Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (also known as Cotiote Rajah or Pychy Rajah) (3 January 1753 – 30 November 1805) was one of the earliest freedom fighters in India. He was the king of the state of Kottayam or Cotiote in Malabar, India between 1774 and 1805. His struggles with English East India Company is known as the Cotiote War. He is popularly known as Kerala Simham (Lion of Kerala) on account of his martial exploits.
Pazhassi Raja was a member of the western branch of the Kottayam royal clan. When Hyder Ali of the Kingdom of Mysore occupied Malabar in 1773 the Raja of Kottayam found political asylum in Travancore. Pazhassi Raja, the fourth prince in line for succession to the throne during this period, became one of the de facto heads of state surpassing several of his elder royals. He fought a war of resistance on Mysorean army from 1774 to 1793. On account of his refusal to flee and resolve to fight invaders, people of Kottayam stood firmly behind the Raja who had not abandoned them in their hour of misfortune. Raja’s troops were drawn from ranks of the Nambiar, Thiyya and also the tribal clans like Kurichias and Mullukurumbas.
In 1792, after the Third Anglo-Mysore War, English imposed their paramountcy in Kottayam in violation to their earlier agreement of 1790 which recognised independence of Kottayam.Vira Varma, to whom Raja was a nephew, was appointed by the East India Company authorities as the Raja of Kottayam. To meet revenue target fixed by Company authorities, Vira Varma ordered exorbitant rate of tax to be collected from the peasantry and this move was met by a mass resistance led by Pazhassi Raja in 1793 who was opposed to surrender to English right from beginning. In 1796, the Company made an attempt to arrest Pazhassi Raja, but he evaded capture and instead fought back using guerrilla warfare. After a string of serious setbacks, the Company sued for peace in 1797. The conflict was renewed in 1800 over a dispute on Wayanad and after an insurgent warfare lasted for five years, Pazhassi Raja was killed on 30 November 1805 in a gun-fight at Mavila Todu near Kerala-Karnataka border.