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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ananthapuram - the
 Forgotten Frontier of Zamorin Country

"The Zamorin's empire at its zenith included the whole of the west coast from Kollam to Kollam, that is from Panthalayini in Kurumbranad Taluk of British Malabar to Quilon in the Travancore State", writes Prof. K.V.Krishna Ayyar in his monumental work, 'The Zamorins of Calicut'.
Panthalayini Kollam was, of course, a well-known medieval port city, blessed as it is with natural mud banks which ensured calm water on the open coast all through the south-west monsoon.  'This is the Pandarani of Portuguese writers, the Flandarina of Friar Odoric, the Fandreeah of Rowlandson's Tahafat-ul-Mujahidin, the Fandaraina of Ibn Batuta', says Logan in his Malabar Manual. 

When news reached the Zamorin at Ponnani that Vasco da Gama's fleet was anchored off the coast of Kappad on 21st May 1498, his first instruction was to ensure that Gama should be escorted to Panthalayini Kollam, 'which was a good port unlike Calicut itself'. He was aware  that the south west monsoon with its devastating power was only ten days away and even the strongest fleet could be wiped off in its fury. (It was, however, a different story with the East India Company's vessel Morning Star which was totally wrecked in the fury of the south-west monsoon in 1793, while anchored at Panthalayini Kollam.)

Perhaps the folklore about the rivalry between Zamorin and Kolatthiri helped to confirm the belief that the boundary between the two principalities was the Korappuzha River.This may have contributed to the lack of any serious investigation of the reach of the Zamorin to the territory between Korappuzha and Panthalayani Kollam.

 How did the Zamorin come to acquire Panthalayini Kollam, about ten miles north of Korappuzha river? 

Krishna Ayyar quotes from Keralolpathi: The territory of Kolatthiri stretched from Korappuzha to Nileswaram. A prince from this family was stationed at Panthalayini Kollam as the southern viceroy. During one of his visits to Calicut, the young viceroy fell in love with a young princess (Thampuratti) of the Zamorin's family. They eloped to Kollam and from there to Chirakkal, the headquarters of Kolatthiri. Enraged at this, the Zamorin advanced against the Kolatthiri kingdom to take revenge against this insult to the family. He occupied Kollam and was marching towards Chirakkal.

 The Kolatthiri, however, sent emissaries offering to make amends for the wrong done by the viceroy. The Zamorin was pacified by offering Kollam and certain rights over the temple at Taliparamba. Thus it was that the Zamorin gained control over this prosperous port town.

Kollam became a favourite destination of the Zamorins till the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Mysore army and finally the British pinned them down to Calicut. The Calicut Granthavari records the demise of a Zamorin from Panthalayini Kollam in 1597 and the coronation of his successor  at the same location. But the records do not mention 'Panthalayini Kollam'. Instead, the name mentioned is 'Ananthapuram'. 

The Granthavari records an offering made by the Zamorin to the Ananthapurath Thevar in 1656 A.D. but no reference to the more famous Pisharikavu Temple which is next door. Perhaps, this Temple had an autonomous existence and the Zamorin confined himself to the Ananthapuram Temple. However, the Granthavari  does record the conferment of the title of Manappurath Arayan on a fisherman named Kodi son of Payyanad Kuttan in 1667. But the conferment of this title took place in the Calicut Palace, although the Manappurath Arayan had jurisdiction in Panthalayani Kollam.

Ananthapuram today is a small hamlet about half a kilometre to the north of Kollam town on the National Highway. It lies on the northern side of the vast Kollam Chira (tank) and more than a kilometre to the east of the port. Even the tank is not associated with the Zamorin - the local legend has it that a prosperous trader named Elela Chingan (some say Chingan Nair) dug the tank, which today is part of the Pisharikavu Temple complex.

The only vestige of the Zamorin in Ananthapuram today is a modest building which used to be the Palace of the Zamorin and a few Brahmin households which formed part of the agraharam. Then there is the small but majestic Maha Vishnu Temple which may have been built by either the Kolatthiris or the Zamorins - midway between the two more famous Ananthapuram Temples in Kasaragod and Trivandrum. 

Anathapuram Maha Vishnu Temple


  1. Nice to know the little known fragments of History

  2. This is a good reminder to that age old popular port, I recall reading that this was also a sufi center (many tombs) and for that reason it is believed that the Kunjalis came from P Kollam. The location also had a community of jews! Some say this was Ptolemy's Tyndis.Some of the tomb stones Pantalayani Kollam dating to to AD782 are Maimun Ibn Ibrahim, Muhammad Ibn Mahin Ali, Uthman Ibn al..all signify a considerable Pardesi Arab presence.

    Pantalayani or Pandarani was once a flourishing port also frequented by Chinese traders. Al-Idrisi and Ibn Battuta mentioned it, the latter commenting on its good harbour.

    It apparently collapsed after the Chinese left in the 13th century. Varthema visiting it called it a miserable place without a harbour!!

  3. Krishna Ayyar sourcing on Keralolpathi is less than history. Pre-Elamkulam days. Maddy's comment is intriguing. Are you sure there are those tombs in Pantalayani?
    Btw, your blog has serious formatting errors. Some parts bold and some parts regular randomly. Can't see where a quote ends etc.

  4. Thank you Maddy for the comments. But the purpose of the entry ( which did not come out clearly) was to highlight the possibility of two centres of power - the trade centre located at Panthalayani-Kollam and the administrative centre at Ananthapuram. This is flagged as an issue for further inquiry.
    The port was very much flourishing even after the Chinese left Calicut, as testified by the Zamorin's directions to escort da Gama's fleet to this port. Its decline must have happened much later.
    In answer to Calicutter's point,at least four Arab tombs still exist, of which one can be deciphered as belonging to Ibn Uthorman (Abdul Rahman?). Inscriptions on the other three are illegible.
    We agree with Calicutter that Keralolpatti is less than history, but modern scholarship does not brush it aside completely, as did the earlier generation.
    Finally, thanks Calicutter for the gentle rebuke on the formatting problems. The bold is not intentional - it comes on its own! We are fighting this prank and hope to overcome this soon -watch this space!

  5. Calicutter - Thanks for the question. CKR is right. The names I picked up come from a reference to the copper plates grant of Kollam, not P Kollam. My mistake entirely...

    CKR - The story of Pantalayani as a port should be interesting - unfortunately the sources are rare...

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. There is a theory that this place got the name Kollam from Travancore Kollam. The legend has it that a group of traders migrated from Travancore Kollam to do business at Panthalayani. They gave this place the nomenclature, in fond memory of their native place of origin, Kollam. It is said that this group of Nairs established the deity at Pisharikavu. There are a group of Nairs at Panthalayani Kollam known as Vyapari Nairs. Are they the ones who migrated from Travancore Kollam? It is said that they came there to do trading (Vyaparam) and hence the name traders (Vyaparis) is prefixed to their caste name. Is there any historical facts in support of this theory?

  8. So much love and affection for this city is much appreciated. Next time I am gonna be there, your blog will be my tour handbook.

  9. Thank you very much, Hemal. At your service, always. Do let us know if you need any help with visiting the heritage sites in Calicut.

  10. Hi,
    I know that i am bit too late to post a comment on this blog. I stumble up on you blog when I was just searching for my home town (Kollam). Very interesting blog. I saw a question posted by Madhusoodhanan on vyapari Nair community who is belived to be the families who migrated from Quilon. I belong to one of those eight families mentioned and would like to know in case you have any you have any information regarding this story that is very much famous in kollam.

  11. Welcome, Unni and you are not late! If you belong to one of the eight families then you may like to preserve an ancient stone inscription which is lying unprotected in the Elayadath Paramba. The inscription belongs to the 13th-14th Century and speaks of some land having been given to a lady by one Eacharan. (Incidentally, the Eacharan myth in Kollam needs to be investigated further - apart from a house called Eacharatt (or is it Eachanatt?)there is the story of one Eacharan who was fabulously rich from trading and had converted all his savings into gold in the shape of a stone grinder (ammi, in Malayalam) but forgot where he had hidden the treasure. The Kollam chira is also attributed to this Eacharan.
    CHF has discussed with the Archeology department who are ready to either preserve the stone monuments in situ or, if the owners want it to be rid of, then just outside the gate in a stupa or removed to the museum. Maybe you could help preserve this very valuable evidence of the ancestors of Ravari nairs.

  12. We’re a group of volunteers and starting a brand new initiative in a community. Your weblog supplied us valuable information to work on. You have done a marvellous work!

  13. I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful ….

  14. Hi,
    This article is really very interesting. I liked this and provided me a great piece of information thanks for that,
    it will be great that if you could say that Tofut ul Mujahideen was written by Zainuddin Al Ma'bari (1531-1583)(Popularly known as Sheik Zainuddin Maqdhoom), who was from Ponnani(i am not sure about the place but read some were that he was from Ponnani)written in 16th century.and M.J.Rowlandson was the translator (in 1833)of this most remarkable and one of the oldest historical work on Kerala.
    It was widely used in Europe in as it mentions about the Portuguese invasion in Kerala.

  15. Thank you, Toufeek for the valid comments. You will notice that we have only quoted Logan in that reference to Tuhfat and the lack of clarity, if any, was Logan's! Anyhow, as you are researching Jewish presence in ancient and medieval Kerala, you might be interested in pursuing Maddy's comments above on the Jewish presence in P.Kollam. Thanks once again for visiting!!

  16. Thanks for the details. I have searching the roots and details as unni said n his post for my self because I belongs to one of the families. Any one from the eight families settled in kollam ie.Elayadath,Kezhayil,Vazhayil,Eacharatil,Punathil,Nanoth,Eroth and mundackal can contact me with inputs to clear the intriguing question about our past and to get our family roots. my id is

  17. I have also learned that the eight families settled in kollam after a shipwreck and not from travancore kollam. AS we also called nairs like all others. I feel that Nair is a post or a designation given by the rulers for whoever came from outsidekerala because profession wise subcaste is more in nair groups. May be I am wrong.....Any comments.Krish

  18. Sir, I have seen the inscription on the stone lying in the elayidath paramba in kollam. I have taken some photograph and I like to preserve it in the same place and also I have got the permission for the same. It can be installed near the small temple in the same place.
    Please let me know what method we can use to preserve the stone for the future.

  19. The post is very interesting for me as I am presently live in Quilandy (for some time).

    I also head the story. I would be happy if I could do something to try to link it.

    @Krish, there are two (small)pillars near the north entrance of the temple. Are you mentioning that?

  20. Dear Saravanan......Thank for the mail I am also at Calicut and you can contact me at 9633768656

  21. Thank you for your very interesting posts. I have read that a Prof. Karashima found sherds of Chinese Yuan dynasty (circa 1350) blue and white porcelain at Panthalayani-Kollam in the 1980s. Has anyone else found any? Kind Regards, Steve Gaskin, President, Asian Art Society of New England (

  22. Many thanks, Steve, for visiting our blog. Yes, indeed, Prof. Noburu Karashima (who passed away a year ago) did scout around the coast of Panthalayani - Kollom for evidence of Chinese presence. He and his team collected a rich hoard of Chinese pottery from the P-K coast (very close to a place believed to be the camping ground of Zheng He's fleet, where there is a Chinese mosque still standing as probable evidence of the Chinese camping there). Please mail me if you require further details on Karashima's findings :

  23. I am from the Eecharaat(Eechanat) family. I have heard from my grandparents and others the story of the golden ammi. The version I have heard says that when the tharavaad has only one surviving female member and she is in such a poor condition that she has to use one end of her sari( mundu) to wipe her child's head after bath, then the golden ammi will appear before her.
    The Chira (pond) too has many stories woven around it.

  24. Thanks, Ram Nair for the interesting factoid about when the gold ammi will appear. My enquiries reveal that it is unlikely to appear in the near future, as the family in question ( at least the branch with which I am familiar) is blessed with a number of female members! Could you please elaborate on the stories concerning the Chira? Incidentally, the Chira is being renovated and beautified. The work has started.


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