The history of Calicut is an interesting read. It is important to note that, Kerala being that insulated from outside influence, it’s rare to see an outsider invading it. This, shifts the complete story to Kerala proper – with kingdoms expanding and contracting as time went on. Let’s take the major power in the North – Calicut. It held near absolute sway between Pantalayini and Kollam from the coast to the ghats. The only trouble makers were Valluvanad and Cochin; Valluvanad was beaten down into inconsequence and Cochin, into vassalage. The equation stayed such till the Portuguese came. Unable to take on the Zamorin, the king of Calicut, directly and with desperate need for foot soldiers, they goaded Cochin to rebel against the Zamorin. This escalated into major wars, spanning almost 250 years, with Portugal being replaced by the Dutch.
What interests me the most is not this internecine fighting. It’s the distances between the places. While Zamorin made Ponnani and Cranganore his headquarters for fighting with Cochin and it’s allies, the opposite party fought from Cochin. And with Valluvanad(headquartered at Angadipuram), the Zamorin advanced till Nilambur and Malappuram. Now, Cranganore to Cochin is 45 km and Malappuram to Angadipuram is 70 km while Nilambur to Angadipuram is 45 km. Advancing by inches is what happening in this.
The distances between the main places is below.
May be, that’s an indication of the strength of the local kingdoms. We saw that no army ever reached Calicut city in force – there may have been some raids, but none came in force to dent the pride of the Zamorin and that the kingdom and the main fort in the capital simply didn’t exist after Mysore invaded. This is a real invasion, may be the first one Kerala faced in the Kollam Era. Even, this is not what interests me. What interests me is two of those who fought Calicut – Portugal and Netherlands. Both of them are major imperial powers but were involved in this duet for inches. Does this mean, the Portuguese and the Dutch were never military heavyweights and were but jokes?
Take two specific instances. The Zamorin laid siege to Chaliyam. They were not able to advance 16 km to take Calicut directly. A joke or what? Next one is the Dutch advance after taking the fortifications of Pappinivattam. As if the local forces are not sufficient to take the Zamorin down, they asked for additional troops from Batavia. Using the troops, after a sanguine war, the fortifications are taken. After that, they advance till Urakam before asking the Zamorin to call off the fight. This is a very inspirational statement for the Dutch – they broke the fortifications of Pappinivattam, advanced till Urakam crushing all opposition and gave another chance for the Zamorin, the one who defeated the Portuguese for good to rethink about the war. But, well, we are missing the fine print – Pappinivattam to Urakam is 21 km. Advancing just 21 km, that too with the help of overseas reinforcements tells much of their military competency – both in terms of numbers and in terms of the quality of their military strategy. And this raises questions as to how such incompetent entities became superpowers in the world. Or is the history completely obfuscated with all their losses sugar coated or thrown into the dustbin of history?