The Portuguese and the Dutch will be remembered
for introducing many novel agricultural crops to Kerala, notable
among them being pineapple, papaya, tapioca, rubber and scientific
farming methods for coconuts. To this day, the Kerala farmers are
critically dependent on these crops for survival in the agrarian
economy of the state. The Bolgatty palace at Kochi, the Dutch Governor's
mansion (later the British Resident's mansion) is a much recognised
landmark of Kochi. The renovation of the palace at Mattancherry
( known as the Dutch palace) at Kochi also is a reminder of the
brief Dutch colonial presence in Kerala.
The French also had brief moments of glory in Kerala. But a resurgent
Britain put paid to their hopes of empire building and managed to
confine them to a small enclave Mahe near Kannur.
in this time was the king of Thiruvithamkur, Marthanda Varma in
the 18th century. His success started with the subjugation of the
local warlords. Then in a move at consolidating his kingdom, he
subjugated all principalities the southern tip of Kerala upto Kodungalloor
up in the North.
His notable achievements of converting these
captured lands into state lands, centralising foreign trade and
hence improving government incomes, improving conditions of farmers,
and most importantly reducing the powers of the government servants
who till then were exclusively from certain castes and families
set the foundation of modern day Kerala. He also took the rather
unusual step of employing competent people from all castes and for
the first time recognised competence over birth right. For his army
he employed a European De Lanoy. For administration he employed
people like Raja Kesava Das, Mallan Govindan etc who were men of
proven ability. His defeat of the Dutch at Kolachel in 1741 is the
high point of the reign of one of the most colourful kings of Kerala.
It was after him that the British were trying
to extend their influence in South India and they came across Tipu,
the Sultan of Mysore. Thiruvithamkur was forced into a common alliance
with the British against Tipu.
Mysore war was over in 1799 and the British were de facto rulers
of North Kerala, which until then were part of Tipu's kingdom. Both
Thiruvithanmkur and Kochi were browbeaten with threats of war and
huge war debt payments, that they were forced to accept British
residents for the rest of their history.
The rise of the British was bitterly opposed
by the local warlords or naduvazhis. In 1802 Pazhassi Raja, a local
chieftain revolted and fought a determined campaign against the
British. In a similar fashion, Velu Thampi Dalawa also rose up against
what was seen as British attempts at total control of local power
centres. Velu Thampi Dalawa had allied himself with the Dewan of
Kochi Paliyath Achan in the armed campaign against the British .
it was only a matter of time when the reinforcements of the British
army arrived from Malabar and the Madras Presidency. After almost
a year of sporadic battles, Velu Thampi Dalawa fled the kingdom.
The power of the British Resident was now paramount and the Maharaja
had to be content with a much reduced say in the affairs of State.
The revolt by these two leaders are the stuff of legends to this
day. But these were isolated and did not have the necessary military
might to fight a sustained campaign against an emerging World Super
Power. Once the British military effectively crushed these revolts,
no more was heard from these naduvazhis or warlords again..
But it was a different story as far as the
peasantry were concerned. There were serious outbreaks of unrest
especially in North Kerala against the landlords and by extension
the British. These are now called the moppilla lahala or Muslim
Revolt. Needless to say, these were also ruthlessly suppressed and
again form a part of the local folklore to this day.