ruling Younger Branch of the Kochi royals, the rulers of Cranganore, Idappalli, Airur, Sarkkara, Patinhattedam (Thrissur) and Chittur supported or joined Kozhikode forces in this occupation of Kochi. Some of these were the vassals of Kochi, the Kochi chief was defeated in a battle at Thrissur and his palace was occupied. But, the defeated chief escaped to further south. Pursuing the chief to south, the Kozhikode army under Samoothiri penetrated and occupied the city of Kochi. Unable to withstand the attacks, Kochu finally accepted Kozhikode's rule and became his feudatory, the Elder branch ruler was installed on the throne of Kochi as vassal ruler.[2]

The battles against Kochi were followed by a battle against Palakkad and the conquest of Naduvattom by a Kozhikode prince. Kollengode of Venganadu Nambitis was also put under the sway of Kozhikode during the time, the severe and frequent battles with Valluvanad by Kozhikode continued. But even after the loss of his superior ally Kochi, Valluvanad did not submit to Kozhikode. Nair (Hindus) unrest continued in the occupied regions of Valluvanad, and to counter this Kozhikode followed a custom of settling Muslim families and the families of other Hindu generals who had allegiance to him, in the captured areas of Valluvanad. Kozhikode invaded Valluvanad (now shrank to Attappadi valley, parts of Mannarkkad, Ottappalam and Perinthalmanna) but could not make much progress, because these regions were dense forests and hills, it was impossible for Kozhikode's large army to march forth through these areas. Valluvanad numerically inferior army successfully kept the armies of Kozhikode at bay.[2]

Calicut was also successful in bringing the powerful state of Cannanore (Kolathunadu) under their control. During his conquests, the Zamorin occupied Pantalayini Kollam as a preliminary advance to Cannanore. Kolattiri immediately sent ambassadors to submit to whatever terms Calicut might dictate. Cannanore transferred the regions already occupied to Calicut and certain Hindu temple rights,[12] after their conquests in central Kerala, Calicut probably waged battles against Quilon (Venadu Swaroopam) and led a southern expedition. However, historians reject the whole of idea of the southern expedition by Calicut. According to them, some land and Hindu temple rights were transferred to Calicut during a visit to Quilon by a ruler of the Calicut. [15]

Calicut’s attitude towards the vanquished kings and foreign governors was generally marked by moderation, the whole conquered area was not ruled directly from Calicut but was ruled by a Calicut official (general, minister or Eradi prince). Sometimes, its former rulers allowed to rule as a vassal or feudatory.[2]

Vijayanagara conquests[edit]

Deva Raya II (1424-1446 CE) - king of the Vijayanagara Empire - conquered the whole of present-day Kerala state in the 15th century. He defeated (1443) rulers of Quilon,as well as Calicut. Fernão Nunes says that the Zamorin and even the kings of Burma ruling at Pegu and Tenasserim paid tribute to the king of Vijayanagara Empire. Later Calicut and Quilon seems to have rebelled against their Vijayanagara overlords, but Deva Raya II quelled the rebellion.

As the Vijayanagara power diminished over the next fifty years, Zamorin of Calicut again rose to prominence in Kerala. Samoothiri built a fort at Ponnani in 1498.[2]

Relations with the Portuguese[edit]

"No one has tried to clear that misconception [that Vasco da Gama landed at Kappad]. The government has even installed a memorial stone at the Kappad beach. Actually [Vasco da] Gama landed at Panthalayini near Kollam in the [Kozhikode] district because there was a port there and Kozhikode did not have one, it does not have a port even now."[16]
M. G. S. Narayanan
Vasco da Gama landing in Kozhikode - a modern depiction (1911) by Allan Stewart
Portuguese Coin released in commemorate Vasco da Gama's Landing in Calicut
Duarte Pacheco's victory at Battle of Cochin (1504)
The sword used by Kunjali Marakkar, preserved at Kottakkal Mosque, Vadakara

The landing of Vasco da Gama in Calicut in 1498 has often been considered as the beginning of a new phase in Indian history during which the control of the Indian Ocean passed into the hands of the Europeans from Muslim-Arabs, the strong colony of Arab merchants settled in Calicut was hostile, but the Zamorin welcomed the Portuguese and allowed them to take spices on board. In Portugal, the goods brought by da Gama from India were computed at sixty times the cost of the entire Asia expedition, it was da Gama successors, Francisco de Almeida and Afonso de Albuquerque, who established the Portuguese empire in the East.[17] Kunhali Marakkars were the famous hereditary Grand Admirals of Calicut and organised a powerful navy to fight the Portuguese.

The Portuguese set about breaking the monopoly which Venetians and the Egyptians had so long enjoyed in the trade with India, the Egyptians and the Turks realised the danger, but internal complications between them gave the Portuguese an opportunity.[18] As per Harold V. Livermore, it was the Muslim traders who had monopolised the distribution of spices turned the Zamorin of Calicut against the Portuguese.[19]

Date Event
1498 May Vasco da Gama lands in Kozhikode, and is welcomed by the Zamorin of Calicut. He hoped to deal a blow at Muslim power from their maritime rear, as India were, and hoped to corner the spice trade, he found the spices and textiles, and he found Muslim Arab merchants entrenched at Kozhikode.[17] The welcome of the Zamorin was dispelled by da Gama’s insignificant gifts and rude behaviour. Da Gama also failed to conclude a treaty, this was partly because of the hostility of Muslim merchants and partly because the worthless presents and cheap trade goods that he had brought. These were suited to the West African trade, hardly in demand in India. However, the Zamorin of Kozhikode gave his "sanction" for opening spice trade, and allowed to erect a small feitoria in Kozhikode;[20] in the Kingdom of Kozhikode, da Gama erected a padrão to prove he had reached India[3]. After some confusion - the feitoria was robbed once - the fleet leaves Kozhikode in November, the fleet took with them five or six Hindus - without the consent of the Zamorin - so that King Manuel might learn about their customs. The Portuguese had - initially atleast - mistakenly believed the Hindus to be Christians.[20]
1498 November The fleet makes interactions - and trade - with Zamorin's rival chief, the Kolathiri (Cannanore)[20]
1500 September Pedro Alvares Cabral reaches Calicut, rich presents were exchanged, and a treaty of friendship, 'as long as the sun and moon should endure', was entered upon. The Zamorin allowed him to establish a fortified trading post, at the request of the Zamorin, Cabral captures a Cochin vessel passing the port. The vessel is subsequently restored to the chief of Cochin.[20] [21]
1500 December Disputes with Muslim traders soon arose. The Muslims of Kozhikode appear to have effectually prevented the Portuguese from obtaining any large supply of spices. Cabral attacked and seized a Muslim vessel. Soon around 50 Portuguese sailors at the depot are massacred by the Muslims, the Portuguese seized ten of the Zamorin's Muslim vessels, executed their crews and left Calicut by bombarding it in retaliation. Around 600 Malabarians are killed.[20][21]
1500 December 24 Portuguese - led by Pedro Álvares Cabral - reaches the port of Cochin. [20]
1501 January Portuguese conclude a treaty with the chief of Cochin "Tirumumpara" (Tirumalpadu), an alliance of friendship was signed, allowing them to open a factory (trading depot). He was permitted to trade for spices, with which he loaded his six remaining ships.[21] A Kozhikode fleet, carrying 1500 men, appeared off the harbour, the Kozhikode fleet held off and had evidently no wish to come to an engagement. Cabral chased them, but was overtaken by a violent storm which carried him to the sea, he later sailed to Cannanore, and from there proceeded to Europe. [20]
1501 March John de Nueva is despatched from Portugal to India. He anchored at Anjediva in November and from there sailed to Cannanore. While travelling from Cannanore to Cochin the fleet attacked and captured a Muslim vessel opposite to the Kozhikode.[20]
1501 December About 180 vessels filled with Muslims arrived at Cochin from Kozhikode. John de Nueva cannon fires them, sinking a large of no. of vessels.[20]

The Muslims persuade native merchants all of over Kerala to refuse to trade their spices and textiles with the Portuguese.[20]

Owing to the generosity of the chief of Cochin alone, his ships were soon loaded with spices and textiles, and the fleet departs for Europe.[20]

1502 August Vasco da Gama returns to India to try to control Calicut. He burns a ship full of Muslim pilgrims - around 700 - from Mecca off the coast of Madayi, the ship also carried a chief merchant from Kozhikode. This individual - fairly rich - was the brother of Khoja Kasim the Factor of the Sea to the Zamorin of Kozhikode.[22] However, the episode is related only by late and unreliable sources and may be legendary or at least exaggerated.[3]

He is warmly welcomed by Kolattiri (ruler of Cannanore), and arranged a treaty of commerce with the ruler of Cannanore, he next divided his fleet; one portion of it was to war all native vessels except those of Cannanore (Kolattunatu), Cochin (Permpatappu) and Quilon (Venatu), which were to be protected by "passes" obtained from the factors at Cannanore and Cochin respectively. Vincent de Sodre mistreats Khoja Muhammed Marakkar - a wealthy Muslim from Cairo - who had insulted the Cannanore ruler.[20]

Sailing southwards, da Gama was informed that the Zamorin had arrested the Muslims who had been guilty of the outrage on the trading depot. Da Gama was was offered a large sum to pay for the factory goods, he sent back word to say that he did not want money, and also mistreated the Brahmin messenger who carried the message. This was an attempt to entrap him at Calicut. Da Gama bombarded the port Calicut and seized and massacred 38 hostages.[20][3]

1502 November Da Gama reaches Cochin. Signs treaty of commerce with the rulers of Cochin and Quilon, the fleet sailed to Cannanore - defeating two squadrons of a Kozhikode Arab[3]-Muslim fleet on the way - and then for Europe on 28th December.[20]

The Zamorin of Kozhikode, after the departure of the Armada, demands to the ruler of Cochin the Portuguese factors left at Cochin should be given to him, the demand was refused by the ruler of Cochin.[20]

1503 Portuguese crown the new ruler of Kochi, effectively making him a vassal of the King of Portugal.
1503 March-April Calicut army of more than 50,000 Nairs attacked Cochin to foil the growing Portuguese influence. The army marched to Edappalli in March, the Kozhikode forces defeated 5,500 Cochin Nairs lead by Narayanan, the heir apparent of Cochin, near Cranganore. The Cochin prince was slain in the battle, the Cochin chief escapes to the Island of Vypin. The Kozhikode forces burns Cochin, as the monsoon had begun, the Kozhikode forces, leaving a strong detachment at Cochin, retreated to Cranganore.[20]

Two Italians deserted to the side of the Kozhikode forces, these men later constructed five big guns for the Kozhikode forces. [20]

1503 September Francisco de Albuquerque, sailing from Cannanore, reaches Cochin. The Kozhikode forces are easily driven back, he obtains permission build a fort - Fort Manuel - the first Portuguese fort in Asia- at Cochin. Soon, Afonso de Albuquerque, his relative, arrived at Cochin with three more ships.[20]

The Portuguese are starved of spices and textiles at Cochin by the Kozhikode and the Muslims, they fleet moves south to Quilon, and with aid of local Christian merchants easily procure the spices, and obtain permission to open a factory from Govardhana Marthanda.[20]

1504 January Albuquerque left Malabar, his ships laden with spices. Before doing so he concluded a short lived treaty with the Zamorin of Kozhikode, the peace is broken murder of six Malabairs by the Portuguese.[20]
1504 March-July Pacheco and a small garrison of 150 men guard Fort Manuel. 57,000 Nairs from all over the kingdom of Kozhikode, assisted by 5 cannon guns and 160 boats attacks Pacheco at the Edappally ferry. He manages to drive back the enemy several times, the Cochin Nairs provided little help in preventing the Kozhikode forces. As the monsoon set in, cholera broke out among the Kozhikode forces, the Zamorin of Kozhikode at last gave up the attempt in despair.[20]
1504 July Pacheco quells a partial outbreak at Quilon.[20]
1504 September Suarez de Menezes arrives at Cannanore. He unsuccessfully tries to rescue some of the prisoners taken at Kozhikode in Cabral's time, he cannons the city of Kozhikode and sails to Cochin.[20]

The fleet raid and burn the city of Cranganore, held by Patinhattedam chief under the Kozhikode, the Portuguse spared the Christian houses, shops and churches, but they looted those of the Jews and Muslims.[20]

1505 March The destruction of a large Muslim fleet at Pantalayini Kollam in the Kingdom of Kozhikode. It had assembled there to take back a large no. of Muslims to Arabia and Egypt, who were leaving the Kingdom of Kozhikode disappointed at the trade losses caused to them recently. De Menezes captured 17 vessels and killed 2,000 men.[23][20]
1505 September Building of Anjediva Fort commenced by Francisco de Almeyda.[20]
1505 October Building of St. Angelo Fort, Cannanore commenced. De Almeyda visited by a Vijayanagara delegation. Francisco de Almeyda arrived at Cochin.[20]
1505 November Murder of the Portuguese factor António de Sá and his 12 men by a mob in Quilon. Lorenzo de Almeyda, finding 27 Kozhikode vessels at Quilon, engaged and sank them all. Francisco de Almeyda crown the new chief in Cochin.[20]
1506 March Lorenz de Almeyda intercepted an armada of 210 large vessels of Turks (Ottoman) and Muslims whom the Zamorin had launched against Cannanore. Around 3,000 Muslims were killed in the assault and the Portuguese loss was very trifling.[20]
1507 April Joined forces of Cannanore and Kozhikode attack St. Angelo Fort, the old Kolattiri - the original friend of Vasco da Gama - had died and the new ruler was already displeased with Portuguese for harming prominent Muslims merchants at Cannanore. Combined forces - including around 60, 000 Nairs - lay siege to the St. Angelo Fort. Brito, the Cannanore Commandant, resisted the Malabaris for four months.[20]
1507 August

Portuguese - assisted by eleven ship under da Cunha arrived from Europe - break the blockade. Ruler of Cannanore forced to accede to the sailors.[20]

1507 November Portuguese under Almeyda attacked Ponnani. Destroyed the town and shipping. 18 Portuguese were killed in the assault on the place. Number of Muslims took oath to die as "matrys" on this occasion.[20]
1508 March Cairo's navy - under the command of Admiral Mir Hussain - supported by Sultan of Gujarat's forces defeat Portuguese at Battle of Chaul, killing Lorenzo de Almeyda in the process. The Egyptian force of 1500 Mamluks also included Kozhikode's ambassador to Cairo, Mayimama Marakkar. Marakkar was also killed in the action.[20]
1508 November Insisting on retaining power until he had avenged his son’s death, Almeyda, to avoid interference, had Albuquerque imprisoned. De Almeyda - with a fleet carrying 1300 Europeans among others - sails to Cannanore.[20][19]
1509 February De Almeyda counter-attack and defeat the Egyptian navy - assisted by Kozhikode forces - at the Battle of Diu.[20] The control of sea trade, the chief source of Portuguese wealth in the East, was assured by the defeat of Muslim naval forces off Diu.[24]
1509 November It was only in November, with the arrival of a fleet from Portugal, that Almeyda finally turned his office over to Albuquerque.[19]
1510 Fernando Coutinho arrives at Cannanore. He brought instruction from Lisbon that Kozhikode should be destroyed, such had been, it is said, the counsel sent to Europe by the Kolattiri and the by the chief of Cochin.[20]

Governor Albuquerque and Fernando Coutinho lands in the city of Kozhikode. Fernando Coutinho and his men were slain in this misguided adventure, Albuquerque was shot, the Mananchira palace was sacked, and was set on fire.[20]

1510 Septmeber Chief of Cochin decides to relinquish the throne. Albuquerque eventually succeeds in preventing the abdication.[20]
1510 November Governor Albuquerque took Goa - Adil Khan was absent from the place - and it finally supplanted Cochin as the chief Portuguese settlement in India. Among others he was assisted by the 300 hand-picked Nairs from Cannanore. [17][20]
1511 July Albuquerque took Malacca in the East Indies.[17]
1511 February Albuquerque established schools for the benefit of 400 natives - who were converted to Christianity - in Cochin.[20]
1513 Albuquerque landed at Calicut and had an interview with the Zamorin. Calicut and Portuguese sign a treaty giving Portuguese right trade as "they pleased", and to erect a fort in the Kingdom of Calicut.[20] Albuquerque had finally subdued Calicut, hitherto the main seat of opposition to the Portuguese.[19]

Fort Calicut is built near the city of Calicut.[20]

1515 Albuquerque took Hormuz (Ormuz) in the Persian Gulf[17]
1524 Duarte de Menezes came to Fort Calicut. The Zamorin was dead and his successor did not favour the Portuguese alliance. Kutti Ali of Tanur - a Muslim merchant - anchored his fleet of 200 vessels at Kozhikode, to load eight ships with spices, and to despatch them with a convoy of 40 vessels to the Red Sea before the very eyes of the Portuguese.[20]
1524 King of Portugal sends Vasco Da Gama again to India. His mission was to reform the abuses which had crept into the administration in India. Ruler of Cannanore (Kolattiri) surrendered a "pirate" chief called Bala Hassan to da Gama, who was thereupon thrown into a dungeon in Cannanore Fort, this man was related to the family of the Arakkal Raja. De Souza under his orders relieved Calicut, engaged the famous Kutti Ali's fleet drove it to Cannanore. [20]
1524 December The Muslims, with Kozhikode's approval, made an onslaught on Cranganore Jews and Christians. They killed many Jews and drove out the rest to a village to the east. When the fleet attacked Christians, the Nairs of the place retaliated, and drove all Muslims out of Cranganore.[20]
1525 Henry de Menezes reaches Cannanore and executes Bala Hassan. The Kolattiri asked the Viceroy to punish those Muslims who had taken refuge at Dharmapattanam Island. An expedition was organised, and the towns, bazaars and shipping at Dharmapattanam and at Mahe were destroyed.[20]
1525 February-March Portuguese navy led by new Viceroy Henry Menezes raided Ponnani and Pantalayini Kollam, and burnt the towns. Pantalayini Kollam was defended by 20,000 Nairs and Muslims, on reaching Calicut, he had earlier found that the place had been attacked by the Kozhikode forces.[20] Kutti Ali in retaliation stormed the port of Cochin, set fire to the Portuguese ships and managed to get away unhindered.[18]

The family of Kottakkal Kunhali Marakkars moved to Trikkodi from Panthalayini, and thence to Kottakkal at the mouth of the Kotta river, they later obtained the title "Kunhali Marakkar" from the Zamorin of Kozhikode.[20]

The Nairs of the chief of Kurumbranad and Kozhikode forces invested Fort Calicut (Siege of Calicut), they were helped by band of Muslims under the command of an European engineer. Kutti Ali's ships blockaded the port. Captain Lima, with 300 men, defended the fort.[20][18]

1525 June The Zamorin himself marched in with an additional force.[20]
1525 October Viceroy arrived with 20 ships and relieved the garrison, the besiegers were driven back. Around 2,000 Kozhikode men were killed in this effort, the fort was later abandoned, and destroyed by the Portuguese.[20]
1528 October Viceroy Sampayo attacked Purakkad - a Kozhikode ally - and obtained a very rich booty.[20]

Kutti Ali is taken prisoner after a battle off Barkur, the Zamorin's fleet suffered severe reverses. Pachachi Marakkar and Ali Ibrahim leads the Zamorin's fleet, the first foray of the fleet was against the Portuguese settlement in Ceylon.[18]

1531 Thirty Portuguese ships blockade the Kozhikode coast. [18] Peace Treaty Between Nunho de Acunha and the Zamorin of Kozhikode. Fort Chaliyam, south of Kozhikode, is constructed, the fort was "like a pistol held at the Zamorin's throat" as it was a strategic site, only 10 km south of Kozhikode.[20]

Kutti Ali Marakkar is killed, his place is taken up by Kunjali the Second.[18]

1535 The Portuguese fleet withdraw their forces to face Turkish admiral Suleiman Pasha.[18]
1537 Portuguese killed Kutti Ibrahim Marakkar. Fort Cranganore is erected. [20]
1539 Calicut enters into an agreement with the Portuguese. The Malabarians again agreed to accept the Portuguese "passes".[20]
1550 Battles by Kozhikode near Cochin. The Portuguese made descents on the coastal towns, particularly on Pantalayini Kollam, destroying mosques and houses, and killing one-third of the inhabitants.[20]
1552 The Zamorin received assistance in heavy guns landed at Ponnani, brought there by Yoosuf, a Turk who had sailed against the monsoon.[20]
1555 Peace between the Zamorin and the Portuguese on the condition that "passes" should be taken by traders.[20]
1557-59 Muslims of North Malabar began hostilities, and then made the usual submission and agreed to take out the "passes". The Muslim sailors comes under enormous pressure under these stringent measures, the Muslims organise in small fleets of boats to engange with the Portuguese shipping. The Portuguese continuous hostilities against the Zamorin and the Malabarians. Emergence of the Kunhali Marakkar. [20]
1560 The Inquisition was established at Goa.[17]
1564 The Portuguese besieged in their fort at Cannanore, but the attack is repulsed.[20]
1564 The Zamorin and his Muslim allies attacked Cochin chief at o or near Cranganore. Two Cochin princes killed in the engagement, the Portuguese enlarged and strengthened the Cranganore Fort. Jews finally deserted Anchuvannam and migrated to Cochin, they resided within the fort limits.[20]
1566 Kutti Poker of Ponnani captures a Portuguese ship.[20]
1567 Jew's Town is built, and the Jews in a body moved into the town from the Cochin fort limits.[20]
1569 Kutti Poker of Ponnani captures a second Portuguese ship. Around 1000 Portuguese sailors from these ships are killed.[20]
1569 Kutti Poker made a successful raid on Mangalore Fort. His fleet fell in with a Portuguese fleet as he was returning south off Cannnanore, and he and all his sailors are killed.[20]

The Zamorin of Kozhikode forms alliances with rulers of Ahmadnagar and Bijapur.[20]

1571 Siege of Fort Chaliyam.[20]
1571 September Fort Chaliyam surrenders to Kozhikode. The Zamorin destroys the fort.[20]
1572 Chaliyam burnt by the Portuguese.[20]
1573 Parappanangadi town burnt by the Portuguese.[20] Pattu Marakkar (Kunjali III) obtains permission from Zamorin to build a fortress and dockyard at Puthupattanam, this fort later came to be called "Marakkar Fort".
1577 The fleet Muslim ships, carrying rice, seized by the Portuguese, and 3000 sailors are killed.[20]
1578 Peace negotiations between Kozhikode and the Portuguese. The Zamorin refuses to agree to construct a fort at Ponnani.[20]
1579 The Zamorin visits Cranganore. The Portuguese continuous hostilities against the Zamorin and the Malabarians, the rice embargo results in the Famine of 1579. [20]
1584 Calicut shifts policy towards the Portuguese because of his estrangement with Kunjali Marakkar who begins to defy the Zamorin. Treaty of peace with Viceroy Mascarenhas.[20] Sanction the Portuguese to build a factory at Ponnani.
1591 Saamoothiri allow the Portuguese to build a factory at Calicut. He lays the foundation of church granting them necessary ground and building materials.
1598 Calicut joins Portuguese to fight his ex-Naval Commander, Kunjali Marakkar III. Kunjali surrenders to Calicut who hands over the commander to the Portuguese, the Portuguese executes Kunjali at Goa in 1600.
1599 Forcible subjection of the Syrian church to Rome at the Synod of Diamper[17]

Relations with the Dutch and English[edit]

A Dutch fleet arrived in Calicut in November 1604, it marked the beginning of the Dutch presence in Kerala and they concluded a treaty with Calicut on 11 November 1604. It provided for a mutual alliance between the two to expel the Portuguese from Malabar; in return the Dutch East India Company was given facilities for trade at Calicut and Ponnani, including spacious storehouses. Later in 1661, Calicut joined a coalition led by the Dutch to defeat the Portuguese and Cochin and conducted a number of successful campaigns, as a result of the Kew Letters, the Dutch settlements on the Malabar Coast were surrendered to the British in 1795 in order to prevent being overrun by the French. Dutch Malabar remained with the British after the conclusion of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814, which traded the colony with Bangka Island.

The English reached Calicut in 1615 under Captain William Keeling and concluded a treaty of trade under which, among others, the English were to assist Calicut in expelling the Portuguese from Cochin and Cranganore; in 1664, Zamorin gave the English permission to build a "factory" (trading depot) in Calicut but did not extend any other favours.[12]

Mysore occupation and settlement negotiations[edit]

It was in 1732, at the invitation of the chief of Palakkad, Mysore forces marched to Kerala for the first time, they appeared again in 1735, and in 1737 they raided the Zamorin's frontier outposts. In 1745, the Mysore forces fought three battles with the Kozhikode forces;[2][6] in 1756 they invaded Kozhikode for the fifth time. The chief of Palakkad had placed himself under the protection of the King of Mysore, agreeing to pay an annual tribute of 12,000 Fanams, the Faujdar of Dindigul, Hyder Ali, sent Mukhdam Sahib, with 2000 cavalry, 5,000 infantry, and 5 guns to Kerala. The Zamorin tried to buy off the enemy by promising - Treaty of 1756 - to refrain from molesting Palakkad and pay 12 lakhs of Rupees for the expenses of the expedition, however the Zamorin was not able pay anything to Hyder Ali.[2]

Palghat Fort

In 1766, 12,000 Mysore forces under Hyder Ali marched to Malabar from Mangalore. Mysore's intentions were made easy by the help they received from the Muslims in Malabar. Ali Raja of Cannanore - a Muslim ruler in northern Kerala - also helped the invading forces, the Mysore army was able to conquer northern Kerala up to Cochin with relative ease. Hyder Ali inflicted a major setback on the Calicut forces at Perinkolam Ferry on the Kotta River,[2] as Mysore edged closer to the outer reaches of the city of Calicut, the Zamorin sent most of his relatives to safe haven in Ponnani - and from there to Travancore - and to avoid the humiliation of surrender committed self-immolation by setting fire to his palace at Mananchira (27 April). Hyder Ali absorbed Malabar district to his state.[25][6]

But as soon as the Haider Ali marched to Coimbatore, Nair rebellions broke out in Malabar, some members of the Zamorin family rebelled against the Muslim occupiers. This included the Eralpadu Krishna Varma with his nephew Ravi Varma, the princes were aided by the English East India Company.[26] In 1768 the Zamorin prince was restored in Calicut, agreeing to pay an annual tribute to Mysore, for nearly six years, till 1774 nothing was hear of Hyder Ali.[2] In 1774, Mysore forces under Srinivasa Rao occupied the city of Calicut, the prince retired to Travancore in a native vessel. The the baton of resistance now passed to his nephew Ravi Varma. Ravi Varma helped the Company occupy Calicut in 1782.[2] By the Treaty of Mangalore, concluded in 1784, Malabar was restored to Mysore; in 1785 the oppression of revenue officers led to a rebellion by the Mappilas of Manjeri. As a reward for aiding to put down the rebels, and partly as an incentive, Tipu Sultan settled upon Ravi Varma a pension and a jaghir in 1786, the peace was soon broken and Tipu sent 6,000 troops under Mon. Lally to Kerala.[2]

In Lord Cornwallis, invited the Kerala chiefs to join him in 1790, promising to render them in future entirely independent of Mysore and to retain them upon reasonable terms under the protection of the Company. Prince Ravi Varma met General Meadows at Trichinopoly and settled with him the terms of the Kozhikode's cooperation, after the Third Mysore War (1790-92), Malabar was placed under the control of the Company by the Treaty of Seringapatam.[6]

In the settlement negotiations with the Joint Commission in 1792, the Zamorin proved recalcitrant. To pressure him, a portion of his former territories (Payyanadu, Payyormala, Kizhakkumpuram, Vadakkampuram and Pulavayi) was leased to the ruler of Kurumburanadu as manager for the East India Company. Finally, after prolonged negotiations, the hereditary territory of the Zamorin, together with the coin mint and the sea customs, was leased back to him, he was also temporarily given jurisdiction over the petty rulers and, as a mark of the Zamorin's "exceptional" position in Malabar, the revenue fixed for Beypore, Parappanadu and Vettattunadu was to be paid through him. As previously noted, these tax-payment and jurisdictional arrangements were terminated later and the Zamorin of Kozhikode became a mere pensioned landlord receiving the "malikhana", on July 1, 1800 Malabar was transferred to the Madras Presidency. On November 15, 1806 was executed the agreement upon which rested the future political relations between the Zamorin of Calicut and the English.[2][6]


There were no recognized organs in Calicut, and the government was an autocracy. Women were not allowed to be the ruler, and the oldest male member traced the female becomes the next Zamorin.[2]

The Palace of the Zamorin of Calicut in 17th century - from Dutch archives

The Zamorin was assisted in the work of government by four hereditary Chief Ministers called Sarvadhi Karyakkar and number of Ministers called Karyakkar and Polttis. Adhikaris, Talachennavars, Achanmar and temple functionaries also belonged to the later group, the Karyakkar were appointed and removed by the Zamorin. Zamrin had a naval fleet which was commanded by Kunjali Marakar. There were ritual specialists like Hindu priests of the palaces, astrologers etc. as well as various occupational groups like physicians, weavers, and militiamen all of whom were attached to the royal establishment.[2]

Sarvadhi Karyakkar

  1. Mangattachan - the Prime Minister
  2. Tinayancheri Elayatu
  3. Dharmottu Panikkar - the instructor-in-arms who commanded the Army
  4. Varakkal Paranambi - treasury and accounts

The sources of revenue were,[2]

  • Cherikkal lands (royal estates, agricultural lands owned by the Zamorin)
  • Trade via ports
  • Amkam (fee for permitting to held a trail by battle)
  • Chunkam (tolls and duties)
  • Ela (proceeds of lands confiscated)
  • Kola (forced contribution for emergencies)
  • Tappu (mulets/unconditional offences)
  • Pizha (fines)
  • Purushantaram (vassal succession fee)
  • Pulyatta pennu (the proceeds from the sale of out-casted women) etc.
  • Tirumulkalcha (gifts on various occasions)
  • Virinnamittu panam (amount for the royal feast)
  • Kannukku panam (amount presented for the death rituals) etc.


Calicut army consisted mainly of feudal levies, brought by the vassal rulers and chiefs. The former were divided into five (Commanders of the Five Thousand, of the Thousand, of the Five Hundred, of the Three Hundred, and of the Hundred) classes. Standing armies were kept at strategic locations like Calicut, Ponnani, Chavakkad, Chunganadu etc. Dharmottu Panikkar- the instructor-in-arms commanded the army, the nominal cavalry was commanded by the Kutiravattattu Nair. Nair militia was slow moving as compared to the cavalry, and always fought on foot, the use of firearms and balls had been known before the advent of the Portuguese. As gunpowder and shot made by the natives were poor quality, Calicut later employed the Europeans to manufacture them, the Moplahs formed the main corps of the musketeers, led by Tinayancheri Elayatu.[2]

The hereditary Grand Admirals of Calicut were the famous Kunhali Marakkars and the navy ships (Sambuks, Kappals, Patakus, Ferry Boats and Kettuvalloms) were manned by the Mappilas. Every port in Calicut had a Chief Pilot, whose duty it was to see the ships safely anchored from the sea pirates, the Mappila seamen was famous for their guerrilla warfare and hand-to-hand fighting on board. But, the ships were smaller, inferior in artillery, and incapable of joint/organised operations.[2]


The coins minted in Calicut included Fanam/Panam (made of gold), Taren/Taram (made of silver) and Kasu (made of copper). Sixteen Kasu made one Taren, and sixteen Tarens made one Panam, the mint was destroyed in 1766. The officer in-charge of the mint was called the "Goldsmith of Manavikraman".[2]

Coins in circulation in the kingdom of Calicut included Riyal ("irayal"), Dirham ("drama"), Rupee ("uruppika"), Rasi ("rachi"), and Venadu Chakram. Venadu coins - it seems - came to circulation after the Mysorean Interlude. Rasi later gave way to the Kaliyuga Rayan Panam. Of Kaliyuga Rayan Panam there were two varieties. One of these [issued by Cannanore] was afterwards imitated by the Zamorin called Virarayan Putiya Panam, to distinguish it from the coin of Cannanore, which then became Pazhaya Panam, the four Pazhaya Panam made a Rupee while three and half Putiya Panam equalled a rupee[6]

Present day location of the Mananchira Palace. The Fort and Palace were destroyed by the Mysore army in 18th century

List of Kozhikode Samoodiris[edit]

Zamorin of Calicut (1868-1892). In 1766 Haider Ali of Mysore defeated the Zamorin of Calicut - an English East India Company dependant at the time - and absorbed Malabar district to his state, after the Third Mysore War (1790-92), Malabar was placed under the control of the Company. Later the status of the Zamorins as independent rulers was changed to that of pensioners of the Company.
K C Manavedan Raja (1932 - 1937)

Historical documents rarely mentions the individual names of the Zamorins of Calicut (also known as Kozhikode). However, it is generally assumed that Mana Vikrama, Mana Veda and Viraraya were the only names given to them. Portuguese historian Diogo de Couto was the first to attempt the construction of chronological scheme.[27]

The following is a list of rulers of Calicut from "The Zamorins of Calicut" (1938) by K. V. Krishna Iyer. The first column (No.) gives the number of the Zamorin reckoned from the founder of the dynasty, based upon de Couto's assumption that there had been 98 Zamorins before the Zamorin reigning in 1610.[27]

First Dynasty[edit]

The original seat of the aristocratic clan was Nediyiruppu and the head of the house was known as Nediyiruppu Mutta Eradi, a title enjoyed by the fifth in rank from the Zamorin. Under the Chera rulers of Tiruvanchikkulam the Mutta Eradi governed Ernad with the title of "Ernad Utaiyar". Later the clan abandoned its ancestral house and transferred its residence to the present day Calicut.[27]

No. of Zamorin Name Reign Important Events
1 Mana Vikrama (Manikkan) N/A The legendary founder of the dynasty.
27 8 years Calicut city is established
65 1339-1347 Ibn Battuta at Calicut (1342-1347)
73 1402-1410 Ma Huan at Calicut (1403)
78 1442-1450 The visits of Abdur Razzak (1442) and Niccolò de' Conti (1444)
81 Mana Vikrama the Great 1466-1474 Athanasius Nikitin (1468-1474) visits Calicut.
82 Mana Veda 1474-1482
84 1495-1500 The arrival of Vasco da Gama (1498)
85 1500-1513 The invasions of Cochin (1503-1504)
86 1513-1522 Treaty with Portuguese (1513), and the erection of the Portuguese fort at Calicut (1514)
87 1522-1529 The expulsion of Portuguese from Calicut
88 1529-1531 The building of Portuguese fort at Chaliyam (1531)
89 1531-1540 War with Portuguese
90 1540-1548 Treaty with Portuguese (1540)
91 1548-1560 Adoption of the chief of Bardela (150) and the war with the Portuguese.
92 Viraraya 1560-1562
93 Mana Vikrama 1572-1574 The expulsion of the Portuguese from Chaliyam (1571)
94 1574-1578 War with the Portuguese
95 1578-1588 The Portuguese allowed a factory at Ponnani (1584)
96 1588-1597 The settlement of the Portuguese at Calicut (1591)
97 1597-1599 War with Kunhali (1598-1599)
98 1599-1604 Capture of Kunhali's stronghold (1600)
99 1604-1617 Siege of Cannanore (1604-1617) and treaties with the Dutch (1604 and 1608) and the English (1615)
100 Mana Vikrama 1617-1627
101 1627-1630
102 1630-1637
103 Mana Vikrama (Saktan Tampuran) 1637-1648 The uncle of the author of the Krishnanatakam
104 Tiruvonam Tirunal 1648-1655
105 Mana Veda 1655-1658 The author of the Krishnanatakam
106 Asvati Tirunal 1658-1662 The expulsion of the Portuguese from Cranganore (1662)
107 Puratam Tirunal 1662-1666 The expulsion of Portuguese from Cochin (1663)
108 1666-1668 War with the Dutch
109 1668-1671 The destruction of Cheraman Sword
110 Uttrattati Tirunal 1671-1684 Cession of Chetwai to the Dutch
111 Bharani Tirunal Mana Vikrama[28] 1684-1705 The terror of the Dutch. Two Mamankams (1694 and 1695)
112 Nileswaram Tirunal 1705-1711 Adoptions from Nileswaram (1706 and 1707)
113 1711-1729 The Dutch War (1715-1718)
114 Mana Vikrama 1729-1741

Note: Italic names only indicate the asterism under which the Zamorin is born

Second Dynasty[edit]

It seems that the original dynasty came to an end with the 114th Zamorin of Calicut, the 115th Zamorin, the first of the second dynasty, was the oldest of the princes adopted from Nileshwaram in 1706.[27]

No. of Zamorin Name Reign Important Events
115 Zamorin from Kilakke Kovilakam 1741-1746
116 Putiya Kovilakam 1746-1758 The Dutch War (1753-1758)
117 Kilakke Kovilakam 1758-1766 Battles with Travancore and the invasion of Mysore, committed suicide. Annexed by Mysore.
118 Putiya Kovilakam 1766-1788
119 Kerala Varma Vikrama[28] (Putiya Kovilakam) 1788-1798 Treaty of Seringapatam (1792)
120 Krishna Varma[28] (Putiya Kovilakam) 1798-1806 Agreement of 1806 with EIC (died in 1816)

Zamorin family today[edit]

"Kerala had many royal families which together may have more than 10,000 descendants. The Kochi family alone has more than 600. All these families had properties taken over by governments without compensation. Many of them are living in penury now. Shouldn't the state pay pensions to all of them then?"[29]
K. K. N. Kurup
Historians say any special treatment to the Zamorins would be against the [Indian] Constitution, which does not grant any privilege on the basis of birth. M. G. S. Narayanan says the Zamorins have not donated any property to the state. "The Zamorin's family had fled from Calicut when Hyder Ali from Mysore invaded Calicut in 1766. When defeat was imminent, the Zamorin committed suicide and set fire to the palace," he says. "That led to Calicut falling into the hands of [Hyder] Ali, his son Tipu Sultan and finally the British [Company] by 1792. The Zamorins had lost all their property by the time they were allowed to return to Calicut by 1800."[29]
M. G. S. Narayanan

The Zamorins of Kozhikode had lost all their property by the time they were allowed to return to Kozhikode from Travancore by 1800, the Company reduced the Zamorins to the position of "pensioned" landlord by giving them a payment called mali khana. The family have been getting Rs 1.56 lakh (the mali khana) annually since 1856, which was a substantial amount then considering the number of family members was barely 50. The mali khana was continued by the Indian government after 1947.[29]

By March 2013, the mali khana amount was divided among 826 family members, and the share received by each family member out of the Rs 1.56 lakh ranged from the highest Rs 5,000 paid to five senior members to just a couple of rupees for hundreds of others. The family was reduced to upper middle-class landlords after the British takeover of Malabar. Most members of the royal family now followed an ordinary living, some are still affluent whereas some took up ordinary blue-collar jobs.[29]

The royal family retained their patronage of Hindu temples and mosques — and popular esteem, at present the Zamorin is trustee to 46 Hindu temples (under Malabar Devaswom Board, as Madras H. R & C. E Act 1956) in northern Kerala, including five special grade temples, which generate a substantial revenue, the Zamorin also has a permanent seat on the Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple’s managing committee. Zamorin’s High School - situated overlooking the Tali temple - was established in 1877 and the family manages the Zamorin’s Guruvayurappan College.[30][31]

The royal family has been trying to get pension from the Kerala government since 1947, their first request (1955) was made to the then government of Madras Presidency. After 1956, the Madras government sent the request to Kerala, the Kerala government decided to award Rs 2,500 in monthly pension to descendants of the royal family in 2013. All 826 members from the three branches of the Zamorin family would get Rs 2,500 each every month. Explaining the rationale behind the move, then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said, "It is not just a humanitarian gesture, it is fair compensation for the properties and wealth they [the Zamorin family] gave away for the progress of Kerala."[29]

Malabar Devaswom Board Commissioner recently proposed to the Kerala state government that the temples under the hereditary (private) trustees - such as the Zamorin - should be attached to the Board.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c M. G. S. Narayanan, Perumals of Kerala: Brahmin Oligarchy and Ritual Monarchy—Political and Social Conditions of Kerala Under the Cera Perumals of Makotai (c. AD 800–AD 1124). Kerala. Calicut University Press, 1996, pp 512.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an K. V. Krishna Iyer, Zamorins of Calicut: From the earliest times to A D 1806. Calicut: Norman Printing Bureau, 1938.
  3. ^ a b c d e Eila M.J. Campbell, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, "Vasco da Gama." Encyclopædia Britannica Online [1]
  4. ^ William A. Noble. "Kerala" Encyclopædia Britannica Online [2]
  5. ^ World States Men: Indian Princes Princely states of India
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k V. V., Haridas. "King court and culture in medieval Kerala - The Zamorins of Calicut (AD 1200 to AD 1767)". [3] Unpublished PhD Thesis. Mangalore University
  7. ^ "Lectures 26-27". Purdue University. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  8. ^ "officialwebsite of". Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  9. ^ Divakaran, Kattakada (2005). Kerala Sanchaaram. Thiruvananthapuram: Z Library. 
  10. ^ The table is compiled from V. V., Haridas. "King court and culture in medieval Kerala - The Zamorins of Calicut (AD 1200 to AD 1767)". Unpublished PhD Thesis. Mangalore University.
  11. ^ Menon. A Sreedhara, "A Survey of Kerala History", DC Books, 2007 - Kerala (India)
  12. ^ a b c Panikkassery, Velayudhan. MM Publications (2007), Kottayam India
  13. ^ Narayanan. M. G. S. "Calicut: The City of Truth Revisited". University of Calicut, 2006 - Calicut (India)
  14. ^ 'Manavikrama alias Punturakkon of Eranad - A New Name in the Twilight of the Cera Kingdom in Kerala’, M. G. S. Narayanan. paper presented at the 18th Annual Congress of Epigraphical Society of India, Pune, 1992.
  15. ^ K. V. Krishna Iyer, Court Historian of the Zamorins, describes the event: The nominal reason for the military expedition was to protect the rights of the Brahmins in Quilon. Quilon had earlier opposed the expansion Calicut supremacy south of Cochin (former Perumpadappu kingdom). However, the Calicut forces advanced by Chetwai and Kanhur River, the Zamorin crossed the backwater at Vypin, marching through Chiranganad Karappuram, Payattukad, Alleppey, Trikunnappuzha and Kartikappally, and entered Odanad. Soon, the ruler of Quilon propitiated Calicut by paying the expenses of the battles, ceding the lands known as Munjiramukkattam (Munjiramukkattam was later transferred by the Calicut to the temple of Padmanabha or to Mathappuram shrine). Quilon also agreed to send annual tribute along with the flag of fealty to Tirunavaya for the Mamankam festival.
  16. ^ "Vasco da Gama never landed at Kappad: M G S" [4] The Hindu FEBRUARY 06, 2017
  17. ^ a b c d e f g T. G. Percival Spear. "European activity in India, 1498 – c. 1760" Encyclopædia Britannica Online [5]
  18. ^ a b c d e f g K. K. N. Kurup, Edit., "India's Naval Traditions". Northern Book Centre, New Delhi, 1997
  19. ^ a b c d Harold V. Livermore. "Afonso de Albuquerque". [6] Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv Logan, William. Malabar. District Manual. Asian Educational Services, 1887.
  21. ^ a b c Pedro Calmon. "Pedro Álvares Cabral". Encyclopædia Britannica Online [7]
  22. ^ Schwartz, Stuart. Implicit Understandings, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 665 pp, 1994, 302. ISBN 0-521-45880-3
  23. ^ Robert Swell. "A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar". , Book 1, Chapter 10.
  24. ^ [8]
  25. ^ Logan, William. Malabar. Asian Educational Services, 1887.
  26. ^ "Tipu Sultan — Villain Or Hero?". Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  27. ^ a b c d Ayyar, KV Krishna. The Zamorins of Calicut. Calicut: Norman Printing Bureau, 1938. Print.
  28. ^ a b c Ben Cahoon. "Indian Princely States K-Z". Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  29. ^ a b c d e M. G. Radhakrishnan. "The inheritance of loss". India Today [9] July 26, 2013
  30. ^ Krishnadas Rajagopal. "Zamorin of Calicut passes away". [10] The Hindu MARCH 28, 2013
  31. ^ Hari Govind. "Zamorin opposes temples’ takeover". [11] Deccan Chronicle Sep 8, 2017
  32. ^ Hari Govind. "Zamorin opposes temples’ takeover". [12] Deccan Chronicle Sep 8, 2017


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External links[edit]