The Battle of Mallavelly and the role played by the Mallas in the battle
M. Nanjundaswami IPS
The Battle of Mallavelly
The Battle of Mallavelly (also spelled Malvilly, today it is called Malavally) was fought on 27 March 1799 between forces of the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Mysore during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. The British forces, led by Colonel Arthur Wellesley, drove the Mysorean force of Tipu Sultan from a defensive position designed to impede the British force's progress toward Mysore's capital, Seringapatam.
In the back ground you can see the Dodda Holayara Keri. In those days Mallas (Holeyas) lived in the area.
The Fourth Anglo-Mysore War
The Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1798–1799) was a war in South India between the Kingdom of Mysore and the British East India Company under the Earl of Mornington.
Napoleon's landing in Egypt in 1798 was intended to threaten India, and Kingdom of Mysore was a key to that next step as the ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, was a staunch ally of France. Although Horatio Nelson crushed Napoleon's ambitions at the Battle of the Nile, three armies - one from Bombay, and two British (one of which contained a division that was commanded by Colonel Arthur Wellesley, the future 1st Duke of Wellington) nevertheless marched into Mysore in 1799 and besieged the capital, Srirangapatnam, after some engagements with the Tipu's armies. On 8 March, a forward force managed to hold off an advance by Tipu at the Battle of Seedaseer. On 4 May, the armies broke through the defending walls and Tipu Sultan, rushing to the breach, was shot and killed. Tipu was betrayed in this war by his general, Mir Sadiq,who was bought over by the British. Sadiq sent the army to collect wages at the height of the battle thus giving the British a chance to enter through a breach in the castle wall through bombardment..
Today, the spot where Tipu's body was discovered is fenced by the ASI and a plaque erected. The eastern gate under which his body was found was later demolished in 19th century to lay a wide road.
The British took indirect control of Mysore, restoring the Wodeyar dynasty to the Mysore throne (with a British commissioner to advise him on all issues). Tipu's young heir, Fateh Ali, was sent into exile. The Kingdom of Mysore became a princely state of British India, and ceded Coimbatore, North Kanara, and South Kanara to the British. The war, specifically the Battle of Mallevey and the Siege of Seringapatam, are portrayed in the novel Sharpe's Tiger which portrays many of the key protagonists.
The Mallas in the battle
The Malavas or Holeyas who were called Malloyis by Tolemy and also called Mallas by the British in their writings were the major antagonists of the British in the battle. Tipu sultan trusted the Malla soldiers more than any of his other soldiers for their bravery, obedience, and battle worthiness. It was one of the reasons why the battle took place in Mallavelly; the present Malavally in the Mandya district of Karnataka. The Malla soldiers attacking the Colonel Arthur Wellesley’s British army can be seen in the painting shown at the top of the article.
The Holeyas of Malavally have a sour memory of the battle even now. In their tongue you can hear the idiom Mir Sadiq for any one who betrays the master.
One notable military advance championed by Tipu Sultan was the use of mass attacks with iron-cased rocket brigades in the army. The effect of these weapons on the British during the Third and Fourth Mysore Wars was sufficiently impressive to inspire William Congreve to develop the Congreve rockets. This was the last of the four Anglo-Mysore Wars.
The Holeyas used the gun powder and the rocket technology to defend their Mysore Kingdom. The reminiscence of the battle and the rocket technology can be seen even today in the use of gun powder in the temples controlled by the Holeyas of Malavally Taluq. In the Mane Manchi (Mancheshwari) temple in Halasally Village no festivity goes without the sound of the gunpowder and the rockets launched by the Ur Yajaman (the leader of the Village).
The puppet government of the British which took over the reins of the administration of the Mysore kingdom under the instructions of the British commissioner who was posted to Mysore to advise the King on all issues led by the Diwan Poornaiah issued orders to the Mallas not to use rockets, gunpowder, their traditional Bichchugatti (Open sword), Choori (a bent knife), Kathari (Battle Worthy Knife), Beesu Kodli( Axe used in the Battles) and Eradu Nalage Machchu ( Double edged machete).
Apart from these military restrictions the Holeyas suffered at the hands of the British puppet government and lost several religious and traditional privileges enjoyed in the first grade temples of the Mysore Kingdom. To quote here the words of Mr. Edgar Thurston “In 1799 (after the battle of Mallavelly), however, when the the Dewan (prime minister) Purnaiya visited the holy place, (Melukote Chaluva Narayana Temple), the right of the outcastes (Mallas, Holeyas and Madigas) to enter the temple was stopped at the dhvaja stambham, the consecrated monolithic column, from which point alone can they now obtain a view of the god.”
The Holeyas (Mallas) suffered until their importance was realized by the Krisna Raja Wodeyar. But an irreproachable damage was done to the pride and prestige of the Mallas by then. The benevolent Wodeyar to mitigate the sour memories of the Holeyas constructed the Modern English School in Malavally; in the place where the battle took place and predominantly habited by the Mallas, the Holeyas were preferentially employed by his government; in his factories and offices and Malavally got hydro power stations and electricity. The Holeya Keris ( Areas Principally habited by Holeyas) got the first electrified houses and electrical street lights even prior to the Mysore Palace. Thus modern education and modern life style creeped into the houses of Holeyas and they contributed to the first batch of modern medicine doctors, engineers, civil servants, and teachers of Mysore Kingdom. The reasons mentioned here explain enough about the high academic, finanacial, political and social levels achieved by the Holeyas of Malavally in particular and those of Old Mysore region of Karnataka in general.
A few such acts of generosity shown by the King have brought back the confidence among the Holeyas in Malavally. Today they can be seen in all the walks of life. They don’t forget the King. One can see the photographs of both Sri Kisna Raja Wodeyar as well as Tipu Sultan in the Houses of Holeyas on par with their god Malle Madappa (Malai Madeshwara) and their ancestors.
2. Castes and Tribes of Southern India by Edgar Thurston