Social Scientist. v 3, no. 25 (Aug 1974) p. 6.

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at Payanad temple in 1898 put it, it was decided to die there "as it was a good building and we were afraid lest we would be shot in the legs and so caught alive".2

By the time the government forces had surrounded them, the outbreak participants had worked themselves into a frenzy by frequent prayers, shoutirg the creed as a war cry and singing songs commemorating the events of past outbreaks, especially that of 1849 in which 15 Moplahs armed mainly witli 'war knives' scattered two fully armed companies of sepoys with their charge. The climax of the drama came when they emerged from their 'post5 to be killed as they tried to engage in hand-to-hand combat.3

Divergences from this ideal pattern were frequent, but the essence of the Moplah outbreak, demarcating it from other forms of violence, resi-' ded in the belief that participation was the act of shahid or martyr and would be rewarded accordingly. As one outbreak participant (who receded at the last moment and was captured) said in explanation of why he and his associates 'went out' (participated in the outbreak): "I have heard people sing that those who ... fight and die after killing their oppressors, become shahids and get their reward. I have heard that the reward is 'Swargam9 (Paradise)".4

The pattern of the Moplah outbreak wa< dictated by the fact that participants had no intention of evading the heavy hand of justice. On the contrary, their objective was to compass their own destruction by hurling themselves in a suicidal charge against the forces sent to deal with them. In the words of a wounded Moplah captured at Manjcri temple in 1896:

"We came to the temple intending to fight with the troops and die. That is what we meant to do when we started".5

The defining characteristic of the Moplah outbreak was devotion to death. The Moplah outbreak was a more or less regular occurrence from 1836 to 1919. During this period, 29 separate occasions can be distinguished in which Moplahs 'sought actively their own death9.


In all 29 cases except 3 the number of participants ranged from a single Moplah to 19. The final total depended partly on how quickly the outbreak was suppressed, because usually the initiators were joined by recruits as the outbreak took its course. Thus, in ihe case of the 1896 outbreak, which was prolonged exceptionally for several days, the number of participants grew to a record 99, and others appear to have been on their way to join when the gangs6 were rapidly destroyed, only 5 being taken alive. Of the 351 participants in the 29 outbreaks only 24 failed to achieve their end, and this includes the 12 forced to surrender in the very exceptional and significant case of the 1898 outbreak.

The type of man who participated in outbreaks is summed up by a report on the 1896 affair as ^field-labourers, porters, timber-floaters,

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