Pazhassi Raja was born in Padinjare Kovilakam, the western branch of Purannatu Swarupam -the royal clan of the Kingdom of Kottayam in North Malabar. As he was a native of Pazhassi, Kerala Varma got the name, Pazhassi Raja. He was one of the greatest freedom fighters from the royal family of Malabar who ruled between 1774 and 1805. His battles against Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan are very famous. His struggles with the British East India Company is known as the Cotiote War.
On account of his martial exploits, he is also known as Kerala Simham (Lion of Kerala). The early British documents wrote Pazhassi Raja as Pychy Rajah, while the name Cotiote Raja comes from the anglicizing of Kottayam to Cotiote. Now the Kingdom of Kottayam covers Thalassery Taluk of Kannur District and Wayanad District along with Gudalur Taluk of Nilgiris District. Pazhassi Raja's warfare against Mysore Kings is very popular. It can be divided into two phases - First phase fight was against Hyder Ali, which lasted from 1773 to 1782 and the second phase extended from 1784 to 1793 with Tipu Sultan, son, and successor of Hyder Ali.
Pazhassi Raja's death is still controversial. The first version is that he committed suicide by swallowing a diamond ring to avoid capture after he was wounded. But Baber says he was killed by a clerk named Canara Menon. Kunjani, the wife of Pazhassi Raja who was taken the prisoner, committed suicide at Kappanaveedu, near Thalassery. As reprisal on his family, the property was confiscated and the palace at Pazhassi was demolished and replaced with a highway. Later Thiyyas, who were the loyal followers of Pazhassi Raja, built a new house for his family.