Marakkar Heroes- marking a new trend in naval patriotism

The Marakkars were the leading business group of the region when the Portuguese arrived in Kerala. They had settled at Cochin and were believed to be the descendants of the Arabs who migrated to Kerala. Some historians maintain that they were original natives. They became well known after they moved to Calicut for fighting the Portuguese aggression.

Later they became the greatest nightmare of the European aggressor. The freedom struggle against the Portuguese witnessed a turning point with the coming of Marakkars. Some prejudiced western writers have wrongly characterized these heroic fighters as pirates

The Lightning Attacks

In 1538, a Portuguese captain wrote to the King about the Marakkars,

“A group of 150 sets out from a port and inflict casualties as much as possible. When I chase them, another group from another port make casualties elsewhere. I am unable to decide where to go”

The Defenders of Samudiri, nightmare of Portuguese

The cunning Portuguese were as quick in making treating as breaking it. They had made number of treaties for promoting their own vested interests. In a treaty signed in 1583 with the Samudiri king, they agreed to free the prisoners held by them and instead the Samudiri had to free their men and allow them to build a fort in Ponnani, a leading business center with excellent harbor facility. Accordingly, the prisoners were released and the fort’s construction was to start next year.

House of Kunhali Marakkar

Although the treaty was a short-term relief to the Indians, the Portuguese were determined to take the advantage of the peaceful situation. They continued to destroy the Indian ships and block them from conducting business openly.

Kunhali Marakkar III, who saw the loopholes of the treaty, was not prepared to accept it. He continued to fight the oppressive power. When the Portuguese were no match for the Marakkar heroes, they again entered into treaty with the Samudiri in the year 1591. When they annulled the treaty again, the Marakkar fought them back.

Due to old age, he had to back off from the battle. Instead he placed the legendary fighter Muhammad Ali Kunhali, (i.e. Kunhali Marakkar IV). He was in command of the Samudiri’s force. His first task was to rebuild the Puthupattanam fort. At this point of time, the Portuguese plotted to convince the weak willed Samudiri that Kunhali Marakkar was planning to capture his kingdom.

Kunhali Marakkar

The Portuguese and Samudiri’s men fought the Marakkar hero. In the beginning, their combined force was no match for the celebrated freedom fighter.

In 1599, the European traitors came with greater battleships from Goa and surrounded the hero from land and sea.

The brave son of India had no way but to surrender. So in 166 AD he put down arms with the condition that he and his men should be spared. But finally, the cold-blooded Portuguese held Kunhali and his men and took them to Goa where they were killed. His body was torn into 4 pieces and displayed on the seashore. His head was put in salt and sent to Kannur

Marakkar: The forerunners of Indian Navy – Vice Admiral

The Indian navy believes that Marakkars were their forerunners and the naval hero’s death is an example of an Indian betraying his fellow Indian” said vice admiral R.N. Ganesh.

The naval general of the eastern zone had come to visit Marakkar House. He insisted that a research center for naval studies be built adjacent to Marakkar House. The Marakkars bravely fought the invading forces for about a century” he reminded. A memorial should be built in Kottakkal in memory of Kunhali, the bravest of all Marakkars. His death was a case of betrayal of a brave freedom fighter and that too at a time when the country was passing through a critical period” he said. “The Marakkars’ patriotism is beyond any doubt and his life is an example for future generations. Facilities should be made to conduct studies on this patriot.” The admiral later visited the Kottakkal to examine Marakkar’s swords and weaponry.

July 8 1999, Chandrika

Stamp on Kunhali Marakkar

‘Defence Minister George Fernandez released a postal stamp on Sunday in honor of legendary maritime hero of 16th century, Kunhali Marakkar IV.

The minister paid glowing tributes to the memory of Kunhali Marakkar, who fought against the Portuguese invaders along with the king of Kozhikode, Zamorin.

He said Kunhali Marakkar was a warrior whose patriotism transcended boundaries of caste, creed, and color.

The stamp release coincided with the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of Kunhali Marakkar at the hands of the Portuguese.

Northern Circle Post Master General Indira Krishna Kumar handed over the album containing the stamp and the First Day Cover to the minister.

“We need to carry the naval tradition of Kunhali Marakkar to protect our coastal boundaries. Our Navy and Coast Guard have done an excellent job so far. Our Coast guard even confiscated a ship hijacked by pirates, with help of naval forces. We need more war ships and submarines to defend,” he said.

“The greatest homage to Kunhali Marakkar is not the stamp or First Day Envelope, but our resolve to fight for his ideals of independence and self reliance,” he said.

The Gulf Today Monday, December 18, 2000