Chendamangalam – remnants of a rich heritage

For those who treasure unspoilt nature, have a sense of history and reverence for cultures that have co-existed and survived for ages, there is one place that combines all these. An enclave of unadulterated, near-pristine beauty and quietude, dense with the remnants of a rich heritage that dates back almost to the beginnings of Kerala’s history. Chendamangalam the name may have evolved from Jayanthamangalam or Choornimangalam – is a rare geographical combination of rivers, seven islets, a hillock, and an expanse of green plains. Situated 4 kilometres from North Paravur, in the north-west of Ernakulam district, the region is surrounded by rivers on three sides and has the confluence of the Periyar and the Chalakkudiyar off its eastern boundary.Chendamangalam was the abode of the famous Achans of Paliam who were hereditary Prime Ministers to the Maharajahs of Cochin from 1663 to 1809.

Paliam – Origin

For a Malayalee, Paliathachan is no strange name. He is a historical figure, now and then appearing in the annals of Kerala from the 16th to the 19th century. As the old saying goes, “Kochiyil pathi Paliam” (half of erstwhile Cochin State belongs to Paliam). It held extensive lands in the erstwhile Kochi Rajyam (Kingdom of Kochi).
Today the members of this prestigious family live at Chendamangalam and in many other parts of the country as well as abroad. Their rich and historic tradition keeps the members of the family close together, even today. This kinship is unique.
The origin of the Paliam Family is shrouded in mystery. But it is certain that it is linked with the Cochin Royal Family or Perumpadappu Swarupam. It is believed that when the last Perumal departed, the Chera kingdom of Mahodayapuram split, and one segment left for Vanneri near Chavakkad. Together with it, went the powerful feudal chieftain Paliathachan. Until recently Paliam Parambu was found here. Most likely, Paliathachan shifted with the Perumbadappu Swarupam to Thiruvanchikulam, consequent upon the Zamorins invasion of the land. The big flood of 1341 brought Perumpadappu Swarupam to Cochin. Probably Paliathachan also moved with it. Records show that it is with the arrival of the Portuguese that both Kochi Raja and Paliathachan shot into prominence. At the opening of the 17th century, Paliathachan received extensive lands from the Villarvattom Raja, his father. In the meantime, he is said to have rendered some services to the Kochi Raja. In recognition of these services, he was made the Chief of Vypeen Island. Before long, the Raja made him the hereditary Prime Minister of the State.
Some of the critical moments in which Paliathachan wisely guided the Raja and valiantly served the state are undoubtedly memorable. The name of three Achans add lustre to the history of erstwhile Kochirajyam. They are Komi Achan I, Komi Achan II and Govindan Valiachan
Komi Achan-I (1654-1684)
It was Komi Achan I who resisted the Portuguese attempt to impose their power on Kochirajyam. There was a serious dispute regarding the succession to the throne of Kochi at this time. Komiachan firmly stood for the legitimate cause of “Moothathavazhi”. In this he was supported by Samoothiri. The Portuguese were against this. They argued for the cause of :Elayathavazhi”. Achan, now, realised the need for help from a naval power like the Dutch. So he and a prince together set sail to Colombo. He met the Dutch forces, arrived in Kochi, fought and drove out the Portuguese. Kochi came under Dutch power. Now began a Paliam-Dutch friendship.
Komi Achan-II (1750-1779)
Komi Achan II served the Raja as Prime Minister for 30 long years. He was very handsome and highly adventurous. During his tenure, Kochi faced severe challenges from Thiruvithanikoor, the Samoothiri and also Hyder All from Mysore. In the battle with Thiruvithamkoor, Achan even became a prisoner. During this time he managed to form a friendship with the Elayaraja and this later proved so valuable. When Samoothiri’s forces entered Kochi and even Thrissur fell into his hands, Achan diplomatically got the Raja of Thiruvithamkoor to sign a treaty of mutual help with him. This took place at Sucheendram in 1761. This was the historic “Achan Pramanam”. This resulted in Thiruvanthamkoor forces joining Achan and driving out Samoothiri. Achan also played the role of a negotiator again. When Hyder Ali threatened Malabar and Kochi, the Raja agreed to pay a tribute so that Kochi could be saved. The amount was too big and Komi Achan was sent to Seringapatnam for negotiating with Mysore. Komi Achan made such an impression on the Dutch and even Hyder Ali, that on his death, both recorded their high appreciation of Achan
Govindan Valiachan (1779-1825)
Govindan Valiachan was Prime Minister only for 3 years from 1806-1809. In 1806, after the death of Sakthan Thampuran. Achan emerged as the de facto ruler of Kochi. The Raja of that time was mild and weak. Already Thiruvithamkoor and Kochi had accepted British suzerainty. From the very beginning, Achan had challenged Macaulay’s high-handedness. When this became unbearable, Achan raised the flag of rebellion. He had already friendship with Velu Thampi Dalawa who was in similar situation in Thiruvithamkur. Both started recruiting and training solders. They even tried to get help from the French in Mauritius in December 1808, at midnight, Achan and his 600 Nair soldiers attacked the Residency of Macaulay. But the Resident had managed to escape. Thereupon Achan and his men broke open the jail and set free the prisoners. However, the British who followed the ‘Divide and Rule’ Policy, succeded in isolating Achan from the Dalawa. When the British government offered peace or war, Achan chose to surrender, provided he was assured of “security to his person, honour, family and property”. He also took upon himself the whole responsibility of the revolt so that Kochi should not be punished. The British agreed to these conditions. But they deported him to Madras. He stayed in Fort St.George for 12 years and then in Bombay for 11 years. In 1832 he was allowed to go to Benaras. Though an enemy, the British showed respect and honour to Govindan Valiachan. He was permitted to take a palanquin, a sword, two guns and 20 attendeants with him. He passed away in the holy town of Beneras. Shri govindan Valiachan was the last Prime Minster of Kochi.
Raman Valiachan (1915-1940)
Paliath Raman Valiachan, who was the head of the family from 1915 lived up to the ideals Paliam family. He took a deep interest in measures that were for the welfare of the people of Chendamangalam. The most important decision taken by him was that 1/3 of the income of Paliam family will be set aside for religious institutions and for public welfare. Transport, water supply and education invited his foremost attention. Even before he became Valiachan, he had established a primary school and later and English school which were a blessing to the people. He gave fee concession to poor students. A girl’s school too was started by him. It was Raman Valiachan who built the bridge connecting parur and Chendamangalam. To him also goes the credit for allotting Rs.25000/- to all those who suffered from the floods of 1099 (Malayalam era) or 1925 A.D.