Mughal Invasion of Travancore : A forgotten chapter in the history of Kerala

By DAUHSHANTI & PAANCHAJANYAA via Hindu Post published on February 18, 2017

Kerala was the land of intrepid Dharmikas who successfully defended all the invasions for centuries till the one by Hyder Ali in the 18th century. The land of Kerala is blessed with many ancient temples, the importance of which are completely forgotten today.

One such temple is that of Adi Keshava Perumal at Thiruvattar near Padmanabhapuram (the seat of Travancore Kingdom before it was shifted to Thiruvananthapuram by Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma). The Adi Keshava here is revered as the elder brother of Padmanabhaswamy at Thiruvananthapuram. The lord here is resting on Adisesha (Anantasayana Posture) and has to be viewed through three doors. We could see Lord Shiva near Lord Adi Keshava Perumal inside the shrine. This temple is one of the 108 Divya desams (temple sung by Azhwars in Naalaayira Divyaprabhandam) as Nammaazhwar has sung about Adikeshava in his Thiruvaaimozhi.

One of the most ignored events in the Kerala history is about the lesser known Mughal invasion into Kerala during the 17th century which was successfully defended at Thiruvattar. The invasion took place southwards into Venad or Travancore and it was led by a Mughal commander who ventured through the Tamil lands. As a result, treasuries of many temples in Tamil kingdoms were emptied and taken to Travancore with the Utsavamurthis (Murthis of the temple which are brought out in procession for festivals made of metal) of the deities, after hiding the Moolamurthi (main deity inside the shrine made of stone).

At that time, Travancore was in political chaos and since there was no heir, Ashwathi Thirunal Umayamma Rani reigned as the queen of Travancore. She faced a lot of trouble from local landlords called Ettuveettil Pillamar, who were in control of political matters in Travancore, as well as from related branches of the royalty.

The Mughal invaders went on a conversion spree in south, and many islamic practices were enforced upon by the local Hindus by the Mughal invaders. The Pillamar had ran off scared from the Mughal invaders, but due to the appeal of muslims in Travancore army (Travancore was a small state during that time and  they had recruited Pathan, Sikh and Tamil soldiers  into army to increase the strength of the force) the Mughal raiders had spared the temples of the region.

During the same time, a young Nair warrior from north Kerala came down south for a pilgrimage. This warrior was known as Kottayam Kerala Varma, he belonged to the same royalty of the King known as Kerala Simham or ‘lion of Kerala’, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, who later fought against both the British colonialists and Tipu’s jihad on Malabar Hindus. Umayamma Rani quickly appointed Kerala Varma in control of states forces and he along with Nair army marched on, fighting the Mughal intruders at various places from Thiruvananthapuram.

It was decided that the final battle will take place near Thiruvattar for its strategic position and he camped there waiting for the arrival of Mughals. When the Mughal army arrived, Kerala Varma and his companions were struck by fear and lost all the hopes of victory by the looking at the large number of soldiers in the Mughal army compared to which he was severely outnumbered in 10 to 1 ratio.

That evening after Seeveli or temple procession, Kerala Varma prayed to Adi Keshava and sang the poem named Padasankeerthanam asking for the help of Adikeshava in the battle against adhamric invaders. By the time he finished singing it, his army men were overwhelmed with confidence as they all had a feeling that they had the blessing of Adikeshava, who is revered as the one who protected the world from the demons Keshan and Keshi, and hence started their preparations for battle with high hopes of victory which was completely lost few hours earlier. Kerala Varma successfully fought and defeated the Mughal forces. Shangunny Menon, a 19th century author from Travancore, describes the battle in the following lines:

“This Rajah was appointed Her Highness’ principal counsellor, and commander of all the militia then on the side of the royalists. Kerala Vurmah lost no time in raising a force armed with bows and arrows, slings, swords and lances. The Rajah, under his personal command led the army against the Mogul sirdar and attacked him unexpectedly at Manecaud near Trevandrum. As the sirdar had not a sufficient force near him, all his horse-men having been scattered about between Vurkalay and Thovalay collecting the revenue, he was unable to make a stand and was obliged to retreat precipitately to Thovalay. Kerala Vurmah pursued him and the sirdar was reinforced by a party of horsemen from Thovalay and the other southern districts. He made a stand near the side of a hill at Thiruvatar, and a severe battle ensued.

While the jungles, and rocks with which the locality was covered, presented insuperable obstacles to the Mogul sirdar’s cavalry and threw it into confusion; they afforded the Rajah’s archers and slingers convenient positions for attack and defence. While the conflict was going on, many of the horsemen were killed .and, unfortunately for the sirdar, a nest of wasps, on one of the trees under which he was fighting on horseback, was disturbed by the throwing of a stone from one of the slings and the insects came down in swarms, and stung him on his face and ears. On his attempting to dismount, his horse, being stung by the wasps, threw its rider and ran away. Scarcely had the sirdar fallen on the side of the rock than hundreds of arrows pierced his body. Nor were the slingers idle, for they poured on the hand of the great commander a volley of stones. The fallen chief was soon killed and his army was utterly defeated”

Kottayam Kerala Varma’s royalty was also famous for endorsements of arts and literature. Another king from his royalty known as Kottayattu Thampuran authored many works and contributed to the development of Kerala’s most famous art form of Kathakali. The Thiruvattar Adi Keshava Perumal temple was ignored by the Travancore royal family after the shifting of capital. It was later looted by Nawab of Arcot, the year of which is shown by some as 1740 which we disagree with for it was the time when Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, who defeated the Dutch and ended the Dutch rule in Bharat, was ruling Travancore from Padmanabhapuram near Thiruvattar. This plundering of the temple by Arcot Nawab might have taken some time in the 19th century but the incidents documented about this have their unique importance.

When the Nawab of Arcot looted this temple, he took away the Utsavamurthy of the temple along with other riches from the temple treasury. Immediately after this, the Nawab’s situation worsened as his kingdom was completely in chaos because of invasions and other law and order problems, and his wife developed serious illness which could not be cured by anyone.

It was at this juncture, Adikeshava appeared in the dream of the Pujari who performed the daily rites at this temple and ordered him to go to the Nawab’s palace and inform the Nawab that if the idol was returned, his wife would be cured of illness and the chaotic situation in his kingdom would see improvement. The Nawab acted accordingly and his wife was cured. The Nawab gifted a silver plate and a cap to Adi Keshava and this is used at the time of seeveli every day.

It was after this incident that the ill treatment of Hindus in the kingdom of the Nawab of Arcot stopped, for he had developed a spirit of respect towards Adi Keshava and his devotees. After the reorganization of states, Thiruvattar came under Tamil Nadu and the takeover of the administration of the temple by the government further worsened its situation because of bad maintenance. Thus, the pride of Travancore being one of the very few Kingdom of the south which defeated the Mughals, and the place where it happened is completely forgotten from the minds of people.

@Dauhshanti - A proud Polytheist & Idolater, blessed to be born into the civilization of Bharata. @paanchajanyaa - Soldier of dharma... Yato dharmas tato jayah...

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  1. Raju Puducode Reply

    February 27, 2017 at 3:11 am

    Great news for Kerala. KOZHIKODE: Hafeesudheen T K, the youth from Padne village in Kasargod district of Kerala, who left the country to join the Islamic State, was killed in a drone attack at an IS-stronghold in Afghanistan on Friday. The information on his death reached the relatives in Padne on Sunday through a Telegram app message from the account of Ashfaq Majeed, who is a member of the 21-member group that joined the terrorist outfit.

    Hafees was killed by a drone strike yesterday. We consider him to be a Shuhada (martyr) and Allah knows best said the message received by Abdul Rehman, local leader of the IUML and a relative of the slain youth.I got the message at 8.30 in the morning, which said the burial of Hafees was over. When I asked about others, Ashfaq said they are all waiting for their turn to become martyrs. A similar message was received by his mother on Sunday morning

    Hafees was one among the 21 persons from Kerala, who left to join the Islamic State. 24-year-old Hafees was in the Gulf before coming to his village. He was radicalized by Abul Rasheed, who was then working with the Peace International School in Kozhikode. The group had left India in e 2016 and arrived in the IS-controlled place in Afghanistan.

    The Nangarhar province is out of bound even for (NIA) has sought the help of Interpol to get the details of Indians in the IS. Nangarhar area comes under the Islamic State. Abu Backr al-Bagdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph of the ISIS has reportedly appointed a former Taliban leader.
    The Malayalees who joined the IS have been leading a calm life in a conflict-free zone in Nangarhar area ever since they landed in Afghanistan. Dr Ijaz, one among them group, had informed his relatives that he started a clinic and his brother Shiaz a shop in the area. Relatives were also informed that Rifaila & Fathima Nimisha, the two women who were pregnant when they left India, had their deliveries in Nangarhar.

  2. Raju Puducode Reply

    February 27, 2017 at 3:12 am

    These religion of terror members are spreading their wings & bloodshed all around the world on a daily basis & we must be vigilant to save ourselves. They have turned our planet earth into a killing field with daily butchering, torture, mutilation, ra**pe, and bomb blasts. We are seeing a big surge in Jihadi terrorism from the brain dead followers of religion of pieces under the leadership of terrorists like Madani, Naik, Owaisi & other Khans. These daily terrorism from these beasts from all around the world has made peaceful life almost impossible for the common folks & this is turning me also into an irrational unkind person. When these animals returns from their caliphate, if still alive, should be shot point blank in the airport itself before they turns our society into another killing field. But Allah appears to be doing a superb great job of flushing these violent Jihadi animals of all shades of sunni, shia, ahmadiya, etc down the toilet. Keep up the excellent work. These converted peaceful Hindus have become violent animals because of the teachings of the desert great satan of Middle East.

  3. Raju Puducode Reply

    February 28, 2017 at 6:38 am

    These Jihadis have become literally mad by constant brainwashing by leaders like Naik, Madani & Owaisi. Why cant they blow themselves rather than asking small kids to do it??
    MOSUL: My dear family, please forgive me, reads the handwritten letter discarded in the dusty halls of an Islamic State training compound in eastern Mosul. Don’t be sad and don’t wear the black clothes (of mourning). I asked to get married and you did not marry me off. So, by God, I will marry the 72 virgins in paradise”

    They were schoolboy Alaa Abd al-Akeedi’s parting words before he set off from the compound to end his life in a suicide bomb attack against Iraqi security forces last year. The letter was written on an Islamic State form marked”Soldiers’ Department, Martyrs’ Brigade and in an envelope addressed to his parents’ home.Akeedi, aged was one of dozens of young recruits who passed through the training facility in the past 2 years as they prepared to wage jihad. In several cases this involved carrying out suicide attacks. His letter never reached his family. It was left behind notes to relatives when Islamic State abandoned the facility. The militants also left a handwritten registry containing the personal details of about 50 recruits. Not all entries had years of birth, and only about a dozen had photographs attached, but many recruits were in their teens or early 20s.
    These documents, found by Reuters include some of the first first-hand accounts from ISIS bombers to be made public and offer an insight into the mindset of young recruits prepared to die. Reuters interviewed relatives of three of the fighters including Akeedi to help determine where they came from and why they chose jihad.

  4. Raju Puducode Reply

    March 9, 2017 at 11:07 am

    BENGALURU: A 22-year-old Muslim girl is being trolled for singing a Hindu devotional song in a Kannada TV channel reality show last week.
    The performance of Suhana Sayed, from Shivamogga district’s Sagar taluk, about 360km from Bengaluru, invited comments and criticisms from a Facebook page called Mangalore Muslims for taking part in the reality show. In no time, the post invited countercomments. One member said: “If singing of this girl is wrong, then acting in movies is also wrong. First you oppose them and then talk about this girl.”
    As responses gained more bite and traction with each passing hour, Mangalore Muslims deleted its comments from the page.
    After listening to a hijab-wearing Suhana at the reality show, judges appreciated her effort and urged the woman to become “a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity”.

  5. Ravi Nair Reply

    June 2, 2017 at 7:00 am

    I am from that place. An ardent devotee of lord. The wasp net which played an important role in defeating muslims, was formed after the prayer by Kerala Varma to the lord. It is said that the wasps which were nested inside temple few to the place of war which is called Kankarai (Khankara) now and made nest in a tamarind tree there. The place of buriyal of that muslim was there until recently.

  6. bara Reply

    June 7, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    would be good to add some specifics : year, general/sirkar name so as to historicate the story

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