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Taken from “History Of Kerala”. Written, In The Form Of Notes On Vlsscher’s Letters From Malabar, [archive.org] …The year 1720 passed quietl...

Attingal Revolt (1721)


Taken from “History Of Kerala”.
Written, In The Form Of
Notes On Vlsscher’s Letters From Malabar, [archive.org]
…The year 1720 passed quietly. Force having proved unavailing, the Attingal people dissembled their anger, and waited for an opportunity to revenge themselves. So well was the popular feeling against the English concealed, that Cowse, with his long experience and knowledge of the language, had no suspicions.
“There had been an old custom, since the establishment of the factory, of giving presents yearly to the Rani, in the name of the Company ; but, for some years, the practice had fallen into abeyance. Gyfford, wishing to ingratiate himself with the authorities, resolved on reviving the custom, and, to do so in the most ceremonious way, by going himself with the presents for seven years. Accordingly, on the 11th April 1721, accompanied by all the merchants and factors, and taking all his best men, about one hundred and twenty in number, and the same number of coolies, Gyfford started for Attingal, four miles up the river. Here they were received by an enormous crowd of people, who gave them a friendly reception. The details of what followed are imperfectly recorded, and much is left to conjecture ; but Gyfford’s foolish overconfidence is sufficiently apparent. In spite of their brave display,his men carried no ammunition. Pula Venjamutta was not to be seen. They were told he was drunk, and they must wait, till he was fit to receive them. He was apparently playing a double part, but the blame for what followed was afterwards laid on his rival, Puia Cadamon Pillay. Cowse’s suspicions were aroused, and he advised an immediate return to Anjengo, but Gyfford refused to take the advice. He is said to have struck Cowse, and to have threatened him with imprisonment. The Rani also sent a message, advising a return to Anjengo. It was getting late, and, to extricate himself from the crowd, Gyfford allowed the whole party to be inveigled into a small enclosure. To show his good-will to the crowd, he ordered his men to fire a salvo, and then he found that the ammunition carried by the coolies had been secured, and they were defenseless. In this hopeless position, he managed to entrust a letter addressed to the storekeeper at Anjengo, to the hands of a friendly native. It reached Anjengo at one o’clock next day, and ran as follows :—
‘Captain Sewell, we are treacherously dealt with
here; therefore keep a very good look-out of any designs on you. Have a look to your two trankers. We hope to be with you to-night. Take care and don’t frighten the women ; we are in no great danger. Give the bearer a chequeen.
But none of the English were to see Anjengo again. That night or the next morning, a sudden attack was made, the crowd surged in on the soldiers, overwhelmed them, and cut them to pieces. The principal English were seized and reserved for a more cruel death. In the confusion, Cowse, who was a favourite among the natives, managed to disguise himself, got through the crowd, and sought to reach Anjengo by a little-frequented path. By bad luck, he was overtaken by a Mahomedan merchant who owed him money. Cowse offered to acquit him of the debt, but to no purpose. He was mercilessly killed, and thus the debt was settled. ‘Stone dead hath no fellow,’ as the chronicler of his death says. The rest of the English were tortured to death, Gyfford and the interpreter being reserved for the worst barbarities. Ignatio Malheiros was gradually dismembered, while Gyfford had his tongue torn out, was nailed to a log of wood, and sent floating down the river.
“It is easy to picture to one’s self the consternation in Anjengo on that 12th of April, when, soon aftermidday, Gyfford’s hasty note was received, and the same evening, when a score of wounded men (topasses) straggled in to confirm the worst fears ; ‘all miserably wounded, some with 12 or 13 cutts and arrows in their bodyes to a lower number, but none without any.’…

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