Paliath Achan

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Paliath Achan or Paliyath Achan is the name given to the oldest male member of the Paliam family, a Nair Menon chieftain family from the Indian state of Kerala that figured prominently in the history of the region.


The Paliath Achans were hereditary prime ministers to the Rajah of Kingdom of Cochin (Kerala) from 1632 to 1809[1] and second only to the Rajah in power and wealth in the central Cochin area during that period.

Originally Nairs of the yeoman class who with the traditional occupation of bearing Palanquins of the Brahmin nobility, they rose through the ranks to be awarded the title of Menon and then that of Achan. [2]Their rise was so prominent that the common saying in Cochin became "kochiyil pathi paliyam" meant that half of Cochin belonged to the Paliam family. Paliath Achan was also a considerable land owner, one of the largest in the state.[3] Historical records show that the Paliath Achans became major players in Kerala history with the arrival of the Portuguese. In recognition of the Paliath Achan's services, the Kochi Rajah granted him Vypin Island. At about the period, the land of Villarvattom came into his possession as well.[4] In 1681, the Kochi Raja conferred upon him, the title of Sarvadhyakshan (literally translated, "Supreme presider over all affairs"), and in 1731, the Paliath Komi Achan was appointed to the post of Prime Minister of the Kochi Raja. Around 1775, the position of the Paliath Achan was recorded by the Dutch as follows:

Paliath Achans have also figured in many battles against colonial rulers such as the British, and staged numerous rebellions for the benefit of the downtrodden in society.

The family home Palace (tharavadu) is located in the village of Chendamangalam, in Ernakulam district. After the passing of the Land Reform Ordinance, the family lost a lot of land that it owned. The ordinance set a ceiling on how much land an individual or family could own. As a result, the family wealth and property was partitioned in 1952. The number of members at the time of partition was 213 and the deed was registered in 1956. In addition to being the largest Joint-Hindu family, the deed was the biggest partition deed of Travancore-Cochin/Kerala.

As of 1999, there were 443 members. The family follows the marumakkathayam, or matrilineal system. Female members of the family are wed primarily to Namboothiri Brahmins, members of the Cochin Royal family, members of other Royal Families of erstwhile Travancore and Malabar areas, and members of other prominent Nair tharavads.

Palakkad royal family head was also known by the title Achan.


The origins of the Paliam family are not very clear. One view is that the Paliam family is descended from the Villarvattom Royal family in Chendamangalam. The family traces its lineage to Kunjikaavu and Kochukutty, two sisters from the town of Elamkunnapuzha who were married into Villarvattom. All members of the Paliam family fall into one of two lineages. The other view is that the Paliam family is linked to the Cochin royal family or Perumpadappu Swarupam. It is thought that when the last Perumal departed, the Chera kingdom of Mahodayapuram split with one segment leaving for Vanneri near Chowghat. It is thought that the powerful feudal chieftain, Paliath Achan also left with this segment. Until recently, a "Paliam Parambu" (Paliam Grounds) was found there. Quite possibly, Paliath Achan moved with the Perumpadappu Swarupam to Thiruvanchikulam due to the Zamorin's invasion. The flood of 1341 brought the Perumpaddappu Swaroopam to Kochi, and Paliath Achan may have moved with them as well.

The Tharavadu Palace[edit]

The Paliam Naalukettu

The main family tharavadu (Naalukettu) is approximately 450 years old. The Kovilakam (palace) houses a large number of artefacts including ancient documents, religious sacraments, swords, rifles, and gifts brought by foreign dignitaries. Several other buildings, like the Paliath Achan's Kovilakam (which was built by the Dutch, and also known as the Dutch palace) exist adjacent to the tharavadu. The buildings in the area date anywhere from 60 to 300 years.Today very few paliath family members are there in thrissur. Now grandchildren of paliath achan are settled in Hyderabad.

Significance in Kerala history[edit]

The Zamorin invaded Cochin in 1757. Due to the diplomatic efforts of the Paliath Achan, the Kingdom of Cochin was saved. During Hyder Ali's conquest of the south of India in 1776, the Paliath Achan was able to effect a treaty between Hyder Ali and the Cochin Raja.

In 1808, the British were trying to create divisions between the Raja of Kochi's men. They had succeeded in getting the support of Nadavarambu Kunhikrishna Menon. Paliath Govindan Achan was provoked by this.[5] He took with him 600 Nair soldiers and attacked the headquarters of Colonel Macaulay, the British Resident, who was forced to flee.[6][7] Following the attack, Paliath Achan and his men broke open the jails and set free prisoners.[8] The Paliath Achan later joined the Travancore alliance of Velu Thampi Dalawa.[9] During 1809 and 1810, Paliath Achan, allied with Velu Thampi Dalawa, fought the British on Travancore soil.[10] However, the British Divide and Rule policy succeeded in isolating him from the rest of the alliance. His family threatened by the British, and due to his defeat, the Paliath Achan was forced to surrender, and defected to the British side.[11][12][13] After the rebellion, the British deported him to Madras, where he was kept prisoner at Fort St. George for 12 years.[14] He was then taken to Bombay and remained a prisoner there for 13 years, finally passing away at Benares 1832. Paliath Govindan Achan was the last Paliath Achan to occupy the position of Prime Minister in the Kingdom of Cochin.

Another notable Paliath Achan includes Komi Achan I. Komi Achan I resisted the attempts by the Portuguese to impose their power on the Cochin Family. He allied himself with the Dutch, travelling to Colombo to sign a treaty with them. He also supported the Dutch against the Portuguese. In recognition of his efforts, the Dutch built him a palace (the Kovilakam) at Chendamangalam.[15][16]

Between 1730 and 1740 the status of the Cochin kingdom dwindled due consolidation of power in Travancore under Marthanda Varma combined with the waning influence of the Dutch and a large-scale invasion by the Zamorin from the north. Paliath Komi Achan was able to effect a treaty between the Cochin and Travancore Kingdoms.[17][18][19][20] This treaty facilitated the defeat of the Zamorin.[21]

Chendamangalam, under the Paliath Achans, was a model of religious tolerance. It is the only place in the world where places of worship from the four major religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism) exist within a one kilometre radius. Paliath Komi Achan donated land in the Vallarpaddom area to the Christians there, after their church was destroyed in the flood of 1676. He also provided a sanctuary lamp that has been lit daily for over 300 years. The oil for the lamp was provided by the Paliam family until 1947 after which the practice was stopped due to the aftereffects of the Land Reform Ordinance. The practice was re-established in 1994, when senior members of the Paliam family visited the church to rekindle the 300-year-old lamp.[citation needed] The Chendamangalam Jews sing "The Song of Paliathachan" in which they mention the mention "Nayar Noblemen" who bestowed upon the Jews "gifts and books to all those who come, and titles to foreigners".[22][23] Though much less known, a few members of the family like Kunjunni Achan even played a role in kindling the spirit of freedom during the pre-independence era. K. A Damodara Menon,[24] former minister, recollects the reformative lectures of K. Kumar and Paliyath Kunjunni Achan[25] that used to be organised in Trivandrum in those days.

The Paliath Achans (and other members of the Paliam family) were also literary patrons. The Vishnu Vilasa Mahakavya, written at the close of the 18th century by the poet Ramapanivada says in its closing verse that the poem was written under the patronage of Ramakubera, Valiyachan of Paliam:

ശ്രീമദ്‌ രമകുബേര നാമ സുമതി ശ്രീപാലിയ ശ്രീപതി-
പ്രീതി സ്ഫിത തമോദ്യമേന കലിതം കേനാപി നാനാരസം
കാവ്യം വിഷ്ണുവിലസനമ കമലാജാന: കഥാവര്‍ണ്ണനം
പൂര്‍ണ്ണം ഹന്ത ജയന്തമംഗല ഹാവിഷ്ണോ: ക്യവനുഗ്രഹാല്‍
Sreemad ramakubEra naama sumathi SreepAliya Sreepathi-
preethi sfitha thamOdyamEna kalitham kEnApi nAnArasam
kAvyam vishnuvilasanama kamalAjAnaha kathhAvarNNanam
poorNNam hantha jayanthamamgala mahAvishnO: kyavanugrahAl

In the Vishnuvilasam Hamsappattu, a Malayalam poem about the life of Vishnu (as spoken by a swan), the poet (Kunjan Nambiar) makes a reference to a Paliath Achan named Kuberan:[26]

ശ്രീ കുബേരാഖ്യഗനം പാലിയാധീഷരന്റേ
ശ്രീ കുലാഡംബരം ചെമ്മേ വരൊത്തൊന്ന
ശ്രീ കാന്തദേവന്‍ ജയന്താലയേശ്വരന്‍
ശ്രീ കണ്ഠ്സേവിതന്‍ ശ്രീന്യസിംഹാക്യതി
ശ്രേയസ്സു നല്‍കും നിനക്കിന്നു ഹംസമേ!
SrI kubErAkhyaganam pAliyAdhIsharantE
SrI kulADambaram chemmE varoththonna
SrI kAnthadEvan jayanthAlayEaSvaran
SrEyassu nalkum ninakkinnu hamsamE!

Kochu Sankaran Muthat of Vatakketam in Triprayar was a student of Manorama Thampuratti of Calicut. He lived at Paliam, teaching students there. He wrote a commentary named Prasika, on the eleventh book of the Bhagavad Gita, based on earlier commentaries of his student, Paliath Achan:

നിജശിഷ്യ പാലിയേശ-
പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥനയാ ശങ്കരഖ്യ ശിവവിപ്ര:
പ്രാക്തനവിവ്യതീ: സമുച്ചിനോമ്യദ്യ
nijaSishya pAliyESa-
prArththhanayA Sankarakhya Sivavipraha
prAkthanavivyathIha samuchchinOmyadya

The Paliam family had a rich collection of manuscripts in Sanskrit and Malayalam. At the time of family partition, this collection was donated to the Kerala University Manuscript Library and the Hill Palace Museum at Thriponithara.[27]Tripunithura

Paliam Satyagraham[edit]

Paliam satyagraha was a movement in 1947–48 to allow entry for Hindus of lower castes in the roads surrounding the Paliam family home in Chendamangalam and the temples. The success of this and similar movements led to the temples in Kochi being opened for all Hindus in 1948.[28]


Famous South Indian Film Singer Paliyath Jayachandran ( "melody thampuran" ) belongs to this family.

List of Paliath Achans[edit]

Paliath Valiyachans of Paliam (1565 to present date)
Paliath Achan From To
Itty Kumaran Achan 1565 1585
Iravi Komi Achan 1585 1621
Ittinnan Kumaran Achan 1621 1654
Komi Achan I 1654 1684
Ittini Kumaran Achan 1684 1731
Kunjittinnan Achan 1731 1750
Komi Achan II 1750 1779
Govindan Valiyachan 1779 1825
Raman Valiyachan 1825 1846
Krishnan Valiyachan 1846 1869
Govindan Valiyachan 1869 1898
Raman Valiyachan 1898 1908
Krishnan Valiyachan 1908 1911
Govindan Valiyachan 1911 1915
Raman Valiyachan (Kunjan Kuttan Achan) 1915 1940
Krishnan Valiyachan 1940 1942
Govindan Valiyachan (Kunjunni Achan) 1942 1973
Raman Valiyachan (Kochunni Kuttan Achan) 1973 1980
Krishnan Valiyachan (Unnikrishnan Achan) 1980 1986
Govindan Valiyachan (Pankajakshan Achan) 1986 1994
Krishnan Valiyachan (Appukuttan Achan) 1994 1997
Govindan Valiyachan (Kochupappu Achan) 1997 1998
Raman Valiyachan (Kochaniyan Achan) 1998 2003
Vikraman Valiyachan (Vikraman Achan) 2003

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Synagogue set to showcase history". The Hindu. 1 March 2005. Retrieved 6 July 2006. 
  2. ^ Nāyanmāruṭe pūrvvacaritram by Kāṇippayyur Śaṅkaran Nampūtirippāṭṭ Kunnamkulam, 1962.
  3. ^ Template:Ttcite book
  4. ^ Milford, Humphrey (1941). Journal of Indian History. Kerala: Oxford University Press. p. 129. 
  5. ^ Daniel, D (1985). Struggle for Responsible Government in Travancore, 1938–1947. Kerala: Raj Publications. p. 17. 
  6. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India, Provincial Series, Madras II. 1908. p. 442. 
  7. ^ Menon, P. K. K. (1970). The History of Freedom Movement in Kerala. Kerala: Government of Kerala. p. 27. 
  8. ^ Chatterjee, Ramanada (1907). The Modern Review. India: Prabasi Press Limited. p. 264. 
  9. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara (1962). Kerala District Gazetteers. Kerala: Superintendent of Government Presses. p. 88. 
  10. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara (1967). A Survey of Kerala History. Kerala: Sahithya Pravarthaka Company. pp. 322, 323, 324, 325. 
  11. ^ Kareem, C.K.K. (1971). Kerala and Her History: An Introduction. Kerala: St. Joseph's Press. p. 22. 
  12. ^ Daniel, D (1985). Struggle for Responsible Government in Travancore, 1938–1947. Kerala: Raj Publications. p. 17. 
  13. ^ Menon, P. K. K. (1970). The History of Freedom Movement in Kerala. Kerala: Government of Kerala. p. 32. 
  14. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara (1967). A Survey of Kerala History. Kerala: Sahithya Pravarthaka Company. pp. 322, 323, 324, 325. 
  15. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara. Cultural History of Kerala. India: East-West Publications. p. 121. 
  16. ^ Chopra, P. N. History of South India. India: S. Chand & Company. p. 24. 
  17. ^ A Translation of Record, Grandhavari, In the State Archives. Kerala: State Archives Department, Government of Kerala. 1973. p. 23. 
  18. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara (1967). A Survey of Kerala History. Kerala: Sahithya Pravarthaka Company. pp. 280, 293. 
  19. ^ Raja, P. K. S. (1966). Mediaeval Kerala. Kerala: Navakerala Co-op publishers. p. 201. 
  20. ^ Sobhanan, B. (1978). Rama Varma of Travancore: His role in the consolidation of British Power in South India. Kerala: Sandhya Publications. p. 17. 
  21. ^ A Primer in Cochin Royal Family History,
  22. ^ The Chennamangalam Synagogue: Jewish Community in a Village in Kerala,
  23. ^ Slapak, Orpa (1995). The Jews of India: A story of Three Communities. Bene-Israel: UPNE. p. 28. ISBN 965-278-179-7. 
  24. ^ Thirinju Nokumbol - Autobiography of K. A. Damodara Menon - 1981
  25. ^ History of Indian Literature: 1911-1956, struggle for freedom : triumph and ... By Sisir Kumar Das - Page 305...
  26. ^ Sharma, V. S. Makers of Indian Literature: Kunchan Nampyar. India: Sahitya Akademi. p. 9. 
  27. ^ Hill Palace Museum, Thripunithara, Kerala
  28. ^ Gopalan, Avillath Kutteri (1959). Kerala, Past and Present. Kerala: Lawrence and Wishart. p. 25. 
  • P. J. Cherian : Perspectives on Kerala history – The Second Millennium
  • Akhilavijnanakosam Malayalam encyclopaedia, Vol.4, D.C. Books (1990)
  • Prof. M. Radhadevi : Paliam Family, Saga of Paliam Family
  • Dr. K. Kunjunni Raja : Literary Patronage By Paliam Family, Saga of Paliam Family

External links[edit]