history of alummoottil

Alummoottil is an aristocratic family in south central Kerala.

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One can trace the family's lineage back twenty (20) generations through the early 1600s. Although the Chaturvarna of Kshatriya did not exist in Kerala in the conventional sense - by supplying armaments, infantry, and cavalry to the kingdom, the Alummoottil family fulfilled military responsibilities towards the nation. The chieftains (Karanavars) of the family were martial arts (Kalaripayattu) experts and Generals of various divisions within the king's army. The title Channar was conferred by the Maharaja to the members of the Alummoottil family.

Thakazhi - in his novel Kayar - references an Alummoottil Chieftain, who commonly was mistaken as the Diwan of Travancore. Besides the king and the Diwan, Kochu Kunju Channar was the third person in the kingdom to own a motor car. Namboodiris and other Brahmins stood up and bowed as he passed by, mistakenly believing it was the Raja or the Diwan.

In the 1700s, Alummoottil family was the sole supplier of heavy cavalry regiments - Mounted Soldiers, Lances, and War Horses - to the erstwhile Odanad kingdom, ruled by the Kayamkulam Maharaja. Besides Cavalry Corps, Alummoottil warriors commanded expeditionary infantry regiments and intelligence platoons within the Kayamkulam Army's battle formation. This prestige they enjoyed ended abruptly when King Marthanda Varma annexed the Kayamkulam kingdom to Travancore.

Only a few years later, King Marthanda Varma recognized that he could not fortify the Odanad area without the logistic and operational military expertise of Alummoottil. Subsequently, the king summoned the Alummoottil Chieftain to his durbar; and asked him to pledge support openly. The chieftain agreed on the conditions that the Kayamkulam king's life be spared and that the dissolved military ranks of the Alummoottil family members be restored. Marthanda Varma was surprised by the insistence of the chieftain and reluctantly agreed to the conditions. That reigned in the next era of cooperation between Alummoottil and the kingdom of Travancore.

Realizing the delicacy of military hierarchy when kingdoms fall and rise, Alummoottil chieftains started to focus more of their resources on commerce and international trade. By the 1750s, most of the spice trade between Europe and southern Kerala flowed through the warehouses of Alummoottil Tharavad. There are many references in mainstream movies that Alummoottil Tharavad was the highest tax-paying unit within the Travancore kingdom. AP Udayabhanu's novel Ente Kadha Illaymakal suggests that by the early 1800s, the family was wealthier than the king of Travancore.

The onset of the 20th century saw significant fissures within the family. The Marumakkathayam (matrilineal) system, followed by the family, was challenged by the socially popular and contemporary Makkathayam (patrilineal) system. The fault lines formed culminated in the assassination of Kochu Kunju Channar, the second-last chieftain of the Alummoottil family.

AP Sreedharan Channar was tried in the Kollam (Quilon) District court - since Alappuzha (Alleppey) was not a district at the time. AP Sreedharan vs. Thiruvathamkur (Travancore) Sarkar (Government) resulted in a judgment against AP Sreedharan on 20th February 1922. He was sentenced to death. The family filed appeals in the Travancore High Court, and directly with Sreemoolam Thirunal (King). Unfortunately, the King who was close to Kochu Kunju Channar rejected the appeal.

AP Shreedharan Channar (the nephew of Kochu Kunju Channar), was executed in late 1922 by the Kingdom of Travancore. His accomplices were given jail sentences. The subsequent and the last Karanavar of Alummoottil, Kochu Krishnan Channar, spearheaded the dissolution of the family, through a Bhagha Patram (dissolution agreement) in the year 1927. The 18 male and female members of the family jointly decided and signed the agreement, ending perhaps the wealthiest family in contemporary Kerala history.

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A murder in Alummoottil meda was the inspiration of the screenplay of Manichitrathazhu.