Hyder Ali's Relations with Travancore

During the reign of Nawab Hyder Ali Khan in 1766, the Mysore kingdom annexed the northern kingdoms of Kerala, including Chirakkal, Kottayam, Kadathanad, and Calicut, which are collectively known as Malabar.

The kingdom of Travancore (Thiruvithamkoor), located in the southern region of Kerala, was a staunch ally of the British East India Company. During the period from 1758 to 1798, the ruler of Travancore was Rama Varma.

Hyder's enmity with Travancore began during the reign of Rama Varma's uncle and predecessor, Marthanda Varma (r: 1729-1758). In 1754, when Hyder was the faujdar of Dindigul, Marthanda Varma requested his help to quell a rebellion in recently acquired territories. Hyder readily offered his assistance, but when the rebel chiefs heard of Hyder's arrival, they were so intimidated that they submitted to the Raja. Consequently, the Raja informed Hyder that his services were no longer required. Hyder demanded compensation, but Marthanda Varma refused to pay the expenses, thus sparking a long-standing feud between Hyder and Travancore.

Soon after Hyder's conquest of Malabar in 1766, the Dutch Commandant met Hyder at Calicut for negotiations regarding Cochin. Hyder also sought the Dutch's assistance in persuading Travancore also to pay a significant sum. He even mentioned that if the Raja of Travancore refused, he would pay him 'a visit'. His demands were for four lakhs and eight elephants from the Raja of Cochin and fifteen lakhs and thirty elephants from the Raja of Travancore.

The Raja of Cochin accepted the agreement, but Rama Varma declared that he had given no reason for Hyder to demand money from him. Being tributary to Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah of Arcot, he could not pay tribute to both sides. Simultaneously, he proposed a substantial sum to reinstate the Raja of Kolathiri and the Zamorin, on the condition that Hyder would then withdraw from Malabar and return to the north.

Realizing that this response would not satisfy Hyder, who would eventually attack Travancore, Rama Varma began preparations to strengthen the Travancore Lines and formed a close alliance with the British.

However, before Hyder could proceed against Travancore, he received news of the Nizam and the Marathas advancing on Mysore. Consequently, he hurried to Srirangapatna in January 1767, marking the beginning of the First Anglo-Mysore War (1767-1769).

While Hyder was engaged in the First Anglo-Mysore War, the Nairs of Chirakkal, Kottayam, Kadathanadu and Calicut, supported by auxiliaries from Travancore and with munitions supplied by the British at Tellichery (Thalassery), revolted and expelled Hyder's troops from many places.

The pressure of his difficulties compelled Hyder to make the decision to temporary abandon Malabar. In 1768, Madanna, Hyder's governor in Calicut, relinquished control of Malabar, with the exception of Palghat (Palakkad) and Cannanore (Kannur), in exchange for a hefty sum of 1.2 million rupees.

In 1773, Hyder Ali returned to Malabar and successfully reconquered it. The Raja of Cochin, recognizing Mysore's suzerainty, paid two lacs of rupees and a few elephants as tribute, while the Raja of Cranganore offered three lacs of rupees and two elephants.

Upon Hyder's approach, the Zamorin and other chiefs fled to Travancore. Rama Varma provided them with shelter and incited them to rebel against Mysore. His aim was to divert the attention of the Mysoreans towards the internal conflicts of Malabar, thereby safeguarding himself from the impending invasion. Financial support was also extended to sustain their activities.

Hyder was determined to conquer Travancore when he learned of the rebellious activities of the Raja. He was convinced that as long as the Raja remained unsubdued, he would never feel secure in Malabar.

In 1776, Hyder's army, led by his general Sardar Khan, marched to invade Travancore. However, their progress was hindered by the Dutch, who had established themselves at the northern frontier of Travancore.

Hyder demanded that the Dutch grant him unrestricted access through their territories for attacking Travancore. However, the Dutch, who not only considered Travancore their ally but also relied heavily on its trade, made various excuses. They declared that they could not provide free passage without approval from Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East India Company.

Sardar Khan's troops managed to seize control of the Dutch forts of Chettuva and Pappinivattom. However, his further advance was checked by the Travancore Lines, also known as Nedumkotta, which extended from Cochin all the way to the fort of Cranganore.

Hyder's next few years were squandered in futile negotiations with the Dutch, seeking a free passage through their territory to invade Travancore. The Dutch, meanwhile, provided assistance to Rama Varma to fortify the Travancore Lines.

Subsequently, Hyder became engrossed in his conflicts with the British, leading to the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Mysore War (1780-1784).

Rama Varma was meanwhile aiding Hyder's enemies in their efforts to overthrow his power. In 1778, he granted the British troops a free passage through Travancore to attack the French settlement of Mahe, which was under Hyder's protection. During the second Anglo-Mysore war, the Raja provided military assistance to the British in their battle against Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. The Raja's two battalions played a crucial role in saving Colonel Macleod from a dire situation at Ponnani, and later enabled him to march to Bednore and thereby save the Carnatic.

In recognition of his services to the Company, Rama Varma was included as an ally of the British in the Treaty of Mangalore.

Unfortunately Hyder Ali could never conquer Travancore! He passed away in December 1782, amidst the Second Anglo-Mysore war. Hyder's son, Tipu Sultan, successfully continued the conflict against the British. Hyder's Malabar possessions were restored to Tipu Sultan followed by the Treaty of Mangalore which concluded the Second Anglo-Mysore war.


Relations Between Travancore and Mysore in the 18th Century By A. P. Ibrahim Kunju