Kerala

A massive memorial for the Attingal Revolt of 1721, on its 300th anniversary

Students and alumni of the Government Fine Arts College, Thiruvananthapuram, have come up with a massive public artwork that depicts the valiant battle of the natives against the English East India Company force.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A blood-red river, a charging native army bearing rudimentary spears, and armed East India Company soldiers, outnumbered and fear writ large on their faces. An imposing wall stretching to more than 900 feet, by the National Highway 66 near the Akkulam bridge in Thiruvananthapuram is now filled with these images of the Attingal Revolt of 1721. At a time when Kerala is observing the 300th anniversary of the first known organised rebellion against the English East India Company in the country, not many written records of it survive, nor are there any worthy memorials. However, nine former and current students of the Government Fine Arts College Thiruvananthapuram, have now come up with a massive public artwork, as part of the Arteria initiative of the Tourism Department, painstakingly depicting the valiant battle of the natives against the Company force.

“There are hardly any writings about the Attingal Revolt, nor are there any images to be used for reference. We did a thorough study of all the available material from various archives. We visualised it in this space with a massive central arch, which is 25 feet at its central point, to depict the major events. On the left side, we have shown the native forces organising and advancing, while on the right side, the Company forces are shown as approaching. The Company forces were attacked near the Vamanapuram River, which we have drawn in the entire central portion,” says K. S. Ratheeshkumar, one of the artists.

The scale is so massive that one has to cross the highway to the other side to get an idea of the artwork. It is also hard to catch the entire work in a single photograph. The artists, who had earlier prepared accurate sketches of the entire work, projected it on the wall from the opposite side and painted over it, with the help of a boom lift, says artist Arjun Panayal. The team of artists also include Ajay K. P, Vivek V. C., Thushara Balakrishnan, Remith C., Sajith, Stephen and Akhil Vinod.

The Attingal Revolt of 1721 was an uprising which became an expression of the brewing resentment of the native farmers and traders against the East India Company’s policies, especially for the reduction in the rates of pepper. The Company had also built a fort in Anchuthengu in 1698, despite much opposition. The situation worsened with the arrival of the new Company officer William Gyfford, who on April 15, 1721 set off with a force of more than 130 men to meet the Queen of Attingal, to hand over customary gifts, bypassing the local lords.

The locals, consisting of Kalaripayattu-trained men, launched an attack against the Company force, who were taken by surprise. As per various records, all of the Company men, including Gyfford, were killed in the attack. The Anchuthengu Fort was also under the control of the natives for the next six months, until the Company commandeered troops from elsewhere to oust them.


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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 2:18:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-massive-memorial-for-the-attingal-revolt-on-its-anniversary/article36530534.ece

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