The first battle that was fought against the power of the European Domination in Asia was the Battle of Colachel. The battle was fought on 10th August 1741 (The date of the battle is July 31, 1741, by the Julian calendar and August 10, 1741, according to the Gregorian calendar which is in use today. The granite pillar at Colachel memorializing the battle gives the former date) between the military of Kingdom of Travancore and the Dutch East India Company [or Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC)]. Also in Indian history, this is the first and only battle in which an Indian Kingdom defeated a European Naval Army. Also it is said to be the only Asian victory over Europeans in a naval encounter.
Events Regarding to the Battle
The Maharaja Marthanda Varma expanded the Kingdom of Travancore by annexing the neighbouring small kingdoms like Kayamkulam, Kollam, Attingal in a series of war. The Dutch had factories for exporting pepper in these areas which was collectively known as Dutch Malabar. Due to the expansion of the Travancore Kingdom, the pepper export by the Dutch East India Company dropped by very less.
The trade of British was already taking place with the treaty with Maharaja Marthanda Varma. The Dutch feared that the British would gain rights for pepper trade also in the Malabar area with the annexing of small kingdoms with the Kingdom of Travancore and thus ending the monopoly of the Dutch.
The seeds for the War
Hence the Governor – General of Dutch East India Company, Van Imhoff (Gustaaf Willem Van Imhoff), wrote to Maharaja Marthanda Varma to stop the aggression against Kayamkulam. But Maharaja Marthanda Varma, ordered him not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Travancore.
To negotiate with the Maharaja Marthanda Varma, Van Imhoff arranged a meeting with him. Van Imhoff demanded Maharaja to restore the Kingdom of Kayamkulam to its former ruler. He also threatened the Maharaja to invade and Capture the Kingdom of Travancore in battle. But Maharaja Marthanda Varma rejected the demanding and told back that he would overcome the forces of the Dutch and also will invade the Dutch country in Europe. This meeting finally led to the Battle of Colachel.
In opposition to the demands of Maharaja Marthanda Varma, in 1741, the Dutch made a Princess of the Elayadathu Swarupam as the ruler of Kottarakara. So the Maharaja of Travancore started a battle on Kottarakara. The Travancore army defeated the combined Kottarakara-Dutch armies and annexed Kottarakara into Travancore, forcing the Dutch to retreat to Cochin. Also Maharaja Marthanda Varma captured and destroyed all the forts and factories of the Dutch.
The Battle of Colachel
As the Dutch met heavy losses in the war, a force of Dutch Marines under the leadership of Captain Eustachius De Lannoy landed at Colachel in the intention of capturing Padmanabhapuram, the Capital of the Kingdom of Travancore. They captured up to the Padmanabhapuram territory and laid siege to the fort. Maharaja Marthanda Varma came with his army timely and prevented the capture of the fort and the Dutch took defensive position in Colachel (Kulachel). On 10th August, 1741 both the armies fought at Colachel. Maharaja Marthanda Varma won the battle of Colachel. He captured and took prisoners large number of Dutch soldiers along with 24 officers including Eustachius De Lannoy and his second in command, Donadi.
Near the coast of Colachel stand the Pillar of victory which gives details about the war. This Pillar is made of Granite and is 15 feet in height. On the top of the pillar, the Kingdom of Travancore symbol of Valampuri Shank is engraved. Also the following inscription is found: “In remembrance of all the brave men of Travancore Army who laid down their lives in defeating the superior Dutch forces during the Battle of Colachel in July 1741”.
The capture of Eustachius De Lannoy and his second in command Donadi, were very beneficial to the kingdom of Travancore. The Maharaja asked the prisoners to work for the Travancore Army. Also the prisoners were treated with kindness and hence they accepted to take service under the Maharaja. Eustachius De Lannoy modernized the Travancore army and trained with European style of military drill and tactics. He worked with sincerity and hence was given higher rank as “Commander in Chief” of the Travancore military, locally called as “Valia Kapitaan”. He was also given the Udhayagiri Fort, to reside and to train the soldier, manufacture cannon’s and explosives.
With the efforts of Eustachius De Lannoy, The Kingdom of Travancore won many battles and conquered more than half of the modern Kerala.
In 1753, the Dutch signed the Treaty of Mavelikkara, agreeing not to interfere in the expansion of the Kingdom of Travancore and also in turn sell him arms and ammunition. This is the beginning of the Ending of Dutch monopoly in India.
Also after the battle, the pepper trade was takeover by the Travancore state.