Zamorin of Calicut

Samoothiri of Kozhikode
കോഴിക്കോട് സാമൂതിരി
c. 12th century–1806
Image of Calicut from Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg's atlas Civitates orbis terrarum, 1572
The Zamorin of Calicut on his throne as painted by Veloso Salgado in 1898
Capital Kozhikode
Languages Malayalam, Sanskrit
Religion Hinduism
Government Feudal Monarchy
Samoodiri of Kozhikode Manavikraman
Historical era Late Medieval
   Fall of Later Cheras c. 12th century
   Reduded to an estate by the British Raj 1806
Currency Kozhikode Fanam
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Later Cheras
Presidencies and provinces of British India
Temples at Calicut by Henry Salt (1809)

Samoothiri of Kozhikode (Zamorin of Calicut; Malayalam: സാമൂതിരി, Portuguese: Samorim, Dutch: Samorijn) is the hereditary royal title used by the Hindu Eradi Nair rulers of the medieval Kingdom of Kozhikode on the Malabar Coast (present day Kerala). The Samoodiris ruled for almost six centuries, between c. 12th and 18th century AD based at the city of Kozhikode, one of the more important trading centres in southern India.[1]

The Portuguese trader and navigator Vasco da Gama visited Kozhikode in 1498, opening the sailing route directly from Europe to India.


The Eradis with their original base at Nediyiruppu (near present Kondotty) and were land-locked and sought an outlet to the Arabian Sea. The Eradis subsequently moved their capital to the port of Kozhikode ("Calicut" for the Europeans), then also called Thrivikramapuram. According to K. V. Krishna Ayyar, a historian, the city of Kozhikode was founded on a marshy tract along the Malabar coast in the 11th century AD. During Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, Kozhikode was dubbed the "City of Spices" for its role as the major trading point of eastern spices.[2] The name Kozhikode is thought to be derived from Koyil (Palace) and Kota (Fort) meaning 'Fortified Palace'. Others have called the city by different names. The Arabs called it Kalikooth, Tamils called the city Kallikkottai, for the Chinese it was Kalifo. The name of the famous fine variety of hand-woven cotton cloth called Calico that was exported from the port is also thought to have derived from Kozhikode.

Other seats of the Samoothiri were Ponnani, Trichur and Cranganore.[3]

Succession line

Five Places of Dignity (Sthanams) existed in Kozhikode, each with its own separate property enjoyed in succession by the senior members of the three Royal Branches (Kovilakams) of the family.[3] The Samoothiri's family, being Eradis are connected to several other Eradi clans who are resident in Nilambur, Ponnani and nearby localities in Malappuram district.

The three Royal Branches were,

The senior female member of the whole Samoothiri family, the Valiya Thamburatti, also enjoyed a Places of Dignity with separate property known as the Ambadi Royal Branch.[3]


Map of Samoothiri kingdom

Apart from the southern half of Kurumburanad, Payyanad, Eralnad, Ponnani, Cheranad, Venkitta kkotta, Malappuram, Kappul, Mannarakkad, Karimpuzha, Nedunganad, Naduvattom, Kollangodu, Kotuvayur, Mankara and Polanad the Kingdom of Kozhikode included the following territories as tributary states in the during the late 15th century: Kottayam (of Kannur District which is distinct from the Kottayam District in Southern Kerala), Payyormala, Pulavayi, Tanore, Chalium, Beypore, Parappanad, Tirunavaya, Kakkad, Talapalli/Punnattur, Chittur, Chavakkad, Kavalappara, Edappally, Patinhattedam, Cranganore, Kollengod, Kochi and all of its vassal states, Paravur, Purakkad, Vadakkumkur, Tekkumkur, Kayamkulam and Quilon.

The Kingdom only included the following territories during the late 18th century: Payyanad, Polanad, Eralnad, Cheranad, Venkattakkotta, Malappuram, Kappul, Mannarakkad, Karimpuzha, Nedunganad and Ponnani. The Samoothiri claimed to be (with more or less influence) the paramount sovereign over Payyormala, Pulavayi, Beypore, Parappanad, Tanore, Talapalli, Chavakkad and Kavalappara. Calicut had also taken possession of (the more full and immediate) sovereignty over Kollangodu, Kotuvayur and Managara.

The chief ports under direct control were Putuppattanam, Pantalayani Kollam, Calicut, Tanur, Ponnani, Chetwai and Cranganore.[3]


According to tradition Kozhikode State was founded around 826 AD as Nediyirippu Swarūpam. The city of Kozhikode was founded in 1026. Between 27 April 1766 and 1792 the state was annexed by the Mysore Kingdom (Mahisur). On 18 Aug 1792 it became a princely state under British protectorate. The territory was annexed by the British Raj on 15 November 1806 and reduced to an estate (zamindari).[4]

Before the Portuguese arrival

See also: Later Chera kingdom, Keralolpathi, and Capture of Kozhikode

Legendary origins

Famous legends such as The Origin of Kerala tell the establishment of a local ruling family at Nediyiruppu, near present-day Kondotty by two young brothers belonging to the Nair Eradi clan. The brothers, Manikkan and Vikraman were the most trusted generals in the army of the Cheras.[5][6] However, during the legendary partition of Chera Kingdom, the king didn't give any land to these two brothers. Due to his feeling of guilt, the king later gave his personal sword and his favorite prayer conch (the sword and the conch were both broken) to his general and told him to occupy as much as land he can with all his might. So the general conquered neighboring states and created a powerful kingdom for himself. As a token of his respect to the Chera king, he adopted the logo of two crossed swords, with a broken conch in the middle and a lighted lamp above it.

Rulers of Eralnadu

Historical records regarding the origin of the Samoothiri of Kozhikode is obscure. However, its generally agreed that the Samoothiris were originally the rulers of Eralnadu region of the Later Chera Kingdom (9th-12th century AD) and were known as the Eradis. Eralnadu province was situated in the northern parts of present-day Malappuram district and was landlocked by the Valluvanad and Polanadu in the west. It is known that Eradis, along with other governors and chiefs, helped the Later Cheras during an attack by Western Gangas on the kingdom. This event is even now celebrated as a historical event in Chittur taluk where the fight took place. Eralandu Utaiyavar appears as signatories in the Jewish Copper plate (11th century) and the Syrian Christian Copper plate (13th century). Around the break up the Later Chera Kingdom in 11-12th century AD, several of its chieftains and governorates became independent. Eralnadu was perhaps one of these new states originated from the ruins of the Later Chera state.

Although there is no solid basis for the famous partition legend surrounding the end of Later Cheras, it is a possibility that following the mysterious disappearance of the Chera ruler, the land was partitioned and that the governors of different nadus (fiefdoms) gained independence, proclaiming it as their gift from the last sovereign.

Rule from Kozhikode

Ettanettan Thampuran

After the de-establishment of Later Chera kingdom, the Eralppadu came to rule over the city of Kozhikode. There is some ambiguity regarding the exact course of events that led to the establishment of Eradi's rule over Kozhikode, their later capital.

The stories about the origin of the Kadathanadu dynasty (Vatakara) is associated with battles of the Eradis with Polanadu. When the Samoothiri attacked Polanadu, he exiled a Polarthiri royal princess from his territory and she was welcomed in Cannanore, the Samoothiri's rivals, and after the marriage with Cannanore prince with this princess the Kadathanadu dynasty originated. The name Kadathanadu refers to as the passing way between Cannanore and Calicut.[7]

The Eradi later assumed the title of Samudrāthiri ("one who has the sea for his border") and continued to rule from Kozhikode. The term came into use only after the 15th century, first time in the writings of Abdul Razzak. Ibn Battuta visited the country in the 14th century and refers to the rulers as Punthureshan Kunnalakkonathiri. The title Samudrāthiri was shortened to Sāmoothiri over time in common usage. Access to the sea helped the Eradi chief to develop the city into one of the major trading centers of the Eastern world abounding in a wide variety of goods like black pepper, textiles, lac, ginger, cinnamon, myrobalans, and zedoary. Vessels of various sizes from around the world, like Chinese junks, arrived on the shores of Calicut.

Stele installed in Kozhikode by Zheng He (modern replica)

Early conquests

Small vessels used in Malabar from Thomas Astley's A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels, London, 1745

The power balance in Malabar changed as Eralnadu rulers developed the port at Kozhikode, allied with Muslim Arab and Chinese merchants and used most of the wealth from Kozhikode to develop huge Nair army. The Samoothiri became the most powerful king in the Malayalam speaking regions during the Middle Ages and harboured greater ambitions to extend their rule over the whole of former Chera state. This motivated them to enter into battles with neighbouring kingdoms with great success.[3]

Smaller states south of Kozhikode (Chalium, Parappanad and Tanore) soon had to submit to her and became their feudatories one by one. The rulers of Payyormala, Kurumbranad, and other Nair chiefs on the suburbs of Kozhikode also acknowledged the supremacy of Kozhikode. There were battles between Kozhikode and Kurumbranad for a long coastal region called Payyanad. Payyanad was a part of Kurumbranad in early times, and was given as a royal gift to Kozhikode. Kozhikode easily overran the Kurumbranad forces in the battle and Kurumbranad had to sue for peace by surrendering Valisseri.[3]

Battle of Thirunavaya

But, it took almost a hundred years for Kozhikode to organize an attack on Valluvanad- the most powerful adversary of Kozhikode in their early conquests- after the possible conquest of Kozhikode in the 13th century. The immediate aim of the Kozhikode rulers was to capture the holy city of Thirunavaya. They took advantage of the Saivite- Vaishnavite enmity (called Kurmatsaram or Panniyur - Chovvaram feuds) in western Valluvanad. In the most recent conflict, the Vaishnavites of Tirumanasseri province of Valluvanad had attacked and burned a nearby Saivite village. The rulers of Valluvanad and Perumpadappu (modern Kochi) came to help the Saivites and attacked the Vaishnavites simultaneously. Tirumanasseri province was soon occupied by its neighbors on south and east, Koçhi and Valluvanad. The ruler of Tirumanasseri appealed to Kozhikode and Tanur for help, and promised to cede Ponnani to Kozhikode as the price for his military protection. Ponnani was an important port in the Tirumanasseri province, and was an ancient centre of Muslims in Malabar. Kozhikode, looking for such an opportunity, gladly accepted the offer. Along with the combined armies of their subordinate kings (the kings of Chalium, Beypore, Tanur and Cranganore) and that of "Shah Bandar" Koya's, Kozhikode army advanced by both land and sea on their first major expedition to the south.[3]

The main army under the command of Samoothiri himself attacked (encamping at Trpangode) an allied army of Valluvanad and Kochi from the north, initiating the Thirunavaya war (approx. 1351- 1363). The battles were fought between Tirunavaya and Vakayur. Meanwhile, another huge force under Eralppadu (crown prince) commanded the navy across the sea and landed at Ponnani and later moved to Tirumanasseri, with intention to attack Thirunavaya in Valluvanad from the south with help of the army of the Vaishnavites. Eralppadu also prevented the army of Kochi joining Valluvanad army. The Muslim naval merchants and commanders at Ponnani supported this army with food, transport and provisions.[3] The army of the Eralppadu moved north and crossed the Nila river and took up position on the northern side of the river.

In spite of the fact that the soldiers of Valluvanad did not get the timely help of Kochi they fought vigorously and the battle dragged on. In the meantime, the Kozhikode was also successful in turning Kadannamanna Elavakayil Vellodi (junior branch of Kadannamanna) to their side. Finally, two Valluvanad princes were killed in the battle and Kozhikode annexed Tirunavaya, winning the Thirunavaya war.[3]

The Thirunavaya war was not the end of Kozhikode's expansion into Valluvanad. Samoothiri continued attacks on Valluvanad. Malappuram, Nilambur, Vallappanattukara and Manjeri were easily occupied from Valluvanad. But he encountered stiff resistance in some places and the fights went on in a protracted and sporadic fashion for a long time. But, further military operations (in the east) against Valluvanad were neither prolonged nor difficult for Kozhikode. Moreover, Samoothiri successfully followed a policy of appeasing the feudatories/governors of Valluvanad and conferring upon them the areas they originally held under Valluvanad.[3]

Battles for Pantalur and Ten Kalams

But, the battles in the western borders of Valluvanad was bitter, for it was marked by treachery and crime. Pantalur and Ten Kalams came under Kozhikode only after a protracted struggle. The assassination of a minister of Kozhikode by the Chief Minister of Valluvanad while visiting Venkitakkotta in Valluvanad sparked the battle, which dragged on for almost a decade. At last the Valluvanad minister was captured by Samoothiri's forces and executed at Padapparambu, and his province (Ten Kalams, including Kottakkal and Panthalur) were occupied by the Samoothiri. The Kizhakke Kovilakam Munalappadu, who took a leading part in this campaign, received half of the newly captured province from Samoothiri as a gift. The loss of this brave and fiercely loyal Chief Minister was the greatest blow to Valluvanad after the loss of Tirunavaya and Ponnani.[3]

Further conquests in the south

Kozhikod faced defeat for the first time in their next attack on Cochin. The combined army of Cochin and Valluvanad resisted Calicut forces and a bloody battle ensued for three days, at the end of which Calicut army was on the retreat. After a period of uneasy calm in Malabar, Calicut invaded Nedunganad, a small state between Valluvanad and Palghat. Nedunganad was annexed without striking even a single blow. At Kodikkunni, the king of Nedunganad surrendered to the Calicut forces. Then the Calicut forces annexed a number of smaller towns around Tirunavaya such as Tiruvegappuram from Valluvanad. But, at Kolakkad, the Valluvanad governor tried to overcome the Calicut prince’s advance. Near Karimpuzha in Valluvanad, the common people (the Cherumas and Pananns of Kotta) resisted the advancing army. The Calicut won their affection by gifts and presents. At Karakkad, Calicut prince was met by an ancestor of Kavalappara Nairs, a vassal of Valluvanad. At Vengotri, Nellayi and Kakkathodu, the governors of Palghat surrendered to Calicut.[3] Zamorin of Calicut appointed the Eralppadu as the governor of southern Malabar region during this time. The provincial capital was at Karimpuzha. Talappilli (present day taluk of the same name and coastal regions from Ponnani to Chetwai) and Chengazhinad (ruled by Chengazhi Nambiar) submitted to Calicut without any resistance after an invasion by Calicut’s Nair army.[3]

Conquests of Cochin

Calicut then annexed the whole of Ponnani taluk from Valluvanad and captured Vannerinadu from Cochin. The Cochin ruler was forced to shift their capital further south to Thiruvanchikkulam.[3] In the 14th century, Calicut temporarily conquered large parts of central Kerala. Even Trikkanamatilakam near Thiruvanchikkulam was under their control and Cochin ruler again shifted their capital (c. 1405 AD) further south to Cochin.

In the 15th century, Calicut conquered large parts of the Cochin Kingdom, and reduced it to a vassal/feudatory state. The Family feud between the Elder and Younger branches of the royal family of Cochin was exploited by the Calicut to conquer Cochin. The military intervention was initiated as Calicut’s help was sought against the ruling Younger branch of the Cochin royals. The rulers of Cranganore, Idappalli, Airur, Sarkkara, Patinhattedam (Trichur) and Chittur supported or joined Calicut forces in this occupation of Cochin. Some of these were the vassals of Cochin. The Cochin king was defeated in a battle at Trichur and his palace was occupied. But, the defeated king escaped to further south. Pursuing the king to south, the Calicut army under Zamorin penetrated and occupied the city of Cochin. Unable to withstand the attacks, Cochin finally accepted Calicut's rule and became his feudatory.[3] The Elder branch ruler was installed on the throne of Cochin as vassal ruler. However the sway did not last long.

The battles against Cochin were followed by a war against Palghat and the conquest of Naduvattom by a Calicut prince. Kollengode of Venganadu Nambitis was also put under the sway of Calicut during the time. The severe and frequent battles with Valluvanad by Calicut continued. But even after the loss of his superior ally Cochin, Valluvanad did not submit to Calicut. Nair unrests continued in the occupied regions of Valluvanad, and to counter this Calicut followed a custom of settling Muslim families and the families of other Hindu generals who had allegiance to him, in the captured areas of Valluvanad. Calicut invaded Valluvanad (now shrank to Attappadi valley, parts of Mannarkkad, Ottappalam and Perinthalmanna) but could not make much progress, because these regions were dense forests and hills. It was impossible for Calicut's large army to march forth through these areas. Valluvanad numerically inferior army successfully kept the armies of Calicut at bay.[3]

Relations with Cannanore

Calicut was also successful in bringing the powerful state of Cannanore under their control. During his conquests, the Zamorin occupied Pantalayini Kollam as a preliminary advance to Cannanore. Kolattri immediately sent ambassadors to submit to whatever terms Calicut might dictate. Cannanore officially transferred the regions already occupied to Calicut and certain Hindu temple rights. Calicut and Cannanore fought numerous battles before the arrival of the Portuguese. Later, this rivalry paved the way for an anti-Zamorin alliance between the Portuguese and Cannanore.[7]

Possible expedition to Venadu

After their conquests in central Kerala, Calicut probably waged war against Quilon (Venadu Swaroopam) and led a southern expedition. However, some historians reject the whole of idea of the southern expedition by Calicut. According to them, some land and Hindu temple rights were transferred to Calicut during an official visit to Quilon by the ruler of the Calicut. The nominal reason for the military expedition was to protect the rights of the Brahmins in Quilon. Quilon had earlier opposed the expansion Calicut supremacy south of Cochin (former Perumpadappu kingdom). However, the Calicut forces advanced by Chetwai and Kanhur River, the Zamorin crossed the backwater at Vypin, marching through Chiranganad Karappuram, Payattukad, Alleppey, Trikunnappuzha and Kartikappally, and entered Odanad. Soon, the ruler of Quilon propitiated Calicut by paying the expenses of the battles, ceding the lands known as Munjiramukkattam (Munjiramukkattam was later transferred by the Calicut to the temple of Padmanabha or to Mathappuram shrine). Quilon also agreed to send annual tribute along with the flag of fealty to Tirunavaya for the Mamankam festival.[3]

Calicut’s attitude towards the vanquished kings and foreign governors was generally marked by moderation. The whole conquered area was not ruled directly from Calicut but was ruled by a Calicut official (general, minister or prince). Sometimes, its former rulers allowed to rule as a vassal or feudatory.[3] Now, the kingdom covered almost all of Malabar and Cochin and the rulers of Quilon were made tributaries.

Soon afterwards, Deva Raya II (1424-1446 CE) of Vijayanagara Empire conquered the whole of present-day Kerala state. He defeated (1443) Quilon as well as Calicut. Fernão Nunes says that the Zamorin and even the kings of Burma ruling at Pegu and Tenasserim paid tribute to the king of Vijayanagara Empire. Later, Calicut and Quilon rebelled against their Vijayanagara overlords, but Deva Raya II quelled the rebellion. As the Vijayanagara power diminished over the next fifty years, Zamorin again rose to prominence on the Malabar coast. Samoothiri built a fort at Ponnani in 1498.

Relations with the Portuguese

A steel engraving from the 1850s, with modern hand coloring - It shows meeting between Vasco da Gama and Zamorin

The landing of Vasco da Gama in Calicut in 1498 with two ships has often been considered as the beginning of a new phase during which the control of the Indian Ocean passed into the hands of the Europeans. The strong colony of Arab merchants settled in Calicut was hostile, but the Zamorin welcomed the Portuguese and allowed them to take pepper, drugs, etc., on board. In Portugal, the goods brought by Gama from India were computed at sixty times the cost of the entire expedition. Calicut soon allied with the other Indian states on the western coast against the Portuguese and participated in a number of naval battles against them. Kunhali Marakkar were the famous hereditary Grand Admirals of Calicut and organized a powerful navy to fight the Portuguese.

Date Event
1498 May 27 Vasco da Gama along with three ships and 170 men, lands at Kappakadavu, a beach town situated about 16 km from Kozhikode, and is welcomed by the Zamorin.
1500 December Zamorin expels Portuguese forces from Calicut after the Calicut Massacre.
1500 December 24 Portuguese (led by Pedro Álvares Cabral) take refuge at port of Cochin, where the local ruler, a vassal of Calicut, placates them with spices for trade.
1501 January Portuguese conclude a treaty with the King of Cochin, allowing them to open a factory (trading depot) there.
1502 August Vasco da Gama returns to India to try to control Calicut. He bombards Calicut and burns a Calicut ship, the Meri, full of Muslim pilgrims from Mecca .
1503 Portuguese crown the new ruler of Kochi, effectively making him a vassal of the King of Portugal. Vasco da Gama returns to Portugal.
1503 March Calicut attacks Kingdom of Cochin to foil the growing Portuguese influence.
1503 First Portuguese Viceroy Francisco de Almeida arrives in Cochin to find it destroyed, manages to obtain permission to build a fort. Thus the first European fort is built in India by 1505 called Fort Manuel (after King Manuel I of Portugal).
1504 September 1 Portuguese bombard and destroy the town of Cranganore in retaliation.
1505 March Portuguese destroy several boats belonging to Calicut, with severe loss of life.[9]
1505 November Murder of the Portuguese factor António de Sá and his men in Quilon.
1506 Calicut approach ruler of Cannanore and convinces him of Portuguese imperial ambition. He is already displeased with Portuguese for harming Muslims at Cannanore thereby breaking an important treaty. Calicut lay siege to the St. Angelos fort at Cannanore. Portuguese break the blockade. Ruler of Cannanore forced accede.
1506 Calicut's naval forces join the Ottoman and Arab forces to attack the Portuguese navy led by Lourenço de Almeida, son of the Portuguese Viceroy. Portuguese repel attack.
1507 November 14 Portuguese under Almeida attacked Ponnani.
1508 March Sultan of Cairo's navy along with Sultan of Gujarat's forces defeat Portuguese at Battle of Chaul, killing Lourenço de Almeida.
1509 February Portuguese counter-attack and defeat the Calicut's forces and the Egyptian and Ottoman Navy at the Battle of Diu. Ottomans and Egyptians withdraw temporarily from India leaving the seas to the Portuguese until 1538.
1513 Calicut and Portuguese sign a treaty giving Portuguese right to build a fort at Calicut.
1520? Assassination attempt on Zamorin by the Portuguese.
1524 King of Portugal sends Vasco Da Gama again to India to subdue Calicut.
1525 February 26 Portuguese navy led by new Viceroy Menezes raids Ponnani, but Calicut defeats them with assistance from Tinayancheri and Kurumliyapatri.
1530 Chaliyam fort built by Portuguese with the consent of the rulers of Tanur and Chaliyam. Chaliyam fort was 'like a pistol held at the Zamorin's throat' as it was a strategic site, only 10 km south of Kozhikode.
1540 Calicut enters into an agreement with the Portuguese. Treaty allows Portuguese trade monopoly at Calicut.
1550 Portuguese attack Ponnani.
1569–1570 War between the Portuguese and Calicut forces at Chaliyam fort.
1571 September 15 Calicut defeats Portuguese. Chaliyam fort completely destroyed.
1573 Pattu Marakkar (Kunjali III) obtains permission from Zamorin to build a fortress and dockyard at Puthupattanam. This fort later came to be called Marakkar Fort.
1584 Calicut shifts policy towards the Portuguese because of his estrangement with Kunjali Marakkar who begins to defy the Zamorin. Sanction the Portuguese to build a factory at Ponnani
1591 Saamoothiri allow the Portuguese to build a factory at Calicut. He lays the foundation of church granting them necessary ground and building materials.
1598 Calicut joins Portuguese to fight his ex-Naval Commander, Kunjali Marakkar III. Kunjali surrenders to Calicut who hands over the commander to the Portuguese. The Portuguese kill Kunjali at Goa in 1600.
A sword used in army of Calicut.

Relation with the Dutch and English

See also: Dutch Malabar

A Dutch fleet arrived in Calicut in November 1604 and marked the beginning of the Dutch presence on the Indian coast and concluded a treaty with Calicut on 11 November 1604. It provided for a mutual alliance between the two to expel the Portuguese from Malabar. In return the Dutch East India Company was given facilities for trade at Calicut and Ponnani, including spacious storehouses. Later in 1661, Calicut joined a coalition led by the Dutch to defeat the Portuguese and Cochin and conducted a number of successful campaigns. The Dutch virtually ruled Malabar for a period of 135 years. As a result of the Kew Letters, the Dutch settlements on the Malabar Coast were surrendered to the British in 1795 in order to prevent being overrun by the French. Dutch Malabar remained British after the conclusion of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814, which traded the colony with Bangka Island.

The English reached Calicut in 1615 under Captain William Keeling and concluded a treaty of trade under which, among others, the English were to assist Calicut in expelling the Portuguese from Cochin and Cranganore. In 1664, Zamorin gave the English permission to build a "factory" (trading depot) in Calicut but did not extend any other favours.[7]

Mysore occupation and settlement negotiations

In 1766, Mysore forces under Hyder Ali marched to Malabar and easily conquered Malabar up to Cochin. As Mysore edged closer to the outer reaches of the city of Calicut, the Zamorin sent most of his relatives to safe haven in Ponnani and to avoid the humiliation of surrender committed self-immolation by setting fire to his palace at Mananchira.[10]

After the suicide of the king, some members of the Zamorin family rebelled against the occupiers. The Crown Prince Krishna Varma with his nephew Ravi Varma lead anti-Mysore activities based in southern Malabar. Anti-Mysore activities were secretly supported by the English East India Company.[11] Though Mysore conferred on the Zamorin prince a jagir (vast area of tax-free land), after taking charge he continued the revolt. Mysore soon sent an army under the command of M. Lally and Mir Asrali Khan and crushed the uprising. Later, Ravi Varma joined the infamous Pychy Rebellion of Pazhassi Raja Cotiote Rajah. He died in combact, while Krishna Varma committed suicide upon capture by the Company.

In the settlement negotiations with the Joint Commission after the Anglo-Mysore Wars, the Zamorin proved recalcitrant. To pressure him, a portion of his territories (Payyanad, Payyormala, Kizhakkampuram, Vadakkampuram and Pulavayi) was leased to the ruler of Kurumburanad as manager for the English East India Company. Finally, after prolonged negotiations, the hereditary territory of the Zamorin, together with the coin mint and the sea customs, was leased back to him. He was also temporarily given jurisdiction over the petty rulers and, as a mark of the Zamorin's exceptional position in Malabar, the revenue fixed for Beypore, Parappanad and Vettattunad was to be paid through him. As previously noted, these tax-payment and jurisdictional arrangements were terminated in 1799 and the Zamorin became a mere pensioned landlord.

Sailors first came to face with the idol of Deumo at Calicut on the Malabar Coast and they concluded it to be the god of Calicut. It is described that the ruler of Calicut (Zamorin) has an image of Deumo in his temple.
A misunderstood depiction of the "hook-swinging" ritual in Calicut once commonly performed as part of some popular Hindu religious festivals.

Manavikrama the Great

Manavikrama was the ruler of the Kingdom of Calicut between 1466 and 1471. There are no records indicating the actual personal name of the king, since the rulers of Calicut only used titles.

The Zamorin of Calicut made significant contributions to the cultural heritage of the Kingdom of Calicut. He himself was a scholar and distinguished himself in the field of letter writing. He wrote the Vikramiya, a commentary on Murari's Anargharāghava. The Zamorin of Calicut married Vasumati, the daughter of the Mangattachan (Prime Minister, the Mangattachan is one of the Calicut's four hereditary Chief Ministers). Afanasy Nikitin, the earliest known Russian to India, visited the Kingdom of Calicut during the rule of this Zamorin. He was impressed by the big market of the city of Calicut.

The Zamorin of Calicut's court was adorned by 18 celebrated royal poetic scholars called "Eighteen-and-Half Poets". Scholars like Uddanda Sastrikal and Damodara Bhattatiri of Kakkasseri were also associated with the famous literary assembly known as the Revathi Pattathanam.

Some of the prominent members of the "Eighteen-and-Half Poets" were,


There were no recognized organs in Calicut, and the government was an autocracy. Women were not allowed to be the ruler, and the oldest male member traced the female becomes the next Zamorin.[3]

The Zamorin was assisted in the work of government by four hereditary Chief Ministers called Sarvadhi Karyakkar (the Mangattachan-the Prime Minister, the Tinayancheri Elayatu, the Dharmottu Panikkar- the instructor-in-arms who commanded the Army and the Varakkal Paranambi- treasury and accounts) and number of Ministers called Karyakkar. Zomarin had a good naval fleet which was commanded by Kunjali Marakar. The Karyakkar were appointed and removed by the Zamorin.[3]

The sources of revenue were,[3]


Calicut army consisted mainly of feudal levies, brought by the vassal rulers and chiefs. The former were divided into five (Commanders of the Five Thousand, of the Thousand, of the Five Hundred, of the Three Hundred, and of the Hundred) classes. Standing armies were kept at strategic locations like Calicut, Ponnani, Chavakkad, Chunganad etc. Dharmottu Panikkar- the instructor-in-arms who commanded the Army. The nominal cavalry was commanded by the Kutiravattattu Nair. Nair militia was slow moving as compared to the cavalry, and always fought on foot. The use of firearms and balls had been known before the advent of the Portuguese. As gunpowder and shot made by the natives were poor quality, Calicut later employed the Europeans to manufacture them. The Moplahs formed the main corps of the musketeers, led by Tinayancheri Elayatu.[3]

The hereditary Grand Admirals of Calicut were the famous Kunhali Marakkars and the navy ships (Sambuks, Kappals, Patakus, Ferry Boats and Kettuvalloms) were manned by the Moplahs. Every port in Calicut had a Chief Pilot, whose duty it was to see the ships safely anchored from the sea pirates. The Moplah seamen was famous for their guerrilla warfare and hand-to-hand fighting on board. But, the ships were smaller, inferior in artillery, and incapable of joint/organized operations.[3]


The coins minted in Calicut included Fanams (made of gold), Tarens (made of silver) and Kasu (made of copper). Sixteen Kasu made one Taren, and sixteen Tarens made one Fanam. The mint was destroyed in 1766. The officer in-charge of the mint was called the "Goldsmith of Manavikraman".[3]

List of Kozhikode Samoodiris

Historical documents rarely mentions the individual names of the Zamorins of Calicut (also known as Kozhikode). However, it is generally assumed that Mana Vikrama, Mana Veda and Viraraya were the only names given to them. Portuguese historian Diogo de Couto was the first to attempt the construction of chronological scheme.[12]

The following is a list of rulers of Calicut from "The Zamorins of Calicut" (1938) by K. V. Krishna Iyer. The first column (No.) gives the number of the Zamorin reckoned from the founder of the dynasty, based upon de Couto's assumption that there had been 98 Zamorins before the Zamorin reigning in 1610.[12]

First Dynasty

The original seat of the aristocratic clan was Nediyiruppu and the head of the house was known as Nediyiruppu Mutta Eradi, a title enjoyed by the fifth in rank from the Zamorin. Under the Chera rulers of Tiruvanchikkulam the Mutta Eradi governed Ernad with the title of Ernad Utaiyar. Later the clan abandoned its ancestral house and transferred its residence to the present day Calicut.[12]

No. of Zamorin Name Reign Important Events
1 Mana Vikrama (Manikkan) N/A The legendary founder of the dynasty.
27 8 years Calicut city is established
65 1339-1347 Ibn Battuta at Calicut (1342-1347)
73 1402-1410 Ma Huan at Calicut (1403)
78 1442-1450 The visits of Abdur Razzak (1442) and Niccolò de' Conti (1444)
81 Mana Vikrama the Great 1466-1474 Athanasius Nikitin (1468-1474) visits Calicut.
82 Mana Veda 1474-1482
84 1495-1500 The arrival of Vasco da Gama (1498)
85 1500-1513 The invasions of Cochin (1503-1504)
86 1513-1522 Treaty with Portuguese (1513), and the erection of the Portuguese fort at Calicut (1514)
87 1522-1529 The expulsion of Portuguese from Calicut
88 1529-1531 The building of Portuguese fort at Chaliyam (1531)
89 1531-1540 War with Portuguese
90 1540-1548 Treaty with Portuguese (1540)
91 1548-1560 Adoption of the chief of Bardela (150) and the war with the Portuguese.
92 Viraraya 1560-1562
93 Mana Vikrama 1572-1574 The expulsion of the Portuguese from Chaliyam (1571)
94 1574-1578 War with the Portuguese
95 1578-1588 The Portuguese allowed a factory at Ponnani (1584)
96 1588-1597 The settlement of the Portuguese at Calicut (1591)
97 1597-1599 War with Kunhali (1598-1599)
98 1599-1604 Capture of Kunhali's stronghold (1600)
99 1604-1617 Siege of Cannanore (1604-1617) and treaties with the Dutch (1604 and 1608) and the English (1615)
100 Mana Vikrama 1617-1627
101 1627-1630
102 1630-1637
103 Mana Vikrama (Saktan Tampuran) 1637-1648 The uncle of the author of the Krishnanatakam
104 Tiruvonam Tirunal 1648-1655
105 Mana Veda 1655-1658 The author of the Krishnanatakam
106 Asvati Tirunal 1658-1662 The expulsion of the Portuguese from Cranganore (1662)
107 Puratam Tirunal 1662-1666 The expulsion of Portuguese from Cochin (1663)
108 1666-1668 War with the Dutch
109 1668-1671 The destruction of Cheraman Sword
110 Uttrattati Tirunal 1671-1684 Cession of Chetwai to the Dutch
111 Bharani Tirunal Mana Vikrama[13] 1684-1705 The terror of the Dutch. Two Mamankams (1694 and 1695)
112 1705-1711 Adoptions from Nileswaram (1706 and 1707)
113 1711-1729 The Dutch War (1715-1718)
114 Mana Vikrama 1729-1741

Note: Italic names only indicate the asterism under which the Zamorin is born

Second Dynasty

It seems that the original dynasty came to an end with the 114th Zamorin of Calicut. The 115th Zamorin, the first of the second dynasty, was the oldest of the princes adopted from Nileshwaram in 1706.[12]

No. of Zamorin Name Reign Important Events
115 Zamorin from Kilakke Kovilakam 1741-1746
116 Putiya Kovilakam 1746-1758 The Dutch War (1753-1758)
117 Kilakke Kovilakam 1758-1766 Wars with Travancore and Haider Ali, committed suicide. Annexed by Mysore.
118 Putiya Kovilakam 1766-1788
119 Kerala Varma Vikrama[13] (Putiya Kovilakam) 1788-1798 British protectorate (1792)
120 Krishna Varma[13] (Putiya Kovilakam) 1798-1806 Agreement of 1806 (died in 1816)

See also


  1. "Zamorin". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 6 May. 2012 <>
  2. "Lectures 26-27". Purdue University. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 K. V. Krishna Iyer, Zamorins of Calicut: From the earliest times to A D 1806/> Zamorins of Calicut: From the earliest times to A D 1806. Calicut: Norman Printing Bureau, 1938.
  4. Princely states of India
  5. "officialwebsite of". Retrieved 2010-03-30.
  6. Divakaran, Kattakada (2005). Kerala Sanchaaram. Thiruvananthapuram: Z Library.
  7. 1 2 3 Panikkassery, Velayudhan. MM Publications (2007), Kottayam India
  8. To corroborate his assertion that Eradi was in fact a favourite of the last Later Chera, M.G.S. cites a stone inscription discovered at Kollam in southern Kerala. It refers to "Nalu Taliyum, Ayiram, Arunurruvarum, Eranadu Vazhkai Manavikiraman, mutalayulla Samathararum" - "The four Councillors, The Thousand, The Six Hundred, along with Mana Vikrama-the Governor of Eralnadu and other Feudatories." M.G.S. indicates that Kozhikode lay in fact beyond and not within the kingdom of Polanadu and there was no need of any kind of military movements for Kozhikode
  9. Robert Swell. "A forgotten empire: Vijayanagar"., Book 1, Chapter 10.
  10. Malabar Manual by Logan
  11. "Tipu Sultan — Villain Or Hero?". Retrieved 2010-03-30.
  12. 1 2 3 4 Ayyar, KV Krishna. The Zamorins of Calicut. Calicut: Norman Printing Bureau, 1938. Print.
  13. 1 2 3 Ben Cahoon. "Indian Princely States K-Z". Retrieved 2015-12-23.
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