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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Battle of Colachel - when valiant "Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma" defeated Dutch

History of India :  India was a great Nation – there were many Kings whose valour was not properly highlighted.  We read more of Moghul kings and then British history conveniently forgetting that Dutch, Portuguese, French, English came as traders and ruled us for centuries – no fact that they were merciful and that freedom was gotten without sacrifices and bloodshed!

Neyyattinkara Shri Krishnaswamy Temple is beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, built in between AD 1750 - AD 1755, by His Highness Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the then maharajah of the erstwhile Indian princely state of Travancore. The legend behind the construction of this temple is, His Highness Anizham Thirunal Marthandavarma was surrounded by his enemies, arguably the high profile "Ettuveettil Pillamar" while he was near the place where the temple is now situated. The king was trying to hide himself in a safe place. At that time, a small boy was seen there and this boy advised the king to hide himself inside the hollow trunk of a huge jack fruit tree nearby. The king heeded to this advice and was saved from his enemies. Later, the king tried to ascertain the identity of the boy, but could not. The king then strongly believed that it was in fact Lord  Unnikrishna Himself who saved his life and he decided to build a temple for Lord Krishna, as a gratitude, at the exact place where he hid inside the jack fruit tree and thus Neyyattinkara Sree Krishna temple came into existence.  

                   Ashwa Bravo, Ashwa Yashobali, Ashwa Jauhar and Ashwa Raudee   Colachel Battle, Lightning Bolt, Campania, Good Connection, Unmatched and Campania pleased when the horses were exercised at Malakpet Race Course  read a news item .. did that light up anything !! 

Colachel is a coastal town in the far south of India, located within the administrative jurisdiction of Kanyakumari District. It is a natural harbour on the Malabar coast, located 20 km north-west of Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), the southernmost tip of India.  Colachel is an ancient port town, that Vasco da Gama called ‘Colachi’. Before the State re-organization in 1956, it was part of the Travancore State.  A victory pillar dating back to 1741 stands here bearing testimony to a glorious piece of history. 


Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma ( 1706 – 1758 ) known as the “Maker of Modern Travancore”, was ruler of the Indian kingdom of Travancore (Venadu) from 1729 until his death in 1758.  Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch (VOC) forces at the Battle of Colachel in 1741. He then adopted a European mode of discipline for his army and expanded his kingdom northward (to what became the modern state of Travancore). He built a sizeable standing army of about 50,000 men, as part of designing an "elaborate and well-organised" war machine, with the role of the Nair nobility (on which kings of Kerala had earlier been dependent for battles), and fortified the northern boundary of his kingdom (Travancore Lines).  His alliance in 1757 with the ruler of Kochi (Cochin), against the northern Kingdom of Calicut, enabled the kingdom of Kochi to survive.

Travancore under Marthanda Varma made a deliberate attempt to consolidate its power by the use of Indian Ocean trade. It was the policy of Marthanda Varma to offer assistance to Syrian Christian traders (as a means of limiting European involvement in ocean trade). The principal merchandise was black pepper, but other goods also came to be defined as royal monopoly items (requiring a license for trade) between the 1740s and the 1780s.  Eventually, Travancore challenged and broke the Dutch blockade of the Kerala coast. Trivandrum became a prominent city in Kerala under Marthanda Varma.  He undertook many irrigational works, built roads and canals for communication and gave active encouragement to foreign trade.

                 In January, 1750, Marthanda Varma donated his kingdom to Sri Padmanabhaswami (the presiding deity at Thiruvananthapuram temple) and thereafter ruled as the deity's "vice-regent" (Sri Padmanabha Dasa).  Marthanda Varma's policies were continued in large measure by his successor, Rama Varma ("Dharma Raja") (1758–98).

The Battle of Colachel was fought in  1741   between the kingdom of Travancore and the Dutch East India Company. During the Travancore-Dutch War, King Marthanda Varma's forces defeated the Dutch East India Company's forces led by Admiral Eustachius De Lannoy on 10 August 1741. The Dutch never recovered from the defeat and no longer posed a large colonial threat to India.

In the early 18th century, the Malabar Coast region of present-day Kerala was divided among several small chiefdoms. In the 1730s, Marthanda Varma, the ruler of Travancore, adopted an expansionist policy, and conquered several territories from these small states. This threatened the interests of the Dutch East India Company's command at Malabar, whose spice trade depended on procurement of spices from these states. In January 1739, Gustaaf Willem van Imhoff, the Dutch Governor of Ceylon, visited Kochi, and in a July report, he recommended military action to save the Dutch business in Malabar. Later that year, the Dutch organised an alliance of the rulers of Kochi, Thekkumkur, Vadakkumkur, Purakkad, Kollam, and Kayamkulam. Van Imhoff personally met Marthanda Varma to negotiate peace, threatening to wage war against Travancore if the Dutch terms were not accepted, but Marthanda Varma dismissed the threat, and replied that he had been thinking about invading Europe some day.

In late 1739, the Dutch command at Malabar declared war on Travancore, without obtaining permission or waiting for reinforcements from Batavia. The Dutch deployed a detachment of soldiers from Ceylon against Travancore, under the command of Captain Johannes Hackert. They and their allies achieved several military successes in the initial campaign. In November, the allied army forced the Travancore army stationed near Kollam to retreat, and advanced up to Tangasseri. The British East India Company chief at Anchuthengu congratulated the Dutch on their victory, and requested them to leave their establishment at Edava in peace. 

On 26 November, 1740,  the Dutch sent two large ships and three sloops to Colachel, bombarding the coast. The Dutch soldiers fortified a place near the port with wooden posts and garrisoned a portion of the Dutch force in it. The rest proceeded and attacked the Travancore out-posts on the coast, such as Thengapattanam, Midalam, Kadiapattinam and advanced to Eraniel. On 29 November, the Dutch commander van Gollenesse announced a complete blockade of the Travancore coast around Colachel, directing his forces to seize all ships bound for the coast, with the exception of the English ships carrying goods to Edava. On 13 January 1741, the Dutch ship Maarseveen was sent southwards, to be anchored between Thengapattanam and Colachel. On 10 February, another Dutch expedition comprising seven large ships and several smaller vessels landed just north of Colachel.  

          Marthanda Varma accumulated forces,  reached Kalkulam, and engaged the  Dutch who being, at the time, in possession of almost all the villages between Colachel and Kottar, were to attack  Padmanabhapuram, the capital of Travancore. On 27 May, he worshipped at the Adikesava Perumal Temple at Thiruvattar, consecrated his sword there, and marched to Colachel. The Travancore army did not have any siege equipment, and therefore, Marthanda Varma intended to simply starve the Dutch garrison out.  His army, which largely outnumbered the Dutch force at Colachel, encircled the Dutch entrenchments from all sides.  Besides the blockade imposed by the Travancore forces, the adverse wind, floods and rough sea also prevented the Dutch from supplying ammunition and provisions to Colachel.  

On 5 August, a cannonball fired by the Travancore army fell into a barrel of gunpowder inside the Dutch garrison, and the resulting fire destroyed the entire rice supply of the stockade. Consequently, the Dutch were forced to  surrender which is a historic moment in Indian History, which we all must be celebrating.  The Travancore forces captured a large number of muskets and some cannons from the Dutch garrison at Colachel. They imprisoned 24 Europeans and several native Christians, who were imprisoned at the Udayagiri Fort in Puliyoorkurichi.    Several European prisoners, including Eustachius De Lannoy and Duyvenschot accepted the  amnesty offer and served Marthanda Varma.  It was the first time in Indian history that an Asian country defeated a European naval force. Twenty-eight high level Dutch officers, including Admiral D'lennoy, were captured.   D'lennoy went on to serve the Travancore kingdom for the next two decades and was promoted to the post of the Valiya kappithan (Senior Admiral) of the Travancore forces. He modernised the Travancore army, and built the Nedumkottai, a line of fortifications in the north of the kingdom, which held up the army of Tipu Sultan in 1789, during his invasion of Travancore. D'lennoy is buried in the Udayagiri Fort, also known as Dillanai kottai (D'lennoy's fort).

Proud to be reading this piece of History .. .. victory of Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, over the invading Dutch and packing them off. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
3rd Aug 2021.
Pics from twitter. 

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