MAJOR STRUGGLES AND REVOLTS IN KERALA – KURICHYA REVOLT

 

 

KURICHYA REVOLT

 

After the suppression of the Pazhassi rebellion, Wynad was brought under strict surveil­lance of the British and the Kurichiyas and Kurumbas, two aboriginal tribal communities who were the main supporters and militiamen of Pazhassi Raja, were subjected to untold abuses and privations. They were left to languish in enforced poverty and the revenue officials and military men made their life a veritable hell.

The most grievous injury to the life of these tribal came from the new revenue settlements effected by Thomas Warden after the Pazhassi Rebellion. It created havoc in the economic life of Wynad and lay waste the whole valley, driving the inhabitants from destitution to mad fury.

Moreover the revenue officers practised rapacity and wanton oppression: the extortive land juma was more tolerable than the mode of collection and the cruelty of the revenue collectors. Large amounts collected from the poor cultivators were kept and enjoyed by them as unaccounted money.

The discontent of the people steadily increased as the Sheristadars and Parbatties, the revenue officers, started seizing and selling the property and personal effects of the revenue defaulters. Innumerable cause of such distrait and sale of properties (leaving nothing for the peasants to live on) and forcible entry in private houses are on record. The Kurichiyas were also often seized and made to serve as slaves by the revenue officials and Englishmen, reducing them to a despicable condition of existence by depriving them of their caste.

All these unjust and violent acts against the people of Wayanad were done with the knowledge and concurrence of the Collector, Mr. Warden. His stubbornness and his officers’ stupidity and cruelty combined to produce a strong spirit of resistance and aggressive attitude on the part of the people of Wayanad in 1812. It was in this background that the Kurichya Rebellion of 1812 erupted.

The rebels, especially the well-informed section consisting of the disaffected revenue servants and village officers, wanted a total general uprising against the British not only in Wynad, and Malabar, but also in Travancore and Cochin.

The Kurichayas and Kurumbas under the leadership of some Nayars and Tiyyas, made preparation for the final contest with the British tyrants it was a typical peasant revolt. It is interesting to notice how these people organised themselves and enlisted supporters for the terrible war.

The Kurichyas and Kurumbas made arrow-blades from the iron pulled out from the railings of bridges. Letters were sent out by the rebel leaders to the police Kolkars and revenue servants belonging to the rebel castes to support their cause by taking part in the rebellion with their arms. That, they were informed, was the mandate of their gods whose wrath every tribal feared. This had the desired effect; the call for support was instantaneously answered by all except four of the Kurichya and Kurumbar members of the police establishment, leaving their post and joining the rebels.

The rebels kept all their movements and preparations a guarded secret till the rebellion broke out. James Tagg, who was stationed in Wynand with two companies of troops to maintain law and order in the area after the suppression of Pazhassi rebellion, was completely in the dark about the brooding storm.

The rebellion started on 25th March 1812. They attacked the police and committed severe atrocities against Englishmen. The rebels’ call for unity was in the name of Pulpally Murikkanmar (the protecting deities of Wynad) and with crusading zeal, the local inhabitants flocked to the rebel camp to fight the White Men. Within two days rebellion spread to all parts of Wynad; all roads leading to Wayanad were guarded by the Kurichiyas and supplies to British troops were effectively prevented.

 

 

By 8th May 1812, quiet returned to Wynad and people took their lot with patience. Still 50 rebel Kurichiyas could not be induced to submit; nor could they be caught either. Even though the rebellion continued only for less than two months and its scope was severely restricted to the Wynad area, it caused considerable concern to the British authorities.

The Kurichya Rebellion of 1812 was as important, if not more, as the rebellions of Pazhassi, Kattabomman, Marudu and Velu Tampi, as an internal resistance movement against the British authority. However, its nature as a pure and simple peasant revolt, with no charlatan leader to claim superiority over others, and with no stigma of a feudal uprising attached to it, makes the Kurichya Rebellion all the more important.

 

It was organised by the tribal people Kurichiyas against the Wayanad invasion of British in 1812. It was led by Ramanambi, the leader of another tribe named Kuramba.