Disintegration of the Mughal Empire and the European Powers

Nadir Shah
The year 1739 was the one that shook off India. It was the year in which Nadir Shah, the king of Persia attacked India. He indulged in a dance macabre involving mass murder and robbery. He plundered gold, artefacts and other valuables gathered and kept by the Mughal emperors. The things he plundered include the Koh-i-nur diamond and the Peacock Throne built by Emperor Shajahan. "He exacted Delhi 15 cores of rupees in cash, and a vast amount in jewels, apparel, furniture and other valuable articles from the imperial store house. He also took away with him 300 elephants, ten thousand horses and the same number of camels". He ceded the provinces beyond the river Sindhu. But the Mughal Empire crumbled years before the invasion of the Nadir Shah the result of which was that his advance could not be chequed despite the fact that there was a Mughal emperor during the time of attack. With the death of Aurangazeb in 1707, there cropped up disputation and flare-ups. During that period the provincial viceroys, who had been loyal to the emperor, declared independence and began creating principalities. Among these Decan, Oudh and Governors of Bengal were the most important.

India - Mughal period
Nizam-ul-mulk Asaf Jah, the then viceroy of the south India, declared independence and started to administer a vast territory centred at Hyderabad. Taking advantage of the situation, his feudatories declared independence whose result was that the Carnatic Nawab with his capital at Arcot and also having territorial juridction on the provinces Carnataka and Madras declared independence. The disputations that cropped up over these declarations disturbed both the British and the French alike since these two European powers had more trading centres at Carnatic. Like Decan, the provinces of Oudh and Bengal declared their independence. The Mughal emperor had no tangible power or influence over those independent provinces. This was the situation when the invasion of the Nadir Shah took place and it could not be repulsed.

The French, the English and the Dutch were watching avidly the scenario in India. They were afraid whether the trade centres established by them would be lost forever. In the meanwhile the Rajputs, the Sikhs, the Jats and the Marathas flourished. The three prominent Rajputh States, Mewar (Udaypur) Marwar (Jodhpur) Amber (Jaipur), tried to set free themselves from the grip of the Mughal Empire and attempted to forge new alliances and coalitions. The Sikh power rose to its feet empowered itself liberating from the imbroglio emanated from the invasion of Nadir Shah in Punjab. The coming together of Jat forces to become one is another development. With the death of Aurangazeb the Maratha forces once again became powerful. It was the Peshwas, the prime ministers of Sivaji who gave leadership to the advancement of the Marathas towards the goal of Hindu Empire. Of them the first Peshwa Balaji Viswanath's (1713-20) role is commendable. A cursory glance on the political conditions of India underscored the fact that there were indications that India was going to be a battle field once again after the exit of Nadir Shah. The European powers coming to grip with the prevailing environment started to devise new strategies with their modern weapons. The Carnatic wars became the reflections of that environment.

India - Mughal period
The king of Travancore Marthanda Varma was moving ahead undeterred conquering neighbouring countries one after another making use of blatant powers and applications of deception. During this period the territories located at southern Travancore (Venad) came under the attack of Carnatic Nawab. Throughout the 17th centuary the Nayakar rulers of Madura attacked these territories. The power struggle between Queen Meenakshi Ammal, the last Nayaka ruler of Madurai, and Tirumala Nayakar (Naykkar) paved the way for the Carnatic Nawab to interfere in southern Travancore. On her request for help the Carnatic Nawab sent his son-in-law and Dewan Chanda Sahib to Madurai. But he betrayed her and schemed plans to usurp her throne said to be with her brother and the devastated queen committed suicide. Chanda Sahib later seized Madurai and then started attacking Travancore (Venad).

Dutch Governor comes to see Marthanda Varma

Ten years have passed since Marthanda Varma came to power as the ruler of Venadu (Travancore). Since the assumption of power in 1729 he confronted a plethora of problems. The first phase of his rule was spent to emasculate audacity of the recalcitrant royal kin, and to subdue the internal feuds of the belligerent Yogakar of Padmanabha Swami Temple and of the chivalrous chieftains, the Pillamars and Madambis. Almost in the end of 1730 he murdered all of his enemies. He had shown no leniency in killing his kin.

The nerve centre of his rule was the palace of Kalkulam Kalkulam (Padmanabhapuram is now in Tamil Nadu state. But the architecturally wonderful palace of Padmanabhauram is maintained by the state of Kerala. (now Padmanabhapuram). Still he concenterated his attention to renovate the Sree Padmanabha Swami temple and to commence poojas.It is a matter of a conjecture as whether the king made out the strategies followed by the kings of European countries in the name of religion. The innovation and renovation works undertaken at Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple is situated in Trivandrum city. became the new modus operandi of going ahead in wars and finding a place among the hearts of the people through the ways of bhakthi.

His first aim was to annex the small kingdoms of Attingal, Deshinganadu (Quilon), Elayadathu Swarupam (Kottarakkara), Peraka Thaivazhi (Nedumangadu) and so on. Once upon a time these kingdoms including Travancore (Venad) were the part and parcel of Thrippappur Swarupam and later branched off. They were ruled by mutually related rulers. Of them, many had pepper trade with the Dutch who got pepper on a large scale from them. Because of that the advancement of Marthanda Varma made the Dutch irritated. The internal squabbles in Travancore adversely affected the pepper trade. After the termination of internal feuds Marthanda Varma strengthened trade with Europeans, but the Dutch were not given pepper. He took the English East India Company in to confidence. And thus they have been giving away to him costly gifts.

As a result of the internal uprising in Madurai Madura, Kottar and Thengapatnam are in the state of Tamil Nadu. workers, especially weavers, streamed into Kottar Madura, Kottar and Thengapatnam are in the state of Tamil Nadu. which in due course of time developed in to a trade centre. The Dutch had a trade centre at Thengapatnam Madura, Kottar and Thengapatnam are in the state of Tamil Nadu. in the proximity of Kulachal Kulachal. They got the help of Marthanda Varma for its protection. The countries such as Cochin confused by the acts of Marthanda Varma, who was advanced ahead in controlling the independent authority vested with the queens of Attingal principalities, attacking Deshinga Nadu (Quilon), sending troops against the principality of Kayamkulam and annexing Elayadathu Swaroopam and Peraka Thaivazhi. They sought the help of Dutch but got a cold-shouldered response. The Dutch was restrained to act owing to the postulation of the Government of Batavia that no additional expenditure was to be incurred to war or for construction of buildings. The Batavian Government, the eastern capital of Netherlands, was functioned in Indonesia. The Asian provinces, including those in India, continued under their administrative control. The difference of the opinion and the internal problems raging the Batavian Government remained the reasons of the cold response.

World Map
The European powers in India realised the situation arising out of the disintegration of the Mughal Empire and the emergence of new principalities. They were cautious to strengthen their trade relations with those newly emerged states. The English and the French were ahead of it. The Portugese, who came over India as the first European power, confined their operations in Goa, Diu and Damen. The Dutch had, besides Cochin, trade centres in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Masuli Patnam, Surat when the English were trying to open more centres. In such a situation Marthanda Varma moved ahead against their supremacy.

The Dutch Governor in Ceylon, Van Imhoff, was shocked when he examined the state of affairs in Malabar in the end of 1738. He came to know that the Dutch supremacy in Malabar is crumbling and that countries were reluctant to renew trade relations with the Dutch Company. Even a close ally, Vadakkankore, too did not give away pepper to them. Marthanda Varma had imposed a ban on pepper trade in Peraka Thavazhy and Karunagapally. Imhoff then decided to hold discussions with kings to strengthen the Dutch Company. His plan was to persuade friendly a nation or to deploy armed forces against it to make it sign over trade agreements. So with a troop of 300 soldiers Imhoff landed at Cochin where he held detailed discussions with the commander of the Cochin fort Stein Van Gollannesse on the troop movements launched by Marthanda Varma. Imhoff felt that he should talk to the king in person. His plan was to travel by sea-route and to land at Thengapatnm and then travel by land routes. On his way to Thengapatnm, he visited the Dutch fort at Kayamkulam. He also saw so many ships, owned by Travancore, between Kayamkulam and Thengapatnm. From the message he received from the ship, he thought he could meet the king who was on religious rituals at Tengapatnm where he would return.

Padmanabhapuram Palace
There was a large crowd at Tengapatnm to see the soldiers and the Dutch Governor. Thengapatnm was a fabric making centre where there were about 200 looms were functioning. The Dutch Governor received the king in an atmosphere full of royal pomposity. Music was emanating when body guards, singers and trade representatives welcomed the king.

After exchange of gifts, Van Imhoff opened discussions. But the Dutch did not get any assurance from the king as they expected. Some historians pointed out earlier that their talks came to nothing. A section of the historians recorded that, infuriated Marthanda Varma retorted to the suggestions of Van Imhoff that he should not attack the allies of the Dutch and that he should return the authority of the queen of Ilayidathu (Kottarakkara) that he was pondering over launching an attack against Holland. But the modern researchers are of the opinion that the meeting between the king and Dutch Governor ended on a positive note that the trade relations between the two powers could be discussed at Quilon later. Whatever it might be after the visit of the Governor the relation between the Dutch and the king continued to be not in good terms. Things moved to a state where at any moment war would be broken out between the two. The allies, helping the Dutch, desired so.