Kayamkulam Kochunni

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Kayamkulam Kochunni
Died1859 (aged 41) Travancore prison
1895/1896(aged 77)
Resting placePettah Juma Masjid, Thiruvananthapuram
MonumentsShrine at Edappara Maladevar Nada Temple, Kozhencherry
  • Brigand
  • highwayman
Known forStealing from rich people and giving to the poor

Kayamkulam Kochunni (born 1818) was a heroic outlaw from Kayamkulam, who lived during the late 19th century. He was active in the Travancore area in the present-day Kerala, India. He is said to have stolen from the rich and given to the poor. [1] Legends on his life are part of the folklore of Kerala. [2] His stories are often associated with his friend and fellow outlaw Ithikkara Pakki. [3] A shrine dedicated to Kochunni exist in near Kozhencherry. [4]



Kayamkulam Kochunni was born in 1818, near Kottukulangara, Karthikapally Taluk in Travancore (present-day Kerala). He spent his childhood and younger ages in Evoor. After his father's death, the family fell to poverty and Kochunni was employed in a grocery store. Later he began stealing and became an outlaw. He was known for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Kochunni was once caught by the officials after his lover betrayed him, he escaped and killed her along with her assistant. Following that he went into hiding, during which he stole the Shaligram belonging to the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma was the ruler of Travancore and T. Madhava Rao was the Diwan of Travancore at that time. Kochunni was accused of several thefts and two homicides. Both the palace and police officials failed to find Kochunni, after which a warrior, Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker, was enlisted with the task, who eventually captured him and submitted to the Diwan. Panicker was honoured by the King. Kochunni was remanded for one year, during which he died in the Travancore jail in 1859. His remains were buried at the Pettah Juma Masjid. [5] According to historians, the Central Archives building in present-day Thiruvananthapuram was formerly a prison in the 19th century and is believed to be the first Travancore prison, which is likely where Kochunni was incarcerated. [6]

However, Kochunni's death is disputed. Another record cites he was imprisoned at Central Prison, Poojappura in his 70s. [7] Some researchers states that it was after the success of the 1966 film that the present account of his death (that he died in September 1859, aged 41) was popularized and dominated while the other account diminished, the movie used the former since it was more suitable for the film's commercial success. As per the other record, he escaped and lived another 36 years. He died at the age of 77 from Tuberculosis at the cow barn of Thoppil tharavadu (family of Thoppil Bhasi) in Vallikunnam. He was staying there undercover as a steward and farm-hand of the family. A woman from the house took care of him during his final days, who was the only one aware of his identity. [8]

During Kochunni's peak time, the Diwan ordered his capture. The then Tahsildar of Karthikapally Taluk managed to capture him with the help of one of Kochunni's confidant. But Kochunni escaped and killed his confidant and the policeman who arrested him. Later, Kunju Panicker was appointed as the Tahsildar. He sought the help of Kochunni's acquaintances Kochu Pillai, Kopparaparambil Mammad, Kaduvachery Vava, Kottappurathu Bappukunju, Pakkolathu Noorammadhu, and Valiyakulangara Kunjumarakkar. Kochunni was invited to Kochu Pillai's wife's home in Vazhappally and sedated him by drugging food. He was arrested, and while transporting him to Thiruvananthapuram through Kayamkulam backwaters, he regained sense and managed to escape by leaping into the water. It is said that Kochunni was in hideout at Pathanamthitta and Punalur after that and to have returned to Kayamkulam during his final period, and shortly after moved to a secure hideout at Thoppil family. While another of the same account states he was successfully transported to Thiruvananthapuram, incarcerated and hanged after 91 days (in 1859 at the age of 41) and his remains to have buried at the Pettah Juma Masjid. However, there is no documentation about his sentencing in state's jail records or in the Mathilakam documents. [8]


A shrine dedicated to Kochunni is attached to Edappara Maladevar Nada Temple near Kozhencherry that dates back more than one and a half centuries. People there offer candles, incense sticks, ganja, country-made liquor, betel leaves, pan, areca nut, tobacco, etc. to propitiate the deity. [3] There is a small museum at Varanappallil, an ancestral house in Kayamkulam for Kochunni. [2]

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  2. 1 2 Where a legendary Robin Hood played his tricks Archived 17 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine , Deccan Herald, 27 July 2008.
  3. 1 2 "Now, a shrine for Kayamkulam Kochunni". The Hindu . Chennai, India. 30 August 2007. Archived from the original on 10 March 2008.
  4. "Devotees have been flocking this Hindu temple for years to worship a Muslim Robin Hood". 3 January 2016.
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