Forensic Fashion
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>Costume Studies
>>1921 Moplah rebel
Culture: Moplah/Mappilla, Coorg
Setting: Moplah rebellions, Malabar Coast 1854-1921

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Bostom ed. 2008 p659 n2
"Moplahs are Muslims of Arabic and Hindu descent from the Malabar district of South India.  The names Moplah or Mapillai mean 'bridegroom' or 'son-in-law,' respectively, referring to the intermarriage of Arab traders and Hindu women."

* Elgood 1995 p185 
"Because of the Mappillas' propensity to attack non-Muslims, the use of the knife [ayudha or kodunga katti] was proscribed under Act XXIV in 1854. Conolly, the District Magistrate who enforced the Act by collecting these weapons, was hacked to death on his own verandah. In 1884, following another serious outbreak of violence near Malappuram, the government confiscated all arms, seizing 17,295 weapons of which 7,503 were firearms."

* Burton 1851 p163-164
"The Moplahs now being deprived of their old occupation [piracy], have addicted themselves, in some places, to gang-robbery and smuggling.  The principal contraband articles are tobacco and salt, both of which are government monopolies.  To strengthen their bands, they will associate to themselves small bodies of Nairs and villains of the lowest Hindoo castes, who shrink from no species of cruelty and outrage.  But, generally speaking, especially in the quieter districts of Malabar, the Moplahs and the Nairs are on terms of deadly enmity.  The idolaters, who have been taught to hate the Faithful by many a deed of blood, would always act willingly against them, provided that our rulers would ensure subsistence to their families, according to the ancient custom of the country.  Both are equally bigoted, violent, and fond of the knife.  In few parts of the world there are more deadly feuds than in this province; and whenever a Nair is killed by a Moplah, or vice versa, the relations will steep a cloth in the dead man's blood, and vow never to lose sight of it till they have taken revenge upon the murderer."

* Bostom ed. 2008 p658 (selection from JJ Banninga 1923, "The Moplah rebellion of 1921," Moslem World v13 p379-387)
"During the past one hundred years not fewer than 51 outbreaks of Moplah fanaticism have been recorded.  [...]
...The nature of these outbreaks has been well summed up in a decision of the three judges that sat on the Special Tribunal, Calicut, to try some of the principal offenders.  They say in part,
...For the last hundred years at least, the Moplah community has been disgraced from time to time by murderous charges.  In the past these have been due to fanaticism.  THey generally blazed out in the Ernad Taluk (country), where the Moplahs were ... their untutored minds were particularly susceptible to the inflammatory teachings that Paradise was to be gained by killing Kafirs.  They would go out on the warpath, killing Hindus, no matter whom ... no grievance seems to have been necessary to start them on their wild careers. ... Their intention was, absurd as it may seem, to subvert British Government, and substitute a Khalifate Government by force of arms.
​    ...In the rebellion of 1921 it was certainly not agrarian troubles that started them on their mad career.  The evidence now clearly shows that the Khalifate and Non-Cooperation agitation must be given credit for having inflamed the minds of the Moplahs with a vain hope of swaraj (self-rule) and eternal bliss. ...
​    ... [T]he Hindu population fell easy prey to their (i.e., the Moplah) rage and the atrocities committed defy description. ... The tale of atrocities committed makes sad reading indeed."

* James 1997 p487
"One outstanding feature of the 1920-22 agitation had been Congress's ability to exploit localised discontent and amalgamate it with the broader campaign for home rule.  In the traditionally volatile and unruly Malabar region, Congress activists had won converts through taking on board the long-standing grievances of the Muslim Mapillas against the largely Hindu landlord class. ...
​    "Mapilla rage was directed in more or less equal parts against an infidel government, its local representatives -- mainly policemen -- and Hindu landlords.  It simmered during the first half of 1921 and boiled over in August, when a crowd armed with spears and swords expelled a party of policemen from Pukkotur.  One act of defiance spawned others and, within a fortnight, the government's control over much of Malabar had snapped.  The rebels had few firearms, and encounters with the growing number of British and Indian troops summoned to the district were one-sided.  At the very end of October, the Mapillas changed their tactics to guerilla warfare, which prompted a staff officer to liken them ot Sinn Fein in Ireland.  The answer was to call in specialists in jungle warfare -- Gurkhas and Chins and Kachins from the Indo-Burmese borderland. ...
​    "... Inevitably in such a campaign there were charges and counter-charges of atrocity ...."


* Elgood 1995 p

* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p75 = Royal Armouries Museum > Oriental Gallery
"South Indian muskets used forward-acting snap-matchlock mechanisms, probably introduced by the Spanish in the 16th century."


* Coorg Jewelry online > Men's Costume
"Kupya is a collarless, short-sleeved coat (wrap-around) that reaches below the knees and worn by Kodava men (Coorg men) on formal occasions.  It is usually made of black cotton or wool and is secured at the waist by a chele, a red gold-embroidered silk sash.
    "The white coloured kupya is ritually superior to the black one. Only a man who is in a position of honour wears a white kupya. During the marriage ceremony the bridegroom always wears a white kupya, with a chele (sash) and a brocaded white turban (pani mande tuni). Unlike the black one, this is long sleeved.
    "In the olden days, a short kupya, reaching above the knees, and a vastra, a short head kerchief was worn. The men's daily headgear consisted of a short head kerchief of a checked pattern."

* Burton 1851 p161
"... [T]heir delicate hands and feet, and their long bushy beards, show that not a little Hindoo blood flows in their veins.  They shave the hair, trim the mustachios according to the Sunnat, and, instead of a turban, wear a small silk or cloth cap of peculiar shape upon their heads.  The chest and shoulders are left exposed, and a white dyed piece of linen, resembling in cut and colour the 'lung' or bathing cloth of Central Asia, is tied round the loins.  The garment, if we may so call it, worn by the males, does not reach below the calves of the legs ..."

* Egerton 1968 p76
"The Coorgs are active in athletic sports, capital mountaineers.  They wear a blue surtout, reaching down half-way between the knee and ankle, and midway on the arms, which is folded to the left.  A handsome red scarf confines the waist, and in this is stuck a short dagger, of which the hilt and a portion of the sheath are covered with silver, a silver chain being also attached to it; on the head is a thick white turban.  When passing through the woods, the Coorg carries on his back a strong wood knife, double the size of his dagger, the handle being stuck in his girdle, while the broad blade lies naked on his back."


* Rawson 1968 p49-50
"In many modern collections there are a large number of swords of a type called Adya Katti.  This is a weapon with a very heavy and broad forward-angled blade, which is indigenous and peculiar to the most westerly part of Mysore, Curg, and the Malabar coast.  It clearly belongs to the same ancestry as the other forward-angled blades of the South, but its form has been modified by the use to which it was put as an implement for clearing undergrowth.  Its age is difficult to determine, but its form suggests that it was developed from the forward-angled blade at the stage of development that blade had reached in the ninth century.  The Adya Katti as it is known today follows three patterns.  The first, that used in Mysore and Curg, is clearly a pure Indian type, while the third is strongly influenced by the Arab traditions of the Moplahs of the Malabar coast, themselves Arabs by descent, who are its users.  The second pattern is a blend of the other two, incorporating features from both.  It is probable that the majority of the actual examples of Adya Katti in modern collections are spoils taken from followers of Hyder Ali and Tippoo who carried them in the conflict with the British at the end of the eighteenth century."

* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p73
"The ayudha katti has a forward curved blade, and is used for clearing jungle as well as for fighting."

* Stone 1934 p456
"MOPLAH KNIVES.  The Moplah.  Indigenous Mohammedans of Malabar have a curious sword, or knife, of their own.  It has a light, broad, double-edged blade curved at the end.  The hilt is straight and without a guard.  The hilt mounts and reinforcing pieces on the blade are of brass or silver and are elaborately pierced and engraved. The sword is carried without a scabbard, blade up, with the handle thrust inside the belt at the back."

* Burton 1851 p162
"They invariably prepare themselves for combat by a powerful dose of hemp or opium, fight to the last with frenzied obstinacy, despite the most dreadful wounds, and continue to exert themselves when a European would be quite disabled -- a peculiarity which they probably inherit from their Arab ancestors.  Like the Malay when he runs a-muck, these men never think of asking for, or giving quarter, they make up their minds to become martyrs, and only try to attain high rank in that glorious body by slaying as many infidels as they can.  At times they have been eminently successful.  On one occasion we heard of a recontre in which about a dozen desperate robbers, dropping from the window of a house into the centre of a square, inopportunely formed by a company of sepoys, used their knives with such effect upon the helpless red-coats' backs, that they ran away with all possible precipitation.  The result of a few such accidents is, that the native soldier cannot always be trusted to act against them, for, with the usual Hindoo superstition and love of the marvellous, he considers their bravery something preternatural, and connected with certain fiendish influences."

* Coorg Jewelry online > Men's Accessories
"Odi Kathi: This is a Kodava war knife with a broad blade which was used during battle. It is now used for ceremonial purposes only. The Odi Kathi is used to chop down banana stumps at wedding ceremonies in a show of strength. It is fixed to the thodang at the back of the waist."

* Paul 1995 p64
"The adya katti was used in Coorg and Malabar.  It has a heavy, single edged blade which is inclined forward.  The blade is generally 2 feet in length and is narrow at the root and broader towards the point.  The hilts are without guards and made of ivory, horn or wood."

* Fryer 1969 p84
"Ayda Katti  A short sword with heavy, wide curved single-edged blade, carried by the Coorgs of Malabar.  The blade narrows at the hilt, which has no guard.  The grip and large flat tear-shaped pommel are usually of wood with a chequered design, but sometimes examples are found with these parts in ivory.  The weapon is carried on the back in circular brass holder with the blade exposed."

* Elgood 2004 p184
"Young Coorg men on festive occasions used to demonstrate their strength and skill by cutting through the trunk of a plantain tree in one blow with an āyudha katti."

* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/LaRocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson p194 (Frederick Wilkinson, "India and Southeast Asia" p186-203)
"... [I]n Coorg, Mysore and Malabar, warriors used a weapon which resembled an overgrown kukri, the ayda katti.  This had a semi-oval blade about 18 ins/45 cm long, tapering in a rounded fashion between hilt and point.  Unlike the kukri, the cutting edge is straight and the hilt is fitted with a large, flat, comma-shaped pommel.  Another unusual feature of this weapon was the way in which it was carried.  Instead of slipping into a scabbard, it was hooked onto a brass fitting or todengah attached to a belt and carried in the small of the back."


* Fryer 1969 p88
"Pichangatti  A Coorg knife with short, wide, heavy single-edged blade.  The guardless hilt has a slender grip with large round pommel.  The sheath and hilt are frequently mounted and embellished with silver or brass.  A chain is attached to the sheath, from which tweezers and other implements are suspended."

* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/LaRocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson p194 (Frederick Wilkinson, "India and Southeast Asia" 186-203)
"Carried at the front of the same belt was the pichingatti (lit. 'broad knife').  This had a wide blade with a slight cusp on the back edge near the point and was carried in a wooden sheath with appliqué metal decoration.  Since it was more a tool than a weapon, the pichingatti had various domestic items such as tweezers and gimlets attached to it by a short length of chain, rather like the chatelaine of a Victorian matron."

​* Richardson/Bennett 2015 p73
"The pichangatti is the normal knife carried by the Coorg people of the south west coast."

* Coorg Jewelry online > Men's Accessories
"Peeche Kathi: This is an ornamental dagger with a handle terminating in the shape of the head of a parrot or peacock and a sheath beautifully decorated with a gold covering and embedded with rubies. The Peeche Kathi is linked with a richly designed silver chain, which is tucked behind the chele (sash) to the right.
    "It has silver tassels and five smaller knives. A bride or a new mother uses the Peeche Kathi to cut open a coconut at the well while she performs the ceremony of Ganga Puja."