World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Kunjali Marakkar

Article Id: WHEBN0029386212
Reproduction Date:

Title: Kunjali Marakkar  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Index of India-related articles, Kalaripayattu, Battle of Diu (1509), Indian Navy, History of the Indian Navy, Kanhoji Angre, Kunhali Marakkar, Vatakara, Kannur, Ponnani
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Kunjali Marakkar

For the 1966 film, see Kunjali Marakkar (1966 film).

The Kunhali Marakkar or Kunjali Marakkar was the title given to the Muslim naval chief of the Zamorin (Samoothiri) , Hindu king of Calicut, in present day state of Kerala, India during the 16th century. There were four major Kunhalis who played a part in the Zamorin's naval wars with the Portuguese from 1502 to 1600. Of the four Marakkars, Kunjali Marakkar II is the most famous. The Marakkars are credited with organizing the first naval defence of the Indian coast, to be later succeeded in the 18th century by the Maratha Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre.


The title of Marakkar was given by the Zamorin. It may have been derived from the Malayalam language word marakkalam meaning ‘boat,’ and kar, a termination, showing possession.

The four key Kunhali Marakkars:

  1. Kutti Ahmed Ali – Kunhali Marakkar I
  2. Kutti Pokker Ali – Kunhali Marakkar II
  3. Pattu Kunhali – Kunhali Marakkar III
  4. Mohammed Ali – Kunhali Marakkar IV

Origins of Marakkar

According to tradition, Marakkars were originally Muslim marine merchants of port Kochi who left for Ponnani in the Zamorin's dominion when the Portuguese fleets came to Kingdom of Cochin. They offered their men, ships and wealth against the Portuguese to the Zamorin of Calicut-the king took them into his service and eventually they became the Admirals of his fleet.

Another version suggests that they were merchants of Cairo, Egypt who settled in Kozhikode and joined the Samoothiri's navy.

Against the Portuguese Empire

The Portuguese initially attempted to obtain trading privileges in 1498, but soon had troubles because the pressure from the Muslim Arabs over the Zamorin, since they had traditionally been trading in his ports, and did not want to lose the monopoly in trading spices. The Zamorin resisted these attempts which resulted in the Portuguese trying to destabilise his rule by negotiating a treaty with his arch enemy, the Kingdom of Cochin in 1503. Sensing the Portuguese superiority at sea, the Zamorin set about improving his navy. He appointed Kunjali Marakkar to the task.

The fight between the Zamorin and the Portuguese continued on until the end of the 16th century, when the Portuguese convinced the Zamorin in 1598 that Marakkar IV intended to take over his Kingdom. The Zamorin then joined hands with the Portuguese to defeat Marakkar IV, ending in his defeat and death in 1600.

The Kunjali IV had rescued a Chinese boy, called Chinali, who had been enslaved on a Portuguese ship. The Kunjali was very fond of him, and he became one of his most feared lieutenants, a fanatical Muslim and enemy of the Portuguese, terrorizing them crushing them in battle.[1][2] The Portuguese were terrorized by the Kunjali and his Chinese right hand man, eventually, after the Portuguese allied with Calicut's Samorin, under Andre Furtado de Mendoça they attacked the Kunjali and Chinali's forces, and they were handed over to the Portuguese by the Samorin after he reneged on a promise to let them go.[3] Diogo do Couto, a Portuguese historian, questioned the Kunjali and Chinali when they were captured.[4] He was present when the Kunjali surrendered to the Portuguese, and was described: "One of these was Chinale, a Chinese, who had been a servant at Malacca, and said to have been the captive of a Portuguese, taken as a boy from a fusta, and afterwards brought to Kunhali, who conceived such an affection for him that he trusted him with everything. He was the greatest exponent of the Moorish superstition and enemy of the Christians in all Malabar, and for those taken captive at sea and brought thither he invented the most exquisite kinds of torture when he martyred them."[5][6][7] However, de Couto's claim that he torured Christians was questioned, since no othe source reported this, and is dismissed as ridiculous.[8][9]

Key events

  • 1500 December – Zamorin expels Portuguese from Kozhikode.
  • December 24, 1500 – Portuguese (led by Pedro Álvares Cabral) take refuge at port of Kochi, where the King offers them spices.
  • 1501 January – Portuguese conclude a treaty with Tirumulpad, the King of Kochi, allowing them to open a feitoria there.
  • 1503 – Portuguese crown the new King of Kochi, effectively making him a vassal of the King of Portugal.
  • 1503 March – Samoothiri attacks foe Hindu Kingdom of Kochi, also known as Perumpadapu Swaroopam.
  • 1503 – Portuguese Afonso de Albuquerque arrives in Kochi to find it destroyed, and after helping in the defense of the king, manages to obtain permission to build a fort. Thus the first European fort is built in India by 1505 called Fort Manuel or Manuel Kotta.
  • 1505 November – murder of the Portuguese factor António de Sá, the other Portuguese men and the destruction of the church of St. Thomas in Kollam.
  • 1506 – Samoothiri Raja now approached Raja of Kolathiri. The Portuguese had behaved contemptuously to the Muslims at Kannur, and so Raja of Kolathiri also intended to teach them a lesson. The Raja laid siege the St. Angelos fort at Kannur. But the Portuguese won this battle, and the Raja of Kolathiri was forced to plea for peace.
  • 1506 – Raja's naval forces join the Turkish and Arab navies to defeat the Portuguese navy led by D. Lourenço de Almeida, son of the Portuguese Viceroy. However, Portuguese repel the attack.
  • November 14, 1507 – Portuguese under Almeida attacked Ponnani.
  • 1508 March – Sultan of Cairo's navy defeats Portuguese at Battle of Chaul, killing D. Lourenço de Almeida
  • 1509 February – Portuguese counterattack and defeat the Samoothiri's forces and the Mamluk Egyptian/Turkish Navy at the Battle of Diu. Turks and Egyptians withdraw from India, leaving the seas to the Portuguese.
  • 1513 – Raja and Portuguese sign a treaty giving Portuguese right to build a fort at Kozhikode, in return for their assistance in the Raja's fight with the Kingdoms of Kochi and Kolathiri.
  • 1520? – Assassination attempt on Raja
  • 1524 – King of Portugal re-sends Vasco Da Gama back to India to control the Raja.
  • February 26, 1525 – Portuguese navy led by new Viceroy Menezes raids Ponnani, but the Raja defeats them with assistance from Tinayancheri, and Kurumliyapatri.
  • 1530 – Formation of Chalium (also known as Challe, now Chaliyam) fort by Portuguese – the Raja of Vettattnad enabled the Portuguese to erect a fort at Chalium at the mouth of the Beypore river. Chalium was a strategic site, for it was only 10 km south of Kozhikkode. Raja of Chaliyam or Parappanad also helped the Portuguese.
  • 1540 – Samoothiri Raja entered into an agreement with the Portuguese and stopped the war. Treaty allows the Portuguese a trade monopoly at Kozhikode port.
  • 1550 – Portuguese attacked, pillaged and plundered Ponnani. They set fire to several houses and four mosques, including the Valia Palli.
  • 1569–1570 – War between the Portuguese and Samoothiri's forces at Chaliyam fort. The battle of Talikota in 1565 in which Vijayanagar, the ally of the Portuguese, was defeated, emboldened the Samoothiri to start large scale operations against the Portuguese.
  • 1571 September 15 – Portuguese lose the war and surrender Chaliyam fort. Samoothiri Raja destroys the fort.
  • 1573 – Pattu Marakkar (Kunjali III) obtained permission from Samoothiri to build a fortress and dockyard at Puthupattanam. This fort later came to be called the Marakkar Kotta (Marakkar Fort).
  • 1584 – Samoothiri Raja needed free navigation without the passes of the Portuguese, to the ports of Gujarat, Persia and Arabia, to continue his trade. So an agreement with the Portuguese is made. The sanction to the Portuguese to build a factory at Ponnani is given. By now the Raja has clearly shifted his policy towards the Portuguese.
  • 1586 – Marakkars defeat the Portuguese in a naval battle.
  • 1588 – The Portuguese settle again in Kozhikode with the Samoothiri's permission.
  • 1589 – Marakkars inflict a crushing defeat on the Portuguese.
  • 1591 – Samoothiri Raja allows the Portuguese to build a factory at Kozhikkode. He lays the foundation stone of their church and grants them the necessary land and building materials. His commanders like Kunjali III who were sworn enemies of the Portuguese were ignored again. Kunjali III begins to distance himself from Samoothiri.
  • 1595 – Kunjali IV becomes the Chief of the Marakkars. Marakkar, who had been given the powers and privileges of any Nair noble in the Samoothiri's service, strengthens the fortress at Kottakal and openly challenges his master by styling himself as the "Lord of the Indian seas". He cuts off the tail of one of Samoothiri's elephants and ill treats a Nair noble and his wife, who had been sent to get his explanation for the deed.
  • 1598 – The rebellion by his vassal exasperates the Samoothiri, who joins up with the Portuguese and fights Kunjali Marakkar IV. The first joint operation goes very bad for the allies, owing to a lack of communication between the Portuguese and the Samoothiri. They suffer heavy losses.
  • 1600 – In the second battle, the Samoothiri attacks Marakkar Kotta from the land with an army of 6000 and the Portuguese navy under André Furtado bombards it from the sea. Left with no choice, Kunjali Marakkar surrenders to Samoothiri on a solemn promise of pardon, but the Samoothiri breaks his word and hands his former Admiral over to the Portuguese, who executes him and his men, after taking them to Goa.


  • Cochin University of Science and Technology in Cochin, Kerala, India, has got its new Marine Engineering department named after Kunjali II as 'Kunjali Marakkar School Of Marine Engineering'.
  • The Indian Navy shore-based naval air training centre at Colaba, Mumbai is named Naval Maritime Academy INS Kunjali II in honour of the second Marakkar.
  • The Indian Department of Post issued a Rupee 3 colour stamp commemorating the maritime heritage of Kunjali Marakkar on 17 December 2000 on the 400th anniversary of the end of the Marakkars. The stamp design shows the war-paroe, a small craft used by the Kunjalis, which, manned by just 30–40 men each, could be rowed through lagoons and narrow waters. Several of these crafts were deployed at strategic points and they would emerge from small creeks and inconspicuous estuaries, attack the Portuguese ships at will, inflict heavy damage and casualties by setting fire to their sails and get back into the safety of shallow waters. In these guerilla raids, the Marakkars had shown remarkable prowess.
  • At Iringlal, a village about 35 km north of [1].
  • The Kunjali Marakkar Centre for West Asian Studies at Calicut University is named in honour of Kunjali Marakkar.[10]
  • In 1967 a Malayalam movie named Kunjali Marakkar was released in which depicted Kunjali Marakkar's heroic life.[11]

In popular culture

In 1968, S. S. Rajan made a film based on the lives of Kunhali Marakkar. The film, titled Kunjali Marakkar itself, starred Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair in the title role. That year the film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam. A later plan by Jayaraj to remake the movie with Mammootty in the title role was dropped. In 2011, national award winning director Salim Ahamed announced a film in which Vikram is expected to play the role of Kunhali Marakkar.[12]

See also

Additional reading

  • India's naval traditions: the role of Kunhali Marakkars – K. K. N. Kurup, Northern Book Centre, 1997[13]
  • Gundert, Herman Keralappalama (History of Malabar from A.D. 1498 – 1531) in Malayalam, first published 1868, Kottayam:Vidyarthi Mithram, 1964
  • Mathew, K.S. Portuguese Trade with India in the sixteenth century
  • Queyroz Fr. The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylaö,
  • Tufhathul Mujahideen by Shaykh Zainuddin Makhtum.


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.