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The Battle of Colachel (or Battle of Kulachal) was a battle that took place on 10 August 1741 (31 July OS) during the Travancore-Dutch War, when forces of Marthanda Varma, the king or Raja of the Indianmarker state of Travancore (also known as Tiruvitamkur) defeated forces of the Dutch East India Company (also known as the VOC), and the allied Rani of Eleyadathu Swarupam at Kulachal (anglicised to Colachel or Kolachelmarker) in Indiamarker. Other notable coastal battles on the West coast of India by native sailors like Kunjali Marakkar in the early 16th century, and by Kanhoji Angre in the early 18th century were on a smaller scale and more guerrilla in nature. The Raja's success is attributed to the tactical genius of his prime minister, Ramayyan Dalawa.This battle is important because it marked the decline of Dutch influence over India, assisting the British East India Company's rise and eventual British rule.

Background

Almost all the pepper that the Dutchmarker imported into their country came from the Great kingdom of Kayamkulammarker. When the then Maharajah of Travancore, Marthanda Varma, realised that the Rajah of Kayamkulam was involved in certain conspiracies against him, he became bent on destroying Kayamkulammarker and annexing the kingdom. This endangered Dutch interests, who feared the Britishmarker would gain the rights to the pepper trade from them, thus ending the Dutch monopoly. With this in view the Dutch Governor wrote of Marthanda Varma asking him to end aggressions against Kayamkulammarker to which the Maharajah wrote back asking him not to interfere in matters that did not concern him. The Governor then met the Maharajah in person and threatened war on the basis that they were a "superior" power. The interview was closed by a scornful remark from the Maharajah that if the "superior" power should attack them "there were forests in Travancore into which he and his people could retire in safety" and that he had himself been planning to invade Europe with his fishermen. This last interview ended, thus, in tension and the Governor decided to attack Travancore.

The battle

The battle began when a force of Dutch marines under the leadership of a Flemish commander, Captain Eustachius De Lannoy (also spelt D'lennoy) were sent to Travancore to secure a trading post from the Raja. They landed with artillery in Kulachal, then a small but important coastal town, and captured the territory up to Padmanabhapurammarker, the then-capital of Travancore. The arrival of the Raja's army from the north forced the Dutch to take up defensive positions in Kulachal, where they were attacked and defeated by the Travancore Nair forces. The key element of the Raja's army was his personal army, known as the Travancore Nair Brigade or locally known as the Nair Pattalam. This unit was later integrated into the Indian Army as the 9th Battalion Madras Regiment and the 16th Battalion Madras Regiment in 1954.

Some twenty eight Dutch soldiers were taken prisoner. After the defeat, the commander joined the Raja's army in return for his life being spared, and served in it for over two decades.

A pillar of victory which gives details about the war still stands near the coast of Colachel. There are some folk tales among the local Mukkuvar people about this war. The tale says among other things that the local Mukkuvar (Malayalam for fishermen) fishermen were asked to stand along the beach in multiple rows with their oars kept along the shoulders so that it would appear like soldiers standing with their guns. This might have been a trick meant to create a psychological fear for the Dutch navy. The local Christian fishermen, cooperated very much with the Raja's Nairs during this war.

Impact

A direct outcome of the event at Kulachal was the takeover of the black pepper trade by the state of Travancore. This development was to have serious repercussions on the Dutch and the trading world of Kerala at large. In 1753 the Dutch signed the Treaty of Mavelikkara with the Raja agreeing not to obstruct the Raja's expansion, and in turn, to sell to him arms and ammunition. This marked the beginning of the end of Dutch influence in India. The VOC continued to sell Indonesianmarker spices and sugar in Kerala until 1795, at which time the English conquest of the Kingdom of Kochimarker ended their rule in India.

Capitan De Lannoy, who joined his service, was promoted to the Senior Admiral (Valiya Kappithan), and modernised the Travancore army by introducing firearms and artillery. He was granted the Udayagiri fort (now also known as D'Lennoy's fort) to reside.

Tributes

  • The Indian government has built a pillar of victory in Kulachal to commemorate the event.
  • The Indian Post Department released a Rupee 5 stamp on April 1, 2004 to commemorate the tercentenary (300th anniversary) of the raising of the 9th Battalion of Madras Regiment.


See also



References

  1. [1]9th Madras Regiment


Additional reading

  • Iyer, Dr. S. Krishna. Travancore-Dutch Relations, Nagercoil: CBH Publications, 1994, 164 pgs. ISBN 81-85381-42-9
  • Menor, Sheela. Military History of Travancore with special reference to the Nayar Brigade, Ethiraj College for Women, 1995


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