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Marakkars who fought against Portuguese invaders

Topics Covered: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

Marakkars who fought against Portuguese invaders

What to study?

For Prelims: About Marakkars clan and their fight against Portuguese.

For Mains: Significance of their fight.

Context: Recently, a petition was filed in the Kerala High Court against the film- Marakkar: The Lion of the Arabian Sea, alleging ‘distortion of history’ and demanding a stay on the release. It is said to be the most expensive Malayalam film ever made.

The film is based on Kunjali Marakkar IV, who earned his reputation with his fierce onslaught on Portuguese ships, the favours he gave those who fought against the Portuguese, and his efforts to strengthen the fort at Kottakkal.

Why was a petition filed against the film in the High Court?

The petitioner argued that the the film’s version of events could mislead students and researchers.

However, the High Court declined to impose a stay and asked the film certification Board if it had handed over the complaint to the Centre. The Board conveyed that the subject deals with art and that it cannot interfere in the freedom of expression of the filmmakers.

What is the film about?

It is a war film depicting the heroics of the Marakkar clan, whose leaders were naval chieftains of the Zamorin of Calicut during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Zamorin, Samoothiri in Malayalam, was the title given to rulers of the Calicut kingdom on the Malabar coast.

The Marakkars fought against Portuguese invaders for nearly a century.

Who were the Marakkars?

  1. By some accounts, they were of Arab origin and had migrated from Tunisia to Panthalayani near Koyilandy in present-day Kozhikode.
  2. They later moved to the region around present-day Kottakkal and Thikkodi near Payyoli.
  3. By other accounts, the Marakkars were descendants of affluent businessman from the Cochin kingdom who migrated later to Calicut.
  4. The Marakkars were mostly Muslims, but in some parts, they have been found to be Hindus as well.

What was the war against the Portuguese about?

  1. Faced with invading Portuguese ships, the Zamorin reached out to the Marakkars to defend the coast.
  2. They were led in succession by four Marakkars, chief admirals who were appointed by the Zamorin with the title of Kunjali.
  3. Their strategy was similar to guerrilla warfare. The Portuguese had massive ships which could not make easy manoeuvres in the sea.
  4. The Marakkars used small ships which could easily surround the Portuguese ships, enabling the fighters to attack at will.

Their role in developing modern naval fleet:

In the span of 100 years, the exploits of the Marakkars are said to have improved the naval fleet of Calicut as well as other kingdoms, stretching from Saurashtra to Ceylon along the Indian coast. War technologies and ammunition greatly improved as well.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Such small groups associated with fights against the European powers.
  2. How and when various European powers travelled to India?
  3. How small states were gradually acquired by European Powers?

Mains Link:

Who were Marakkars? What was their role in the fight against Portuguese? Discuss.

Sources: Indian Express.