Kingdom of Cochin
|6th century Common Era–1949|
|6th century Common Era|
|Currency||Rupee and Other Local Currencies|
|Today part of||India|
Kingdom of Cochin (also known as Perumpadappu Swaroopam, Mada-rajyam, or Kuru Swaroopam; Kocci or Perumpaṭappu) was a late medieval kingdom and later princely state on the Malabar Coast, South India. Once controlling much of the territory between Ponnani and Thottappally, the Cochin kingdom shrank to its minimal extent as a result of invasions by the Zamorin of Calicut. When Portuguese armadas arrived in India, the Kingdom of Cochin had lost its vassals like Edapalli, Cranganore etc. to Zamorin and was looking for an opportunity to preserve the independence of Cochin which was at risk. King Unni Goda Varma Tirumulpadu (Trimumpara Raja) warmly welcomed Pedro Álvares Cabral on 24 December 1500 and negotiated a treaty of alliance between Portugal and the Cochin kingdom, directed against the Zamorin of Calicut. Cochin became a long-time Portuguese ally (1503–1663) providing assistance against native overlords. After the Portuguese, the Dutch East India Company (1663–1795) was an ally of Cochin. This was followed by the English East India Company (1795–1858, confirmed on 6 May 1809), having suzerainty over the Cochin state. Even today, the full official designation of the Raja of Cochin is “Perumpadappu Gangadhara Veera Kerala Thrikkovil Adhikarikal”.
The Kingdom of Cochin, originally known as Perumpadappu Swarupam, was under the rule of the Later Cheras in the Middle Ages. The Nambudiri (the Brahmin chief) of Perumpadappu (not present-day Perumpadappu in Ernakulam District, but an area which includes Chitrakuda in Vannery nadu, of the present day Ponnani taluk) had married the sister[better source needed] of the last Later Chera king, Rama Varma Kulashekhara, and as a consequence obtained Mahodayapuram, and Thiruvanchikulam Temple along with numerous other rights, such as that of the Mamankam festival. After the fall of the Mahodayapuram Cheras in the 12th century, along with numerous other provinces Perumpadappu Swarupam became a free political entity. However, it was only after the arrival of Portuguese colonizers on the Malabar Coast did the Perumpadappu Swarupam acquire any political importance. Perumpadappu rulers had family relationships with the Nambudiri rulers of Edappally. After the transfer of Kochi and Vypin from Edappally rulers to the Perumpadappu rulers, the latter came to be known as kings of Kochi. Ma Huan, the Muslim voyager and translator who accompanied Admiral Zheng He on three of his seven expeditions to the Western Oceans, describes the king of Cochin as being a Buddhist.
The Cochin kingdom (the Princely State) included much of modern-day Thrissur district excluding chavakkad taluk, few areas of Alathur taluk and the whole of Chittur Taluk of the Palakkad district and Kochi Taluk (excluding Fort Kochi), most of Kanayannur Taluk (excluding Edappally), parts of Aluva Taluk (Karukutty, Angamaly, Kalady, Chowwara, Kanjoor, Sreemoolanagaram, Malayattoor, Manjapra), parts of Kunnathunad Taluk and parts of Paravur Taluk (Chendamangalam) of the Ernakulam district which are now the part of the Indian state of Kerala.
There is no extant written evidence about the emergence of the Kingdom of Cochin or of the Cochin Royal Family, also known as Perumpadapu Swaroopam. All that is recorded are folk tales and stories, and a somewhat blurred historical picture about the origins of the ruling dynasty.
The surviving manuscripts, such as Keralolpathi, Keralamahatmyam, and Perumpadapu Grandavari, are collections of myths and legends that are less than reliable as conventional historical sources. There is an oft-recited legend that the last Perumal (king from the Chera dynasty) who ruled the Chera dynasty divided his kingdom between his nephews and his sons, converted to Islam and traveled to Mecca on a hajj. The Keralolpathi recounts the above narrative in the following fashion: The last and the famous "Perumal" ruled Kerala for 36 years. He left for Mecca by ship with some Muslims who arrived at Kodungallur (Cranganore) port and converted to Islam. Before leaving for Mecca, he divided his kingdom between his nephews and sons.
The Perumpadapu Grandavari contains an additional account of the dynastic origins: The last Thavazhi of Perumpadapu Swaroopam came into existence on the Kaliyuga day shodashangamsurajyam. Cheraman Perumal divided the land in half, 17 "amsa" north of Neelaeswaram and 17 amsa south, totaling 34 amsa, and gave his powers to his nephews and sons. Thirty-four kingdoms between Kanyakumari and Gokarna (now in Karnataka) were given to the "thampuran" who was the daughter of the last niece of Cheraman Perumal.
Keralolpathi recorded the division of his kingdom in 345 Common Era, Perumpadapu Grandavari in 385 Common Era, William Logan in 825 Common Era. There are no written records on these earlier divisions of Kerala, but according to some historians the division might have occurred during the Second Chera Kingdom at the beginning of the 12th century.
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Cochin kingdom ruled over a vast area in central Kerala before the Portuguese arrival. Their state stretched up to Ponnani and Pukkaitha in the north, Aanamala in the east, and Cochin and Porakkad in the south, with capital at Perumpadappu on the northern border. Calicut (Polathiri kingdom) was conquered by Zamorin of Eranad, who then conquered large parts of Cochin Kingdom, and began trying to assert suzerainty over Cochin.
On the Malabar coast during the early 15th century, Calicut and Cochin were in an intense rivalry, so the Ming dynasty of China decided to intervene by granting special status to Cochin and its ruler known as Keyili (可亦里) to the Chinese. Calicut had been the dominant port-city in the region, but Cochin was emerging as its main rival. For the fifth Ming treasure voyage, Admiral Zheng He was instructed to confer a seal upon Keyili of Cochin and designate a mountain in his kingdom as the Zhenguo Zhi Shan (鎮國之山, Mountain Which Protects the Country). Zheng He delivered a stone tablet, inscribed with a proclamation composed by the Yongle Emperor himself, to Cochin. As long as Cochin remained under the protection of Ming China, the Zamorin of Calicut was unable to invade Cochin and a military conflict was averted. The cessation of the Ming treasure voyages consequently had negative results for Cochin, as the Zamorin of Calicut later launched an invasion against Cochin. In the late 15th century, the Zamorin occupied Cochin and installed his representative as the king.
The kingdom of Cochin was the only kingdom in South Asia to be a protectorate of China. The King of Cochin received special treatment, because he had sent tribute since 1411 and later also sent ambassadors to request the patent of investiture and a seal. The Chinese Emperor granted him both requests.
Cochin was the scene of the first European settlement in India. In the year 1500, the Portuguese Admiral Pedro Álvares Cabral landed at Cochin after being repelled from Calicut. The king of Cochin welcomed the Portuguese and a treaty of friendship was signed. King allowed them to build a factory at Cochin (and upon Cabral's departure Cochin allowed thirty Portuguese and four Franciscan friars to stay in the kingdom). Assured by the offer of support, the king declared "war" on the enemy, the Zamorins of Calicut.
In 1502 a new expedition under the command of Vasco da Gama arrived at Cochin, and the friendship was renewed. Vasco da Gama later bombed Calicut and destroyed the Arab factories there. This enraged the Zamorin, the ruler of Calicut, and he attacked Cochin after the departure of Vasco da Gama and destroyed the Portuguese factory. The king of Cochin and his Portuguese allies were forced to withdraw to Vypin Island. However, the arrival of a small reinforcement Portuguese fleet and, some days later by Duarte Pacheco Pereira and the oncoming monsoons alarmed the Zamorin. Calicut recalled the army and immediately abandoned the siege.
After securing the throne for the king of Cochin, the Portuguese got permission to build a fort – Fort Emmanuel (at Fort Kochi, named after the king of Portugal) – surrounding the Portuguese factory, in order to protect it from any further attacks from Calicut and on 27 September 1503 the foundations of a timber fort, the first fort erected by the Portuguese in India, were laid. The entire work of construction was commissioned by the ruler of Cochin, who supplied workers and material. In 1505, the stone fortress replaced the wooden fort. Later, for a better defence of the town, a fort called "Castelo de Cima" was built on Vypeen Island at Paliport. At the departure of the Portuguese fleet, only Duarte Pacheco Pereira and a small fleet were left in Cochin. Meanwhile, the Zamorin of Calicut formed a massive force and attacked them. For five months, Cochin kingdom was able to drive back Calicut's assaults, with the help of Pacheco Pereira and his men.
The ruler of Cochin continued to rule with the help of the Portuguese. Meanwhile, the Portuguese secretly tried to enter into an alliance with the Zamorin. A few later attempts by the Zamorin to conquer the Cochin port were thwarted by the ruler of Cochin with the help of the Portuguese. Slowly, the Portuguese armoury at Cochin was increased, presumably to help the king protect Cochin. And for a long a time, right after Goa, Cochin situated in the center of East Indies, was the best place Portugal had in India. From there the Portuguese exported large volumes of spices, particularly pepper.
In 1530, Saint Francis Xavier arrived and founded a Latin Christian mission. Cochin hosted the grave of Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese viceroy, who was buried at St. Francis Church until his remains were returned to Portugal in 1539. Soon after the time of Afonso de Albuquerque, Portuguese alliance in Kerala declined. The failure is attributed to several factors like intermarriages, forcible conversions, religious persecution, etc.
Portuguese alliance was followed by that of the Dutch, who had by then conquered Quilon after various encounters with the Portuguese and their allies. Discontented members of the Cochin Royal family called on the assistance of the Dutch for help in overthrowing the Cochin Raja. The Dutch successfully landed at Njarakal and went on to capture the fort at Pallippuram, which they handed over to the Zamorin.
The 1773 conquest of the Mysore by Hyder Ali in the Malabar region descended to Kochi. The Kochi Raja had to pay a subsidy of one hundred thousand of Ikkeri Pagodas (equalling 400,000 modern rupees). Later on, in 1776, Haider captured Trichur, which was under the Kingdom of Kochi. Thus, the Raja was forced to become a tributary of Mysore and to pay a nuzzar of 100,000 of pagodas and 4 elephants and annual tribute of 30,000 pagodas. The hereditary prime ministership of Cochin came to an end during this period.
In 1814 according to the Anglo-Dutch Treaty, the islands of Kochi, including Fort Kochi and its territory, were ceded to the United Kingdom in exchange for the island of Banca. Even prior to the signing of the treaty, there is evidence of English residents in Kochi. Towards the early 20th century, trade at the port had increased substantially and the king wanted to develop the port even further. The king brought a harbour engineer Robert Bristow to Cochin in 1920, with the help of Lord Willingdon, then Governor of Madras. Over a span of 21 years he helped the king of Cochin to transform Cochin into the safest harbour in south Asia, where ships berthed alongside the newly reclaimed inner harbour, which was equipped with a long array of steam cranes. Meanwhile, in 1866, Fort Cochin was made a municipality, and its first Municipal Council election with a board of 18 members was conducted in 1883. The Maharajah of Cochin initiated local administration in 1896 by forming town councils in Mattancherry and Ernakulam. In 1925, a Kochi legislative assembly was also constituted to help the public participate in the administration. The assembly consisted of 45 members, 10 were officially nominated. Thottakkattu Madhaviamma was the first woman to be a member of any legislature in India. Kochi was the first princely state to willingly join the Indian Union. India gained Dominion of India status in 1947. Travancore merged with Cochin to create Travancore-Cochin, which was in turn unified with the Malabar district of Madras Presidency. Kasaragod was merged into it and Kanyakumari was removed from it. On 1 November 1956 Indian state of Kerala was formed.
For administrative purposes, Cochin was divided into seven taluks.(from 1860 to 1905AD) Chittur, Cochin, Cranganore, Kanayannur, Mukundapuram, Trichur and Talapilly.
|Taluk||Area (in square miles)||Headquarters|
|Cranganore||19||Cranganore (Now Kodungallur)|
|Trichur||225||Trichur (Now Thrissur)|
The capital of Perumpadapu Swaroopam was located at Chitrakooda in the Perumpadapu village of Vanneri from the beginning of the 12th century to the end of the 13th century. Even though the capital of Perumpadapu Swaroopam was in Vanneri, the Perumpadapu king had a palace in Mahodayapuram.
When the Zamorins attacked Vanneri in the later part of the 13th century, Perumpadapu Swaroopam shifted their capital from Vanneri to Mahodayapuram. In 1405 Perumpadapu Swaroopam changed their capital from Mahodayapuram to Cochin. By the end of the 14th century the Zamorin conquered Thrikkanamathilakam and it became a threat for Mahodayapuram (Thiruvanchikulam), which may be the reason that Perumpadapu Swaroopam changed their capital to Cochin from Mahodayapuram. Moreover, in the year 1341 a flood created an island, Puthuvippu (Vypin), and Cochin became a noted natural harbour for the Indian Ocean trade. The old Kodungallore (Cranganore) port lost its importance, which may also be a cause for the shift of the capital. From there on Perumpadapu Swaroopam used the name Cochin Royal Family.
Finally, the arrival of the Portuguese on the Indian subcontinent in the sixteenth century likely influenced Cochin politics. The Kingdom of Cochin was among the first Indian nations to sign a formal treaty with a European power, negotiating trade terms with Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500.
The palace at Kalvathhi was originally the residence of the kings. In 1555, though, the royal palace moved to Mattancherry, and later relocated to (Thrissur). At that time Penvazithampuran (Female Thampuran) and the other Kochuthampurans (other Thampurans except the Valliathampuran (King)) stayed at a palace in Vellarapilly.
In the beginning of 18th century Thripunithura started gaining prominence. The kingdom was ruled from Thrissur, Cochin and Thripunithura. Around 1755 Penvazithampuran (Female Thampuran) and the other Kochuthampurans (other Thampurans) left Vellarapalli and started to live in Thripunithura. Thus Thripunithura became the capital of the Cochin Royal Family.
Veerakerala Varma, nephew of Cheraman Perumal, is the person traditionally believed to be the first Maharaja of Cochin. The written records of the dynasty, however, date from 1503 CE. The Maharaja of Cochin was also called Gangadhara Kovil Adhikaarikal, meaning Head of all Temples.
The Paliath Achan, or head of the Paliam Nair family of Chendamangalam, played an important part in the politics of Cochin State since the early seventeenth century, and held hereditary rights to the ministership of Cochin. The Paliath Achan was the most powerful person after the king, and he sometimes exerted more power than the king.
In addition, there were many Desavazhis around the Cochin area, among them Paliyam swaroopam, who was second to the Perumpadappu swaroopam. Other powerful lords around these areas were Cheranellore Karthavu who was the head of the Anchi Kaimals, Muriyanatt (Mukundapuram-Nadavarambu) Nambiar who was the head of Arunattil Prabhus, Kodassery Kartha Mappranam Prabhu-Vellose Nair, Chengazhi Nambiar (Chengazhinad Naduvazhi), and Edappali Nampiyathiri.
KP Padmanabha Menon in his History of Kerala, Vol 2 mentions the Anji Kaimals whose Chief was the Cheranellur Kartha as owning all of Eranakulam. In fact, Eranakulam is known as Anji Kaimal in the early maps of Kerala. See Dutch in Malabar (Dutch Records No 13), 1910 shows a map from Common Era1740 that shows the area of AnjiKaimal as almost twice as large as the Cochin State. The other chiefs he mentions quoting Gollennesse (Dutch East India Company) is the 1) Moorianatt Nambiar 2) Paliath Achan (mentioned above), 3)Codacherry (Kotasseri) Kaimal, 4) Caimalieone (female Kaimal) of Corretty, 5) Changera Codda Kaimal, and 6) Panamoocattu Kaimal (Panambakadu Kaimal). The last four Kaimals are known as the Kaimals of Nandietter Naddu. The Kaimals of Nandietter Naddu had Nayar troops of 43,000 according to Heer Van Reede of the Dutch East India Company from 1694.
Shakthan Thampuran destroyed their powers and confisicated the properties of most of these lords. However, following the rebellion of the Paliath Achan along with Velu Thampi Dalawa in 1810, the powers of this chief were curbed.
The Cochin royal family followed the system of matrilineal succession known as Marumakkatayam Traditionally the female members of the family have hypergamous unions (Sambandham) with Namboodiri Brahmins while male members marry women of the Samanthan Nair class. These wives of the male members are not Ranis as per the matrilineal system but instead get the title of Nethyar Amma. Currently the family marries mostly within the Nair class.
The term "Shodasakriyakal" refers to sixteen rites to be performed by all members, as structured through "Smruthi".
In the Cochin royal family all the male Thampurans were named according to the following methodology.
In the Cochin royal family the female Thampurans were named according to the following methodology.
This naming convention is followed again to the third daughter and fourth etc.
Both the female and male members are called by the name "Thampuran" and have same last name (Thampuran). (in all other royal families in Kerala, males are called Thampuran and females – Thampuratti.
Maharaja Rama Varma (popularly known as Madrassil Theepetta Thampuran), who reigned from 1914 to 1932, was assisted by a particularly able consort named Parukutty Nethyar Amma (b. 1874). The Nethyar was the daughter of Kurur Namboodiripad, who was a member of the family that had the traditional honour of anointing the kings of Palakkad. Her mother belonged to the Padinjare Shrambhi house of the aristocratic Vadakke Kuruppath house of Trichur. She married the Maharaja, then fourth in line to the succession, when she was fourteen years old in 1888. It is said that she was especially blessed by the Devi at the Chottanikkara Temple. By a quirk of fate her husband ascended the throne as a result of the abdication of his predecessor. Since the Maharaja was a scholar and had other interests (including knowledge of how to cure snake bites and comprehend the language of lizards known as Gawli Shashtra), she took over the finances of the state. Under her guidance salaries were quadrupled and the increased revenue earned her a 17-gun salute. Parukutty Nethyar Amma was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind Medal by King George V in 1919 for public work and came to be known as Lady Rama Varma of Cochin.
The Nethyar Amma was not only an able administrator but also a Nationalist, moving from being seen as an exemplary public figure in the eyes of the British to earning the ire of the colonial state for her relationships with Mahatma Gandhi and Indian nationalists. As one British intelligence report stated, "The hill palace is the centre of nationalist activity and charkhas have been introduced to assist the weaving of khadi." (see Fortnightly Intelligence Reports available at the National Archives of India) In addition, a little known fact about the Cochin state is the attempt made by the British government and the Viceroy to force the Maharajah to abdicate under the ploy of trying to prove him insane. A doctor was brought from London to bolster the case, and the physician opined that the "Maharaja was merely an old man who tired easily". This attempt was directly linked to the fear that the Nethyar Amma, or the "Consort" as she was referred to by the British, was becoming increasingly powerful in nationalist circles.
The head of the Congress party in Cochin was Kurur Nilakantan Namboodiripad who was a cousin of the Nethyar Amma. The Collected Works containing Gandhi's letters include correspondence between the Maharajah's daughter V. K. Vilasini Amma and himself, and a second daughter V.K Ratnamma was married to R. M. Palat, himself a politician and the son of Sir C. Sankaran Nair, the former president of the Congress Party and well known nationalist. The Maharaja's eldest son V. K. Raman Menon studied in Oxford, married to Tiruthipalli Payathil Madhavi and had one son by name V. K. T. Raman Menon. The Maharaja's second son V.K Aravindaksha Menon was married to Malathy, the daughter of V. K. Narayana Menon a prominent contractor in Trichur in whose house "Pandyala", Jawaharlal Nehru, Kamala and Indira Nehru rested on their way to Sri Lanka. When Gandhi visited Cochin, he was treated as a state guest, and Aravindaksha Menon, the Nethyar Amma's son personally was deputed to accompany him. Soon Parukutty Nethyar Amma appeared opposedo, which proved to be a significant hurdle for British interests in India.
On the death of the Maharaja, the Nethyar Amma initially retired to the palace she had constructed for herself in her home town Trichur, near her ancestral house, Padinjare Shrambhi. The house, Ratna Vilas, was named after her elder daughter Ratnam. The Nethyar Amma then went on an extended tour abroad, taking along her grandson Sankaran Palat, who was admitted to Le Rosey in Switzerland and later to Charterhouse, England. She returned to India and divided her time between Trissur and Coonoor, where she purchased two tea estates and a tea factory.
Members of the dynasty are spread all over the world (In five continents). The family is one of the world's largest royal families, numbering more than 1000 people, and many members of the family still live in and around Tripunithura, Thrissur (Chazhur), and other parts of Kochi.
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