Battle of the Nedumkotta
The Battle of the Nedumkotta took place on 28 December 1789, and was a reason for the opening of hostilities in the Third Anglo-Mysore War. Forces of Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, attacked the fortified line known as the Nedumkotta in Thrissur district that protected the Kingdom of Travancore. Travancore successfully defended their kingdom and defeated Mysore.
Situation in TravancoreEdit
As the threat of an invasion by Tipu Sultan loomed in the horizon, Travancore's maharajah Dharma Raja tried to rebuild his army by appointing Chempakaraman Pillai as the dalawa and Kesava Pillai as the sarvadhikaryakkar.[clarification needed]
Preparations for the battleEdit
Tipu Sultan planned the invasion of Travancore for many years, and he was especially concerned with the Nedumkotta fortifications, which had prevented his father Hyder Ali from annexing the kingdom. Towards the end of 1789, Tipu Sultan marched his troops from Coimbatore. Tipu's army consisted of 20,000 infantry, 10,000 spearmen and match-lockmen, 5,000 cavalry and 20 field guns.
Travancore purchased the strategic forts of Cranganore and Ayacottah from the Dutch to improve the country's defenses. The deal was finalized by Dewan Kesava Pillai and Dutch merchants David Rabbi and Ephraim Cohen under the observation of Maharajah Dharma Raja and Dutch East India Company Governor John Gerard van Anglebeck. Travancore also held a treaty with the British East India Company, under whose terms two battalions of the Company army were stationed at the Travancore-Cochin frontier. Tipu Sultan objected to these purchases because the forts, even though they had long been in Dutch hands, were in a territory that paid him tribute.
Kesava Pillai was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the Travancore Army. To boost the strength of the armed forces, several thousand youngsters militiamen were called up from regions all over the kingdom. The forts of Cranganore and Ayacottah were repaired and garrisoned.
On 28 December 1789, Mysorean troops, not led personally by Tipu Sultan were fired upon by Travancore troops. The Mysorean troops advanced from the Travancore lines, but were eventually stopped when faced with six-pounder guns used by the Travancore troops and were repulsed. Large number of mysorean troops were captured as prisoners and were imprisoned in undayagiri fort.The Nairs of Travancore recovered the sword, the pallanquin, the dagger, the ring and many other personal effects of Tipu Sultan from the ditches of the Nedumkotta and presented them to the ruler of Travancore. Some of them were sent to the Nawab of Carnatic on his request.After approximately 2 months after this incident, on 1 March 1790, 1,000 Travancore troops advanced onto Mysore territory, where they were stopped and pushed back with considerable losses by Mysorean troops. On 9 April 1790, a similar attempt was made once again by 3,000 Travancore troops on Mysore territory, however, they were once again stopped by Mysorean troops and repulsed.
On 12 April 1790, Tipu decided to attack the Travancore lines and within approximately three days was able to breach three quarters of a mile of the lines. On 15 April 1790 he took approximately 6,000 soldiers and advanced on the Travancore position. The Travancore troops were taken by surprise and fled. On 18 April 1790, Tipu arrived within one mile of Cranganur and erected batteries. On 8 May 1790, Tipu successfully occupied Cranganur. Soon other forts such as Ayicotta and Parur surrendered without fighting. Tipu Sultan destroyed the Travancore lines and reached all the way to Verapoly.
Tipu attacked the Nedumkotta again after waiting for three months for further reinforcements to arrive from Coorg, Bangalore and Seringapatam. For nearly a month, the Travancore army under the protection of the Nedumkotta lines, managed to defend the state. However, finally a breach of about 1 km (3/4 mile) in length was effected and the Mysorean army entered Travancore. Soon, the entire Nedumkotta fell into the hands of Tipu Sultan, who captured large quantities of ammunition and 200 cannons. The British forces stationed to assist Travancore did not provide aid to Travancore, but remained passive spectators, since they had not received orders from Governor Hollond to fight with the Sultan, much to the despair of the Maharajah. When orders were finally received, it was too late and the British Commander thought it injudicious to commit his soldiers against the large Mysorean army. Tipu's army now devastated the whole of northern Travancore and reached Alwaye and camped on the Periyar River, although Tipu's officers advised the Sultan against it. Hindu temples were destroyed and the subjects fled to the forests. The entire country was laid waste with fire and sword. Even Christians were not spared. The Dewan Raja Kesavadas of Travancore toiled ceaselessly and raised batteries at various places further south, and surrounded them with deep ditches and prepared to obstruct Tipu from proceeding further into Travancore.
The Sultan and his army now moved to a place where the Travancore army had built a wall across the river obstructing the water, leaving the river-bed dry. In spite of the warnings of some of his Generals, Tipu decided to wage a battle here at night, certain of his superior numbers. Tipu first ordered two of his kushoons to advance and take over the defences which they accomplished with valour. At day-break, the Travancoreans broke down the retaining wall, letting the water flood onto the Mysorean forces. A large number of Tipu's soldiers were killed by the sudden flood and the road of succour and assistance to the advance guard was cut off. The remaining forces were defeated by a sudden attack by Travancore under the Dewan and an able General known as Kali Kutty (Posthumously elevated to Kali Kutty Pillai). Of the soldiers of Tipu, who formed the advance guard, none returned to the presence of the Sultan. Three or four hundred cavalry soldiers met with death in front of him. Tipu was begged off his Palki by his General Kamruddin Khan, who fell at his feet, asking him to retreat to his camp. Kamruddin saw to it that Tipu was carried on the shoulders of loyal soldiers across the waters to the other side of the river. The Sultan's Palki with bed, some personal ornaments, and a dagger fell into the hands of Travancore soldiers. Although the Sultan was once again defeated and prevented from gaining any more ground in Travancore, the Dewan increased the garrison of the forts further South and maintained a military force ready for battle in any case.
The British seeing the rapid advance of Tipu Sultan and his forces decided to attack him as they considered him a major threat to their interests.
- Mia Carter, Barbara Harlow, Archives of Empire: Volume I. From The East India Company to the Suez Canal, p. 174CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
- The Travancore State Manual by V Nagam Aiya, Vol.1, Page 385
- The Travancore State Manual by V Nagam Aiya, Vol.1, Page 390
- The Travancore State Manual by V Nagam Aiya, Vol.1, Page 393
- Mohibbul Hasan (2005), History of Tipu Sultan, Aakar Books, p. 164
- John Clark Marshman, The history of India, p. 450
- Hassan (2005), p.166
- Hassan (2005), p. 167
- Fortescue, John William (1902). A history of the British army, Volume 3. Macmillan.
- Marshman, John Clark (1863). The history of India
- The Travancore State Manual, Volume 1 (some detail on Tipu's movements)
- A history of Travancore from the earliest times, Volume 1 (details on fort transactions preceding attack)