Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
British Malabar versus Travancore kingdom


QUOTE: The caste is very scantily clad; in many places the men do not wear cloth at all round their waists, but substitute for it a fringe of green leaves. Their women used at one time to go similarly clad, but this practice has fallen into disuse in Malabar at least, although it is still maintained in the Native States. END OF QUOTE.

The under-mentioned and understated goodness of the English rule in Malabar. The lower castes slowly started feeling the weight of the pressing down caste layers above them easing up. It has its terror also. For, the lower castes would start acting over-smart and disrespectful.


QUOTE: It is a noteworthy circumstance in this connection that even now-a-days the Travancore Maharajas on receiving the sword at their coronations have still to declare1;—“I will keep this sword until the uncle who has gone to Mecca returns.” END OF QUOTE

QUOTE from Travancore State Manual: In support of this statement he writes: — “It is a noteworthy circumstance in this connection that even now-a-days that Travancore Maharajas on receiving the sword at their coronations have still to declare: —

“I will keep this sword until the uncle who has gone to Mecca returns”. This statement, founded as it is on Mateer’s Native life in Travancore, is clearly incorrect. The Travancore Maharajahs have never made any such declaration at their coronations, when they received the sword of State from God Sri Padmanabha.

The Valia Koil Tampuran (M. R. Ry. Kerala Varma Avl., C. S. I). writing to His Highness the present Maharajah some years ago received the following reply dated 10th April 1891: — “I do not know where Mr. Logan got this information; but no such declaration as mentioned in the Malabar Manual was made by me when I received the State Sword at Sri Padmanabha Swamy’s Pagoda. I have not heard of any such declaration having been made by former Maharajahs.” END OF QUOTE.

This is one very powerful input that might show that William Logan’s or his other writers’ many sources could be unsubstantiated hearsay. Or they could have been inserted by someone quite deliberately to make the whole book look quite silly. Feudal language world is full of silent intrigues.

QUOTE: This step consisted in obtaining a body of troops—1,000 cavalry and 2,000 sepoys from the Nayak of Madura—in consideration of Travancore undertaking to become tributary to him END OF QUOTE.

What looks funny here is the numbers, 2000 sepoys and 1000 cavalry.

QUOTE: Secondly, of the English Company’s resolution in 1723 to “subject the country to the king” and so facilitate their trade ; END OF QUOTE

This was to be the English Company’s policy throughout the subcontinent. That is to make the local king a responsible king. However, that was easier said than done. For, in a feudal language system, there is no way for the lower population to have any rights on the ruler. It is practically impossible to even initiate a conversation with the higher layers. And for the higher layer to take up the concerns of the lower populations and treat it with the seriousness it deserves, was a demeaning item. This mood continues even to this day.

QUOTE: He was a most intolerant man, and directly he arrived he saw the necessity of curbing the rising power of Travancore if the Dutch were to retain their hold of the trade of the country and not allow it to pass into the hands of the English, who were backing up the Travancore Raja. END OF QUOTE

There might have been a greater insight in him (Mr. Van Imhoff, the Dutch Governor). It is connected to the realities in Continental Europe. The big Continental European nations could not get to conquer the relatively small island of Great Britain. The reason for this was the existence of pristine-England in Great Britain. From this insight, he could foresee that once England gets a foothold in the Subcontinent, the Continental Europeans were as good as out.

QUOTE: The Raja then broke up the conference by sneeringly observing, he had “been thinking some day of invading Europe !” END OF QUOTE.

That was king Marthanda Varma sneering at the Dutch Governor, Van Imhof. It is typical attitude of the subcontinent that once another entity is entrapped, a feeling of shallow superiority complex comes in. Actually Travancore was at that time just a semi-barbarian nation, just beginning to experience a connection with England. Holland has had centuries of experience in proximity to England.

Actually Travancore would not have able to fend off an attack from any of the small-time kingdoms around it, without the active help and protection of the English East India Company.

Even tiny Attingal might have finished it off, in the long run, if the mighty support of the English East India Company was not there.

QUOTE: Such sordid meanness defeated its own end of course, and shortly after the treaty was signed, and after the Travancore frontiers had advanced as far as Cochin, the Travancore Raja of course turned on them and repudiated his obligations, telling the Dutch, factors at Cochin they were no longer a sovereign power, but merely a number of petty merchants, and if they required spices they should go to the bazaars and purchase them at the market rates. They had eventually to pay market prices for the pepper they wanted. END OF QUOTE.

Well, the fact might be of more deeper content.

It is possible that the Travancore side would have forced the Dutch to make promises which amounted to breaking up of the commitment to other kingdoms. And once this was achieved, the Travancore side more or less used the same logic to break their words of commitment.

The way feudal language systems work cannot be understood in English.

There are verbal codes which cannot be translated into English. And hence the emotions that they lend cannot be visualised or understood in English.

QUOTE: His relations with the Mahrattas, however, led him to temporise for a time. Meanwhile if he could possess himself of Travancore he would not only replenish his coffers, but would secure an advantageous position on his enemy’s flank for his contemplated invasion of the Carnatic. END OF QUOTE.

That was Hyder Ali of Mysore. As to him being able to ‘replenish his coffers’, if he could possess himself of Travancore, actually one of the greatest treasure troves in the subcontinent was lying hidden inside secret vaults under the Padmanabha Swamy temple at Trivandrum. Had the king of Travancore not had the English Company to help him, it was just a matter of time before either Hyder Ali or his son Sultan Tippu ransacked the vaults, and molested the Hindus (Brahmins) and the Nayars.

See the commitment shown by the English Company to a minute kingdom, which in later days would display its competitive mind and ingratitude at odd times.

QUOTE: The Travancore Raja fearing a simultaneous attack from both directions, had communicated with the Madras Government, and Sir A. Campbell, the Governor, had intimated to Tippu that aggression against Travancore would be viewed as equivalent to a declaration of war against the English. END OF QUOTE.

QUOTE: And it was formally intimated that, if these demands were not complied with, Tippu’s force would come against Travancore.

To these demands the Travancore Raja made answer that he acted under English advice, and that he would be guided by that advice in this case. END OF QUOTE

The Travancore Raja was none other than Marthanda Varma, who seems to have placed his full faith in Sri Padamanabaha Swamy and the English Company.

QUOTE: The Travancore commander had arranged that the Raja’s force should reassemble upon the Vypeen Island, but the extreme consternation caused by the loss of their vaunted lines had upset this arrangement, and the whole of the force had dispersed for refuge into the jungles or had retreated to the south. END OF QUOTE.

Surely, with this type of army, Travancore did not have any chance against the forces of Sultan Tippu.

QUOTE: “We are in that confusion that I scarce know what to recommend respecting the detachment” (Colonel Hartley’s force). The consternation of the Raja's people was so great that they could not be trusted to procure supplies. The whole of the inhabitants, including the boat people, had gone off with their boats which had been collected for conveyance of Colonel Hartley’s detachment, so that the principal means of transport were also wanting. END OF QUOTE

The English Company was trying to protect a kingdom whose people had no stamina to protect themselves. This fact is still continuing all around the world even to this day.

QUOTE: The news of his force being on its way had greatly quieted the inhabitants, and “the consternation which had seized all ranks of the people’’ had considerably abated END OF QUOTE.

That was Colonel Hartley, fully determined to push on, despite the cowardice of the Travancore forces.

QUOTE: The Bombay Commissioners next learnt that General Medows, the Governor of Madras, in the course of the war operations on the other side of the peninsula, had allowed the Travancore Raja a controlling power over the Malabar Rajas ; and that on this plea the Travancore Dewan Keshu Pillay had collected, in the name of the Company and on the plea of contribution towards the expenses of the war, various sums of money from the revenues of the country for the years 1790 and 1791 END OF QUOTE

Travancore kingdom did clearly go beyond its brief.

QUOTE: The palace of the Kshatriya family of Parappanad Rajas is situated at a short distance from the Railway station. It is from this family