Malabar Under Hyder Ali: 1774-1776

In a previous post, we discussed the conquest of Malabar by Nawab Hyder Ali Khan (r: 1761-82) in 1766.

In December 1768, the Mysore army left Malabar after restoring the local chiefs on the condition of paying war indemnity. Hyder, being a strategic mastermind, retained control of Palakkad, which commanded the point of entry into Malabar. It was also agreed that Ali Raja would not be disturbed.

The first Anglo Mysore War came to an end in 1769 with the signing of the Treaty of Madras. Following this, the Marathas led by Peshwa Madhava Rao, invaded Hyder's territory, forcing him to make peace with them in July 1772. It is worth noting that between September 1773 and February 1774, Hyder not only regained all the territories he had lost during the conflicts with the Marathas but also successfully recovered the province of Malabar, which he had wisely abandoned during his previous war with the British, as noted by Wilks.

Second Invasion of Malabar:

Let us now turn our attention to the second invasion of Malabar. In November 1773, Hyder captured Coorg and began preparations for the reconquest of Malabar. According to the Hydernama, Hyder initially sent Rangappa Nayaka and Ramagiri Chamaraja to Malabar, but they were killed by the Nairs. One army, led by Syed Sahib, entered Malabar through Thamarassery Churam, while another army, under Srinivasa Rao, entered by way of Palakkad in December 1773.

When the Zamorin heard of the advance of the Mysorean armies, he was greatly alarmed as he had failed to pay a single penny of his annual tribute since Hyder left in 1768.

The Zamorin sought assistance from the French stationed at Mahe and entered into a treaty with the French Commandant Duprat on 12 January 1774, by which he accepted the suzerainty of the King of France, and in return, his whole country came under French protection.

As soon as the French forces assumed control of Calicut, Duprat informed Srinivasa Rao, who had already left Ponnani behind him, that he had taken the Zamorin under the protection of the King of France. However, disregarding Duprat's protests, Srinivasa Rao continued his march towards Calicut and demanded its surrender. Thereupon, the Zamorin escaped to Travancore, while the French forces retreated to Mahe.


The princes of the Zamorin family remained in Malabar and, under the leadership of Ravi Varma of Padinjare Kovilakam, they continued to resist Mysore's control.

Many Malabar chiefs engaged in negotiations with Hyder's officers and were able to reclaim their dominions on payment of tribute, except the Kottayam Raja.

Srinivasa Rao took over the administration of Malabar while Syed Sahib returned to Mysore, leaving Sardar Khan as Commander-in-chief with necessary garrison.

Hyder Ali and the Kolathiri Prince:

Hyder had appointed Ali Raja as the governor of Kolathunadu (Chirakkal) after its conquest in 1766.

In March 1774, the prince of Kolathunadu who had been living under the British protection at Tellicherry, opened negotiations with Hyder. Bodman, the Chief of Tellicherry, stood as a mediator to establish peace between the prince and Hyder and to re-instate the prince in his old territory as a vassal of Hyder. The British sent an agent named Rodriguez Dominguez to Srirangapatna in October 1774 with a lakh of rupees to gain support for their plan. In December 1774, the Kolathiri prince was installed at Kottayam and Iruvazhinadu.

Kolathiri Prince and Kurangoth Nair:

In 1775, with the support of the Mysore army, the Kolathiri prince overran the territory of Kurangoth Nair, who had refused to pay a revenue of 10,000 rupees. Kurangoth Nair, who was an ally of the French, fled and sought refuge at Mahe. Repentigny, the French Commandant, offered him protection, leading to a series of conflicts between the prince and the French forces. Eventually, Repentigny initiated negotiations with the prince. The prince agreed to recognise Kurangoth Nair in return for a tribute of 80,000 rupees. Since Kurangoth Nair did not possess the funds, Repentigny provided him with the amount, which was raised through loans from private individuals at Mahe. Thus Kurangoth became a vassal of Hyder and peace was concluded between Kolathunadu and the French.

Due to Hyder's dissatisfaction with Ali Raja's management of Chirakkal (Kolathunadu), as he had failed to pay the required tribute, Ali Raja was subsequently removed from his position. The Kolathiri prince, now eager to regain his dominions, went to Srirangapatna in 1776 and obtained from Hyder a grant of Chirakkal upon terms of an annual tribute and an immediate sum of money.

Hyder Ali and Cochin:

In 1774, Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran, the Raja of Cochin, had contributed approximately four lakhs of rupees towards war expenses. However, in the middle of 1776, a dispute arose over a piece of land called Talappilly Melvattam. Srinivasa Rao claimed this territory as part of the Zamorins' dominion and demanded that Cochin pay the revenue collected from the area in previous years. However, as Talappilly Melvattam rightfully belonged to Cochin, they rejected the claim and prepared to argue the point with Rao.

In August 1776, Sardar Khan advanced towards Cochin and captured the fort of Trichur. The Mysore General promised not to annex Cochin, if the Raja agreed to become tributary to Hyder and pay a nuzzar of one lakh of pagodas and 8 elephants at once and an annual subsidy of 50,000 pagodas from the next year onwards. Unfortunately, these demands exceeded the resources of the State, prompting the Raja to request time from Sardar Khan to appeal to Hyder.

Sakthan Thampuran sent his envoys to Hyder at Mysore. Upon their representation, Hyder agreed to reduce the nuzzar to one lakh of pagodas and 4 elephants and an annual tribute of 30,000 pagodas, which included the nuzzar and tribute from Cranganore. Thus Cochin and Cranganore became tributaries to Mysore. Talappilly Melvattam was restored to Cochin. Sirdar Khan accordingly withdrew his forces from Trichur on 8th October, 1776.

Trichur Gazetteers mentions that during the Mysore army's march to Trichur, the priests of Vadakkunnathan temple and the Swamiyars of the Mutts locked up the sacred buildings and sought refuge in Chennamangalam. Though the Mysore soldiers plundered and desecrated temples and pillaged houses outside Trichur, they did not commit any acts of violence or sacrilege within the town. When the priests and Swamiyars returned after Sirdar Khan’s departure, they were surprised to find everything intact. The temple chronicler notes that not only were the places of worship unharmed, contrary to expectations, but not a single door had been opened by the enemy.

Since some time, Hyder Ali had been determined to conquer Travancore and had demanded a safe passage through the Dutch territories to attack. Adriaan Moens, the Dutch Governor of Cochin, evaded giving a satisfactory reply as Travancore was a Dutch ally.

In October 1776, Sardar Khan seized the Dutch territories of Chettuva, Pappinivattom and Ayiroor. However, his further advance towards Travancore was blocked by the Travancore Lines, also known as Nedumkotta.

Hyder Ali never succeeded in conquering Travancore!

Other Names of Places:

Palghat - Palakkad
Travancore - Thiruvithamkoor / Thiruvithamcode
Cotiote - Kottayam (modern Wayanad)
Tellicherry - Thalassery
Cannanore - Kannur
Trichur - Thrissur
Calicut - Kozhikode
Mahe - Mayyazhi
Coorg - Kodagu
Cranganore - Kodungallur
Zamorin - Samoothiri

Further Reading:

Kerala Under Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan By C. K. Kareem
Establishment of British Power in Malabar, 1664 to 1799 By N. Rajendran
The French in India, 1763–1816 By S. P. Sen
Kerala District Gazetteers: Trichur