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Ravi Varma

(1745 – 1793) – (Kerala)

Ravi Varma Raja (Aged 48) was born in 1745. He belonged to the Royal House of Zamorins from Calicut and was a Samantan Nair warrior prince who led a rebellion against the Mysore Sultanate for over two decades. His struggle was against the oppressive policies of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan between 1766-1768 and 1774-1791, and later against the British East India Company in 1793.

When Hyder Ali invaded Malabar in 1766, the local Nairs, led by the Zamorin of Calicut, opposed him. They rose up in rebellion against his regime’s oppressive policies. During Hyder’s third invasion in 1767, as the Mysorean army approached the city gates, the Zamorin sent all his relatives to safe haven in Ponnani and immolated himself to avoid surrender and forced conversion to Islam.

Kishen Raja, his nephew and successor, continued the war until 1774 when he fled to Travancore. The abrupt end of the 600-year reign of the Zamorins created a leadership vacuum in the kingdom of Calicut. This resulted in Raja Krishna Varma’s assumption of the throne.

Together with his nephew, Ravi Varma, and a small band of Nair warriors, Krishna Varma swore revenge against Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. The insurgency struggle against the Mysorean army lasted until 1791. Krishna Varma appointed Ravi Varma as the Commander of the armed forces of Calicut. For two decades, he repeatedly thwarted all efforts by Hyder and Tipu to subjugate his kingdom.

Ravi Varma is known for being the first Malabar prince to rise up against the forced conversions and deportation of Nairs to Seringapatam conducted by Tipu in 1788. He was a key figure in the anti-Mysore uprising in southern Malabar. After 1792, he broke his longstanding alliance with the British and waged war against them. He was captured by the British in the following year and died in captivity at Cherpulassery by 1793. His nephew, also named Ravi Varma, was arrested by the British and died in prison the same year.