|Died||1859 (aged 41)|
1895 / 1896 (aged 77)
|Resting place||Pettah Juma Masjid, Thiruvananthapuram|
|Monuments||Shrine at Edappara Maladevar Nada Temple, Kozhencherry|
|Other names||Robin Hood of Kayamkulam|
|Known for||Stealing from rich people and giving to the poor|
|Home town||Evoor, Travancore|
Kayamkulam Kochunni (born 1818) was a famed brigand from Kayamkulam, who lived during the early 19th century. He was active in the Central Travancore area in the present-day Kerala state, India. He is said to have stolen from the rich and given to the poor. Stories on him are often associated with his friends Mulammoottill Adiama and highwayman Ithikkara Pakki from Ithikkara village on the shore of Ithikkara River. Legends on his life are part of the folklore of Kerala.
Kayamkulam Kochunni was born in 1818, near Kottukulangara, Karthikapally Taluk in Travancore (present-day Kerala). He spent his childhood and younger ages in Evoor. After his father's death, the family fell to poverty and Kochunni was employed in a grocery store. Later he began stealing and became an outlaw. He was known for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Kochunni was once caught by the officials after his lover betrayed him, he escaped and killed her along with her assistant. Following that he went into hiding, during which he stole the Shaligram belonging to the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma was the ruler of Travancore and T. Madhava Rao was the Diwan of Travancore at the time. Kochunni was accused of several thefts and two homicides. Both the Palace and police officials failed to find Kochunni, afterwhich a warrior, Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker, was enlisted with the task, who eventually captured him and submitted to the Diwan. Panicker was honoured by the King. Kochunni was remanded for one year, during which he died in the Travancore jail in 1859. His remains was buried at the Pettah Juma Masjid. According to historians, the Central Archives building in present-day Thiruvananthapuram was formerly a prison in the 19th century and is believed to be the first Travancore prison, which is likely where Kochunni was incarcerated.
However, Kochunni's death is disputed. Another record cites he was imprisoned at Central Prison, Poojappura in his 70s. Some researchers states that it was after the success of the 1966 film that the present account of his death (that he died in September 1859, aged 41) was popularized and dominated while the other account diminished, the movie used the former since it was more suitable for the film's commercial success. As per the other record, he escaped and lived another 36 years. He died at the age of 77 from Tuberculosis at the cow barn of Thoppil tharavadu (family of Thoppil Bhasi) in Vallikunnam. He was staying there undercover as a steward and farm-hand of the family. A woman from the house took care of him during his final days, who was the only one aware of his true identity.
During Kochunni's peak time, the Diwan ordered his capture. The then Tahsildar of Karthikapally Taluk managed to capture him with the help of one of Kochunni's confidant. But Kochunni escaped and killed his confidant and the policeman who arrested him. Later, Kunju Panicker was appointed as the Tahsildar. He sought the help of Kochunni's acquaintances Kochu Pillai, Kopparaparambil Mammad, Kaduvachery Vava, Kottappurathu Bappukunju, Pakkolathu Noorammadhu, and Valiyakulangara Kunjumarakkar. Kochunni was invited to Kochu Pillai's wife's home in Vazhappally and sedated him by drugging food. He was arrested, and while transporting him to Thiruvananthapuram through Kayamkulam backwaters, he regained sense and managed to escape by leaping into the water. It is said that Kochunni was in hideout at Pathanamthitta and Punalur after that and to have returned to Kayamkulam during his final period, and shortly after moved to a secure hideout at Thoppil family. While another of the same account states he was successfully transported to Thiruvananthapuram, incarcerated and hanged after 91 days (in 1859 at the age of 41) and his remains to have buried at the Pettah Juma Masjid. However, there is no documentation about his sentencing in jail records or in the Mathilakam Records.
A shrine dedicated to Kochunni is attached to Edappara Maladevar Nada Temple near Kozhencherry that dates back more than one and a half centuries. People there offer candles, incense sticks, ganja, country-made liquor, betel leaves, pan, areca nut, tobacco, etc. to propitiate the deity. There is a small museum at Varanappallil, an ancestral house in Kayamkulam for Kochunni.
In popular culture
- The legends about Kochunni are compiled in a book by Kottarathil Sankunni in his collection of folklores, Aithihyamala.
- Stories on him are part of the comic book series Amar Chitra Katha.
- Kayamkulam Kochunni, a 1966 Malayalam film, was directed by P. A. Thomas. Sathyan portrayed Kochunni.
- Kaayamkulam Kochunniyude Makan, a 1976 Malayalam film, was directed by J. Sasikumar.
- Kayamkulam Kochunni, a Malayalam TV serial was telecast on Surya TV. A teenage Kochunni was played by Manikuttan.
- Kayamkulam Kochunniyude Makan, a Malayalam TV serial was telecast on Surya TV.
- Kayamkulam Kochunni, a 2018 Malayalam film, was directed by Rosshan Andrrews. Nivin Pauly portrayed Kochunni.
- "Wikibooks Malayalam- Aithihyamala- Kayamkulam Kochunni". Wikibooks-Malayalam. 7 June 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
- "Now, a shrine for Kayamkulam Kochunni". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 30 August 2007.
- Where a legendary Robin Hood played his tricks, Deccan Herald, 27 July 2008.
- "കായംകുളം കൊച്ചുണ്ണി ഈ ഖബറിസ്ഥാനിലുറങ്ങുന്നു; കൊടുംകവർച്ചക്കാരന് 'ഖബർ' ഒരുക്കിയതിനു പിന്നിലുമുണ്ടൊരു കഥ". Vanitha (in Malayalam). 13 October 2018. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
- "Once a jail, now a place to store history". Deccan Chronicle. 30 August 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
- Sidhardhan, Sanjith (22 July 2018). "What went behind recreating the legend of Kayamkulam Kochunni". The Times of India. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
- "കായംകുളം കൊച്ചുണ്ണി; അറിയപ്പെടാതെപോയ സത്യങ്ങള്". Janmabhumi (in Malayalam). 5 November 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2018.