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Commentary on Travancore State Manual
It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!
Bala Rama Varma

“The illustrious Rama Varma was succeeded by his nephew, Bala Rama Varma”

Bala Rama Varma was a youngster. He did face the problems associated with feudal languages, which assigns the lower indicant words to youngsters. The effects are there in his history.

It was to lead to quite destabilising events in the kingdom. It led to mismanagement, widespread corruption and then to the rise of Velu Tampi, who forced the king to make him the dewan. Tampi had to play a lot of manipulative games to manoeuvre himself in the position of power. He was brilliant in these activities of minor significance. He shifted from one side to another, whichever one he felt was better for him.

How he entered the mainstream attention is given in this quote:

This system of extortion continued for a fortnight; a large sum of money was actually realised, and numbers of innocent people were tortured. The tyranny became intolerable and the people found their saviour in Velu Tampi, afterwards the famous Dalawa.

Yet, Velu Tampi had only terror and barbarianism as a cure to the problems of the kingdom.

See these quotes:

1. the Namburi was banished and the other two had their ears cut off

2. Vein Tampi now coveted the Dalawa’s place. ............ But there were two able officers of the State, Chempakaraman Kumaran and Erayimman, brother and nephew of the late Kesava Das, whose claims could not be righteously overlooked. Velu Tampi and his accomplices formed a conspiracy to get rid of these two men. Kunjunilam Pillai made false entries in the State accounts and showed a sum of a few lacs of rupees as due to the treasury from the late Kesava Das. The two kinsmen were in a fix and appealed to their European (English) friends at Madras and Bombay asking for their advice and intercession. These letters were intercepted and their spirit misrepresented to the Maharajah as importing disaffection and other letters were forged to show treasonable correspondence of the two gentlemen with Europeans abroad. The King, then less than twenty and quite unequal his high responsibilities, ordered their immediate execution. The two officers were accordingly murdered in cold blood, and Velu Tampi’s claim stood uncontested.

3. Velu Tampi was a daring and clever though unscrupulous man. Rebellion was his forte. He was not in any sense a statesman, for he lacked prudence, probity, calmness and tact — qualities which earned for Rama lyen and Kesava Das immortal fame. He was cruel and vindictive in his actions. His utmost merit lay in the fact that he was a strong man and inspired dread. Within three years of the death of Kesava Das, the country was in a state of chaos; the central government became weak and corruption stalked the land. Velu Tampi’s severity, excessive and sometimes inhuman, completely extirpated corruption and crime from the country. His favourite modes of punishment were: imprisonment, confiscation of property, public flogging, cutting off the palm of the hand, the ears or the nose, impalement or crucifying people by driving down nails on their chests to trees, and such like, too abhorrent to record here. But it may be stated in palliation that the criminal law of the Hindus as laid down by their ancient lawgiver Manu was itself severe. The Indian Penal Code is also much severer than the code of punishment prevailing in England.

4. Strict honesty was thus barbarously enforced among public servants and order prevailed throughout the kingdom. Velu Tampi became an object of universal dread.

5. See this sample QUOTE on how cases were enquired upon: .........The local Mahomedans had committed the robbery on the innocent Nambudiri. Of this fact Velu Tampi satisfied himself. He ordered the whole of the Mahomedan population of Edawa to be brought before him, and when they as a matter of course denied the charge, he mercilessly ordered them one after another being nailed to the tree under which he held court. When two or three Mahomedans had been thus disposed of, the others produced the Nambudiri’s chellam with all the stolen goods in it intact.

Velu Tampi did display administrative capacities. Yet, see this quote:

The treasury was now empty. Zeal for the public service was waning; the revenues were not properly collected owing to personal bickering and retaliations at headquarters such as those which disfigured the relations between Velu Tampi and Kunjunilam Pillai.

Even though jingoist historian would attribute this financial problem to the subsidy that had to be given to the English East India Company as the expense for maintaining the protective military force in the kingdom, the fact remains that later when the kingdom was perfectly managed with English help, not only was the arrears paid off, but there was a great financial surplus.

See these QUOTES:

1. “The financial position of the Travancore State still continues to be very satisfactory and is most creditable to His Highness the Rajah and to his experienced and able Dewan Madava Row

2. “The financial results of the administration of Travancore for 1864-1865 are, on the whole, satisfactory, and the surplus of Rupees 190,770 by which the Revenue exceeds the expenditure appears to have been secured notwithstanding heavy reduction of taxation, under the enlightened and able administration of the Revenue Department by the Dewan Madava Row.


After Bala Rama Varma, came the rule of GOURI LAKSHMI BAYI. In many ways it was quite a remarkable period of rule. Though quite young (barely twenty), she had the maturity to write thus:

“there was no person in Travancore that she wished to elevate to the office of Dewan and that her own wishes were that the Resident should superintend the affairs of the country as she had a degree of confidence in his justice, judgement and integrity which she could not place in the conduct of any other person”.

In the speech delivered by her when she was placed on the musnud, she addressed the British Resident as Ethreijum Bahumanapetta Sahabay. It points to the fact that the terrible local vernacular inferiorities had infected the royal family also. For, even a minor Indian kid who lives in England would address the Colonel as Colonel Munro. That she is not able to do so, speaks volumes of the training that the royal family members were forced to endure, by their own family members. Yet, she understands her predicament as speaks thus:

“I cannot do better than to place myself under the guidance and support of the Honourable East India Company, whose bosom had been an asylum for the protection of an infant like Travancore, since the time Sri Padmanabhaswamy had effected an alliance with such a respectable Company of the European nation. To you, Colonel, I entrust everything connected with my country, and from this day I look upon you as my own elder brother and so I need say no more.”

In every sense, she was also following the footstep of her great ancestor king Marthanda Varma in this policy. Isn’t there some quirkiness of fate that in a few decades after her rule, there would be another queen bearing the same name LAKSHMI BAYI of a small-time kingdom in the northern areas of the Indian peninsula (Jhansi) who acquired the reputation of a ‘freedom fighter’ against the East India Company. In Travancore, Laxshmi Bayi is a ruler who supports English domination, while the latter is a person who went against the English and ultimately got lost in the melee of mutual bickering of the mutinous sepoys and their mutually antagonistic leaders.

When Col Munro took up the Diwanship for a brief period, this was what he saw:

“No description can produce an adequate impression of the tyranny, corruption and abuses of the system, full of activity and energy in everything mischievous, oppressive and infamous, but slow and dilatory to effect any purpose of humanity, mercy and justice. This body of public officers, united with each other on fixed principles of combination and mutual support, resented a complaint against one of their number, as an attack upon the whole. Their pay was very small, and never issued from the treasury, but supplied from several authorised exactions made by themselves.

“They offered, on receiving their appointment, large nuzzers to the Rajah, and had afterwards to make presents, on days of public solemnity, that exceeded the half of their pay. They realised, in the course of two or three years, large sums of money .......................... “

Most of the things mentioned about the officialdom by Col Munro are true of current day Indian bureaucrats also.

During the time of Kesava Das as the Diwan, this rule had to be promulgated with regard to the powers of the official:

and on no account shall a female be detained for a night.

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