battl eof cochin banr

Battle of Cochin in English | Indian History | Free PDF Download

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  • Since the fragmentation of the Chera state in the 10th century, the ruler of the city-state of Calicut known as the Zamorin (Samoothiri Raja, ‘Lord of the Sea’) had been generally recognized as overlord by most of the small states on the Malabar Coast of India.
  • Under the Zamorin’s rule, Calicut grew as a commercial city, emerging as the major entrepot of the Kerala pepper trade and the principal emporium for other spices shipped from further east. • In the opening journey of the Portuguese to India in 1498, Vasco da Gama immediately made his way to Calicut and tried to secure a commercial treaty with the Zamorin.
  • The follow-up expedition of Pedro Álvares Cabral arrived better prepared. The old Zamorin having died in the interim, Cabral negotiated a treaty with the new Zamorin, and a Portuguese factory was opened in Calicut. But within a couple of months, quarrels erupted between Portuguese agents and established Arab traders in the city, in which the Zamorin refused to intervene
  • In December, 1500, a riot was raised and the factory in Calicut was overrun and numerous Portuguese massacred.
  • Thus began the war between Portugal and Calicut. The Portuguese quickly found local allies among some of the city-states on the Malabar coast which had long grated under Calicut’s dominance


  • Sentiment among the Cochinese population was largely against the Portuguese. Cochin was not self-sufficient in food, and the people had suffered much from the general disruption of trade along the Malabar coast.
  • Moreover, Cochin had a significant Muslim population and the Portuguese had made no secret of their hostility towards them. Yet these were usually the very traders upon whom the city’s subsistence depended.
  • Zamorin’s influence over the Kerala hinterlands had dried up much of Cochin’s pepper supply. The Trimumpara’s Raja advisors argued against the Portuguese alliance, and urged him to pursue a reconciliation with the Zamorin.
  • They warned him that the continued loyalty of the Cochinese Nairs could not be taken for granted in the event of a war. Nonetheless, the Trimumpara Raja(Cochin) refused to abandon the Portuguese.
  • In March, 1503, as soon as the Portuguese fleet had set sail back to Lisbon, the Zamorin decided to intimidate his enemy into compliance.
  • In April, the Zamorin led a large Calicut army of some 50,000 troops against Cochin. Along the way, he was to be joined by allied Malabari lords, notably the rulers of Edapalli.
  • The Zamorin seized Cochin city and demanded Trimumpara hand over the Portuguese agents, but the king refused.The frustrated Zamorin limited himself to burning the city of Cochin and vowed to return after the weather improved.
  • The Zamorin now moved it once more, to Edapalli.The main Calicut army returned that same August, and once again Trimumpara Raja and the Portuguese agents were holed up in Vypin. The Zamorin reluctantly dismantled the siege and returned to Calicut.


  • Cochin had been saved in the nick of time, but the Zamorin’s armies were sure to return next Spring, as soon as the 5th Armada left. So the Portuguese immediately set about making preparations for Cochin’s defense in the fleet’s absence.
  • In the first order of business, a squadron of Portuguese ships did a tour of the Vembanad lagoon, punishing the local princelets who had given their support to the Zamorin’s siege. Trimumpara Raja of Cochin was forcibly imposed by Portuguese arms as the overlord of the Vembanad lagoon.
  • In the meantime, the Portuguese commanders persuaded Trimumpara Raja to allow them to erect a fortress on the edge of the Cochinese peninsula.Fort Manuel de Cochim, as it was named, was the first Portuguese fort in Asia.
  • As soon at it was finished, the Portuguese fleet commander Afonso de Albuquerque, against all odds, suddenly agreed to a peace treaty with the Zamorin of Calicut.


  • In late January, 1504, Albuquerque’s finally departed Cochin. Intelligence networks in south India were such that both the Zamorin and the Trimumpara knew each other’s every movement news soon arrived of the assembly of a large invasion army in Calicut.
  • Unlike the previous one, this army was better equipped. The Zamorin had received a large contingent of firearms.At least five European large cannons were ready, as well as a couple hundred smaller boat guns.
  • News of the size and arms of the Zamorin’s alerted Cochin. Cochin had lost a battle during the previous year’s siege. Although, in his new position as lord of the Vembanad backwaters, the Trimumpara Raja could, notionally, call on 30,000 troops from around the lagoon.
  • Trimumpara Raja himself began to waver, his advisors urging him to seek out a reconciliation with the Zamorin before it was too late.


  • Trimumpara issued edicts forbidding anybody to leave Cochin on the penalty of death, and ordering his own officials and soldiers to treat an order from Duarte Pacheco as if it were his own.
  • In prelude, Duarte Pacheco launched a few minor raids on some small settlements around Edapalli, which sided with the Zamorin. Their strategic value was minor – it was more a show of force to inculcate confidence in the Cochin population that the Portuguese were itching for a fight.


  • In 1960, he suffered a heart attack. He was treated by top doctors in India, including his friend Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal. • His health started deteriorating and he died on 7 March 1961 at the age of 74, from a cerebral stroke. At that time he was still in office as the Home Minister of India.



  • From intelligence networks, Duarte Pacheco Pereira received the details of the Zamorin’s armed forces and, more importantly, their movements. The Zamorin himself was leading a 57,000 strong army.
  • The army was assembled near Cranganore, and were to march south along the east bank of the Vembanad lagoon, and cross the fording passage by Kumbalam (Cambalão)

. • The ford was said to be a mere 100 m wide, waist-deep, and passable at all tides, so the vast Calicut army would not need to go through the complicated, disorderly process of loading and unloading ferry-boats.

  • Being fully informed of the Zamorin’s plans, Duarte Pacheco Pereira determined that the Portuguese-Cochinese forces needed to block the passage of the army at Kumbalam ford .
  • The bulk of his army having deserted, Trimumpara Raja of Cochin was left with less than 5,000 troops.


  • Duarte Pacheco did not have to wait long before the massive army of the Zamorin of Calicut appeared at Kumbalam ford. The army is said to have moved in and deployed their positions on the banks during the night.
  • The sudden sight, in the early morning light, of the Zamorin’s massive army of 84,000 on the banks, already arrayed, in their magnificent arms with flags flying, and guns in position, was a startling sight to the defenders.
  • The Cochinese boats, with their 500 Nairs, were soon all fleeing back to Cochin. Only the three anchored ships, with 90 or so Portuguese remained to face the Zamorin’s army and fleet.
  • While this was going on, the Calicut fleet began to advance on the Portuguese position. But the very narrowness of the channel chosen by Pacheco had been fortuitous. It did not allow the large Calicut fleet to spread out on a broad front.
  • By midday, the Calicut fleet commanders realized this was not working, and ordered a retreat. It was a humiliating morning for the Zamorin. Chroniclers report that, in this first encounter, the Calicut army and fleet suffered some 1,300 dead, while the Portuguese suffered not a single loss.


  • A week elapsed until the second assault on the Kumblam ford, on April 7.During this interim, the caravel of Diogo Pires that had been under repair was back in shape and joined the squad at Kumbalam ford.
  • The Zamorin had also been busy repairing his ships and raising more troops. This time he had decided on a diversionary tactic. While the main Calicut fleet headed towards Kumbalam, a fleet of around 70 Calicut paraus would head towards Cochin city itself and engage the nau Concepção.
  • The point was to force Duarte Pacheco’s little squad to abandon Kumbalam to rescue Cochin city, thus leaving the Kumbalam ford open for his army to cross him to return. Pacheco raced up towards Cochin.
  • The Calicut admiral called off the attack. The diversionary gambit had failed.


  • On April 9, the Zamorin decided on a new tactic. There would be no more impetuous fleet attacks. The fleet was ordered to hold back until Portuguese ships were sunk or severely damaged by shore cannon.
  • As the guns on the Portuguese ships fell silent, and they just sat there quietly, allowing themselves to be fired upon from land without firing back, the Calicut captains were quick to conclude that the Portuguese must have run out of ammunition. At this point, the Zamorin’s cautious plan broke down.
  • The first wave was broken, but the remainder of the paraus had moved too far forward to pull back now. The very thing the Zamorin had wanted to avoid, was now too late.
  • By the end of the day, the Calicut fleet retired, having lost 22 paraus and some 600 dead. Despite all this action, the Portuguese, again, suffered not a single death, just a few injured. The Zamorin was demoralized after this assault, and is said to have retired into his tents, in a melancholic mood.


  • The Zamorin was disposed to call off the campaign, if not for the pressure of his commanders, who proposed to abandon Kumbalam and try to reach Cochin via two passages further north – Palignar and Palurte.
  • The vanguard of the Zamorin’s army, some 15,000 infantry led by Prince Naubeadarim, arrived at Palignar ford a day or two.The attack began at dawn of May 1.
  • Pacheco easily noticed a number of Calicut cannons being rolled into position, aiming to sink the anchored caravels. He then landed a Portuguese-Cochinese assault force on the beach.
  • In this first encounter, Calicut is said to have lost some 1,000 men and a few ships. The disgusted Zamorin arrived on the scene with the rest of his army soon after.
  • The day’s fight at Palignar and Palurte was probably the heaviest the Portuguese had yet faced. The Portuguese were exhausted and suffered many injured.
  • It seems the Zamorin ordered a couple of more assaults on the Portuguese positions, In these assaults, the Zamorin had less troops – depleted by disease and desertion – and, with less enthusiasm and energy, the attacks were largely desultory.
  • By now, the monsoon season had begun to turn, and the heavier rains and winds were working against the Zamorin’s army rain spread disease and complicated movement, water levels were higher at the passages, sailing the paraus more difficult.
  • Moreover, one by one, the vassals of Calicut were sneaking away from the Zamorin’s camp. It was generally anticipated that a new Portuguese armada would be arriving in August.
  • Finally, on June 24, 1504 the Zamorin of Calicut decided he had enough, and abdicated his throne, passing it on to his nephew and heir, Naubeadaraim and retired to a temple, dedicating himself to religious life.. The army of Calicut retired from the shores of the Vembanad lagoon around July 3.


  • Overall, the Battle of Cochin lasted some five months – from March to July, with most of the assaults concentrated in early April and early May. The Zamorin’s army, which started out at more than 60,000 strong, had suffered heavy casualties: 19,000 had died.
  • There are no reported deaths of any of the Portuguese defenders – although many were wounded. The battle of Cochin transformed the political landscape of Kerala.
  • The Zamorin of Calicut was humiliated. His mighty army and fleet was unable to crush a minuscule garrison of 150 Portuguese allied with Cochin.
  • By the end, the Zamorin lost most of the authority and fear in which he had been previously held throughout the Malabar Coast, while the Trimumpara Raja had gone from weak king to acknowledged king of the Vembanad lagoon.


  • Ultimately it was probably the role of intelligence networks of Cochin that proved the critical difference.
  • The Trimumpara Raja came out the great victor. His stubbornness in maintaining the Portuguese alliance, which everyone had advised him against and which, at the beginning of the year, seemed to seal his doom, had paid off.
  • His debt to the Portuguese was immense, but to none so great as to Duarte Pacheco himself, to whom he had, in the course of the desperate battle, become affectionately attached.
  • In 1505, the first Portuguese vice-roy D. Francisco de Almeida arrived in India with a golden crown sent by King Manuel I of Portugal to reward the steadfastness of the Trimumpara Raja of Cochin in his Portuguese alliance. But the old Trimumpara Raja had abdicated by this time and taken up a life of religious devotion; it was his heir, Candagora, who was crowned in a solemn ceremony by Almeida as ‘King of Cochin’.

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