Palakkad, also known as Palghat and Palakkattussery (alternatively spelled as Palighat, Palacacherry, Palghatcheri, Palaghatchery), is often referred to as the Gateway of Kerala, as it provides access to the state from the rest of India. This region is characterized by its lush palm trees and expansive paddy fields.
One of the notable landmarks in Palakkad is the Palakkad Fort built by Nawab Hyder Ali Khan of Mysore, now known as Tipu's Fort. Situated approximately 6 kilometers away from Palakkad Junction railway station, the fort is easily accessible for visitors.
Palakkattussery was once under the rule of the Sekhari Varma Rajas, famously known as Achans. The Sekhari Vamsam kingdom was divided into three regions: Thenmalappuram, Vadamalappuram, and Naduvattam, each consisting of 3,000, 2,000, and 3,000 Nairs respectively.
The five eldest members of the royal family held the title of Rajas and were ranked based on seniority. The eldest member, known as Sekhari Varma Valiya Raja, held the highest position. The second in line is called Elaya Raja, the third Kavasseri Raja, the fourth Talam Tampuran, and the fifth Tariputamura Raja. On the death of Sekhari Raja, the Elaya Raja would succeed and assume the title of Sekhari, and this succession pattern continued until the fifth in line.
The Palakkad Rajas faced frequent military raids from the Samoothiri (Zamorin), the ruler of Kozhikode, also known as Calicut, since 1732. In 1757, the Zamorin sent his forces led by Chencheri Namboothiri to Palakkad. Three thousand of Thenmalappuram Nairs sued for peace and agreed to give one-fifth of the revenue to the Zamorin as war indemnity. Chencheri then turned his attention to Vadamalappuram and successfully captured Chokkanathapuram after a fierce fight.
Pangi Achan of Elayachan Edam, Kelu Achan of Pulikkal Edam, and a few others proceeded to Coimbatore to meet Sankara Raja, the ruler of Coimbatore, who provided them with emissaries to accompany them to Mysore to seek military assistance.
Dalavai Nanjarajaiya, the de facto ruler of Mysore at the time, ordered Hyder Ali, who held the position of Faujdar of Dindigal, to render military support to the Palakkad Rajas. In February 1758, Hyder dispatched his brother-in-law Makhdoom Ali with his forces to Palakkad. The invading Mysore army, assisted by the Nair soldiers of the Achans, advanced towards the sea coast, leading to a fierce war. The Achans managed to cover the war expenses by pledging their gold ornaments.
The Zamorin sought peace and promised to pay a war indemnity of 12 lakhs. However, once the Mysore army returned, the Zamorin sent his men to Palakkad to collect the previously agreed one-fifth of the revenue. He treacherously assassinated several Achans and rest of them fled to Sankara Raja at Coimbatore. Seeking assistance, Pangi Achan and Kelu Achan left for Mysore and entered into agreements with Hyder Ali, who had become the Nawab of Mysore (r: 1761-1782) in 1761.
Consequently, Hyder sent an army to Palakkad. Upon learning of the Mysorean army's arrival, the Zamorin retreated from Palakkad. Hereafter the Palakkad Rajas became tributaries to Mysore.
In 1766, Hyder marched towards Malabar at the request of Ali Raja of Cannanore to wage war against the Kolathiri Raja. After taking Kolathunadu, otherwise known as Chirakkal, Kottayam, Kadathanadu and Calicut, he returned to Coimbatore in May and occupied it.
Meanwhile, the Raja of Travancore and the British at Tellicherry orchestrated a rebellion of the Nairs in Malabar. However, Hyder's forces successfully suppressed this uprising.
Hyder Ali, after suppressing the rebellion laid the foundations of a formidable fortress at Palakkad. This location, situated in the center of the Gap in the line of Ghats, was strategically chosen as a defensive stronghold and communication hub for the newly subdued provinces.
During the 1st Anglo-Mysore war (1767-69) in 1768, Colonel Wood captured the fort, only to have it retaken by Hyder Ali a few months later. After Hyder Ali's death in 1782, the Palakkad fort came under the control of his son, Tipu Sultan.
During the 2nd Anglo-Mysore war (1780-84), the British, led by Colonel Fullerton, seized the Palakkad fort on 13 November 1783. By the treaty of Mangalore concluded on 11 March 1784, the British restored the fort to Tipu Sultan.
In 1790, the Palakkad fort, which then mounted 60 guns, was finally recaptured by the British under Colonel Stuart on September 22, during the 3rd Anglo-Mysore war (1790-92). They did some repairs to the fort.
The fort is square in shape with thick walls and strong bastions at the four corners and in the center. All around the extensive fort is a deep moat, a trench on the southern side and also a bridge on the eastern side. Rampart and bastions are built of granite.
When the fort came under British control, the buildings inside it began to be used as civil administration offices. The Malabar District Gazetteer of 1951 mentions that inside the fort are the offices of the Tahsildar, the district registrar, the district forest officer and the inspector of excise, the sub-jail and a store room which was evidently the old magazine.
The fort has spacious maidan around it. The ground which had once served as a stable for the elephants and horses of Tipu's army, is now used to stage cricket matches, exhibitions and public meetings. The sub jail was there until recently in the fort grounds. The Hanuman temple still stands as another captivating attraction within the fort.