“You die, kill and annex”

നിങ്ങൾ ചത്തും കൊന്നും അടക്കിക്കൊൾക”

“You die, kill and annex”

Not sure if many of you reading this would have heard of this watchword, which was more of a battle cry, a motivational push, a call for war that revered over Parasuram’s creation, the Gods own Country, for centuries.

This was the slogan that made Malabar what it is today.

Here goes the story…

In one of my previous posts here, I had written how Parasuram had created Keralam by throwing his axe into the Sea and reclaiming the land for his faithful. It goes on to say how he settled 64 families belonging to various vocations and illams in the new land.

These 64 groups sometimes intermittently, sometimes regularly used to fight between themselves. As time passed, there emerged a leader among them and he was known as the Perumal, who would guide the country for years to come.

Perumal literally meant God, and the emperor was treated as the Lord of the country. The rest of the Naduvazhis were under his control, and ruled various nadu’s on his behalf. It was the Perumal who presided over the Mamangam, the famed festival that is celebrated every twelve years, where all the Kings of Parasuram’s land assembled near the banks of the Bharatapuzha River in Tirunavaya, and this was a symbol of the absolute power he had over his domain.

Things were going fine until one fine day; the reigning Cheraman Perumal Shri Rama Varma Kulashekhara decided to abdicate his throne, which was followed by mysterious disappearance from the country. This happened between the eighth and ninth centuries of the first millennium.

There are many versions of this incident. The most prominent one was that the Arab merchants, who had trade and commercial associations with Malabar since ancient days, and the local Mappila populace, persuaded him to accept their faith, and he obliged, and later left for Mecca.

(There other versions of this episode are, one, that he went on a pilgrimage to Mt Kailas, the mythical abode of Lord Shiva, and the other, that he accepted Buddhism and migrated to Nalanda, Kerala was predominantly Buddhist at that epoch)

The legend goes that, before leaving for Mecca, the Perumal convened a meeting of his Naduvazhis, and conveyed his decision to abdicate. He sought to divide his kingdom among them all, before leaving. The Naduvazhis, though poignant at the fact that their great uncle was leaving his kingdom behind and departing, accepted what was gifted in the earnest. This was done in due order, and all those present there received their share of the Perumal’s kingdom. Thus the kingdoms of Tulunad, Kolathunad, Eranad, Venad, Valluvanad, Perumpadavu etc came into existence.

There were two brothers who arrived late for the grand partition by the great uncle. The brothers, Manikkan and Vikraman, were trusted lieutenants of the Perumal, and were out at war when the event was taking place. By the time they arrived, the Perumal had completed the formalities and was all set to leave.

There was no kingdom left to be given to Manikkan and Vikraman, even though they were the Perumal’s most reliable aides. All that was remaining was a small piece of land by the sea coast near Calicut, and this was given to the brothers.

The Perumal was overwhelmed and beleaguered with culpability and guilt that his favourite warriors did not get justice in the partition. In the feeling of guiltiness and remorse, he handed them his favourite sword, one of his most valuable possessions, and gave them the message – നിങ്ങൾ ചത്തും കൊന്നും അടക്കിക്കൊൾക (You die, kill and annex)”

Soon, the Perumal left for his legendary pilgrimage, and Manikkan and Vikraman went back to the piece of land they received as gift, and began the process of establishing a kingdom that would grow and prosper over the next few centuries.

With the message of “You die, kill and annex”, and the Perumal’s sword in hand, they slowly but surely expanded their borders. Soon the descendants of Mana-Vikraman had stretched out their kingdom, annexing the neighbours, becoming masters of the sea, and established a prosperous point of trade and commerce at the port at Calicut, which soon became the richest port in the world. Not so long before they got the title of Samudratiri (Master of the Seas), which later came to be known as Samoothiri and Zamorin.

Vasco da Gama visits the Samoothiri’s court. Image from Google.

With the passage of time, the neighbouring kingdoms, most of them were under the suzerainship of the Samoothiri. By the 14th century, the Samoothiris were masters of the Mamamkam festival. What was once the privilege of the Perumal’s, to preside over the Mamangam, were now theirs.

Kerala in 1498, when Vasco Da Gama arrived at Calicut

The great uncle’s sword had blessed them with myriad opulence. They had become the most powerful kingdom in the land of Parasuram, and by time the Portuguese reached Calicut in 1498, the region south of Korapuzha right up to Bharatapuzha was under the absolute rule of the Samuthiri. Their battle cry didn’t stop, and the Kingdoms of Cochin in the south, and Kolathunad to the north, were in constant confrontation with Kozhikode.

Even the Europeans – the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British, despite their best efforts, couldn’t get the better of Samuthiri. In spite of superior war power of the Europeans, the Samuthiri prevailed.

This went on, the never ending blitz of the great sword, finally met its match in 1766, when the invasion and incursion from Hyder Ali brutalized and altered the course of Malabar history for ever. The Samoothiri put his regal palace on fire and immolated himself before the invading army could capture him.

Thus ended the realm, that was had its growth, progress and prosperity from the blessings of the Perumal and his advice to die, kill and annex.

നിങ്ങൾ ചത്തും കൊന്നും അടക്കിക്കൊൾക”

Image from The Hindu dated April 3, 2007. Zamorin of Calicut P.K.S. Raja with the Cheraman’s sword. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/article1822455.ece

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