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Battle of Manacaud: A story of resistance

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Indologist. Specializes in Southern Indian history. Always open to learn and teach.

One of the most ignored events in the Hindu history of Kerala, is about the lesser known Mughal invasion into Kerala during the 17th century which was successfully defended at Manacaud in South Kerala. 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 who were in control of political matters in Travancore, as well as from related branches of the royalty.

Her Highness Umayamma Rani, finding it difficult to recover parts of her kingdom from the hands of the Mughal sirdar (commander) among all the turmoil invited one prince called Kerala Varma from northern Kottayam Rajah’s family, a branch of the sovereign of Kolathnad, and related to the Travancore royal house by adoptions.

Rajah Kerala Varma was a brave warrior, perfect in sword exercise, arrow-shooting and in the use of other weapons of war. This Rajah was appointed Her Highness’ principal counsellor, and commander of all the militia then on the side of the royalists.

Kerala Varma lost no time in raising a force armed with bows and arrows, slings, swords and lances.
The Rajah, under his personal command led the Nair army against the Mughal sirdar and attacked him unexpectedly at Manacaud near Trivandrum.

As the sirdar had not a sufficient force near him, all his horsemen having been scattered about between Varkala and Thovalay collecting the revenue, he was unable to make a stand and was obliged to retreat precipitately to Thovalay. Kerala Varma 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 Thiruvattar, and a severe battle ensued. While the jungles, and rocks with which the locality was covered, presented insuperable obstacles to the Mughal 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 head of the great commander a volley of stones. The fallen Mughal chief was soon killed and his army was utterly defeated.

Kerala Varma arranged at once to capture the remaining horses, and to seize as many of the Mughal troopers as could be got. He succeeded in securing some three hundred horses and about a hundred prisoners with many swords, lances and other excellent weapons belonging to the enemy.

The Rajah marched victoriously to Trivandrum, with Her Highness the Rani also reached with her son and all the palace establishment. They soon rebuilt the palace at Trivandrum. But as centuries passed by and many parts of Travancore were given to Tamil Nadu during State reorganisation, these brave stories of resistance were mostly forgotten in the sands of time.

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Indologist. Specializes in Southern Indian history. Always open to learn and teach.
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