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Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom

Under command of His Highness the Maha Rajah, the preparation of the State Manual of Travancore was decided upon some time ago, and I was appointed to it with the simple instruction that the book was to be after the model of the District Manuals of Madras. This instruction I have faithfully carried out and I am happy to report now that the book is completed and issued in three large volumes. Although I have allowed myself some latitude in forming my own conception of the design and scope of the work and devoted my best attention and energies to their exposition and elucidation, I still feel I might have done better if I had been left to myself, to work at it leisurely, spending “a laborious day upon each page,’’ undisturbed by limitations of time and space.

The difficulty of compiling a work of this nature will readily enlist the sympathies of those who have laboured in similar fields, for as Sir Frederick A. Nicholson points out in his report on Agricultural Banks, at which he worked for about 3 years —

“The delay in submitting the report is due to many causes, principally to the immensity and complexity of the subject, to the difficulty of ascertaining and then of obtaining sources of information, to the discontinuity thereby imposed when a half finished study had to be broken off till the receipt of further information, to the extreme difficulty arising from the incessant demands of a Collector’s work notwithstanding two periods of special duty. For the Madras Presidency statistics and information did not exist, and it is only through much enquiry and by the courtesy of numerous correspondents that information has been obtained.”

Mr. H. H. Risley’s portion of the Indian Census Report* of 1901 covers, according to Mr. Gait, 136 pages of that volume — a circumstance which can hardly represent the magnitude of his labours or research during the three years he was in charge of the last Imperial Census. The Report of Sir James Thomson’s Excise Committee, which was ordered by the Government of India to be submitted in 8 months i.e. by the end of April 1906, evidently took more time than was anticipated. It is not yet available to the public. More instances could be cited to that neither the quantity of matter written nor the time taken can serve as correct gauge of the labour or research involved in an undertaking of this sort. This is the invariable experience of all past workers.

NOTEs: *In the Introduction to the Report on the Census of India (1903) Vol. I pp. XVI and XVII, Mr. E. A. Gait, I.C.S writes: - "The office of Census Commissioner for India was held by Mr. H. H. Risley, C.I.E, from its creation in October 1899 until September 1902 when, unfortunately for the Census, his services were required for a higher appointment and his immediate connection with the operations came to an end. At that time the reports for a number of Provices and States still remained to be received, and it had thus been impossible to make much progress with the General Report for the whole of India. Mr. W. F. Meyer, Gazetter, and I succeeded him as Census Commissioner on the 23rd January 1903. In spite of the pressure of the other work, Mr. Risley has himself completed the Chapter on Caste, and the portions of four other Chapters, as noted in the margin, are also from his pen"- V. N

Now that the work is finished, no word of explanation or justification is needed save to remove misapprehension in certain quarters. The idea of writing a State Manual was first broached to me by Dewan T. Rama Row, C.I.E., one fine morning 14 years ago, i.e. even before I had begun to compile the Census Report of 1891. He said I must do the Census Report first and then take up the Manual. All this was, of course, to be done along with my heavy legitimate duties as Dewan Peishcar and District Magistrate of Quilon, which I then was. I agreed without a moment’s hesitation though fully alive to the responsibility I thus took upon myself, for it was impossible for me to decline an offer so kindly made and with such flattering compliments by 80 estimable a chief as Dewan Rama Row. He immediately obtained His Highness’ sanction and sent me official orders in the last quarter of 1891. He retired a few months later and with his retirement the matter was dropped, for nothing came of it during the six years of Mr. Shungrasoobyer’s Dewanship, as he did not seem to care for it at all. Dewan Bahadur Srinivasa Raghavaiyangar, C.I.E., complains of a parallel circumstance in the writing of his book, for he says in his Preface —

“The departure of Lord Connemara to England and pressure of other official work led to the preparation of this Memorandum being laid aside for some time, and I was able to resume the work only in the latter half of 1891. Since then I have been more or less engaged on it, but as the work has had to be carried on in, Addition to m other official duties, it has not been possible to finish it earlier.”

The matter was however revived by Dewan Mr. K. Krishnaswamy Row, C.I.E., in 1901, and during his time I devoted to it, off and on, such leisure as the pressing duties of the Settlement Department permitted. It was only in December 1904 that I took it up as a full-time officer and it may be safely said that the best part of these three closely printed volumes is the result of assiduous and sustained labours carried on since.

In reporting completion of the manuscript of the book, I wrote to the Dewan in my letter, No. 387 dated 1st October 1905, thus:

“In continuation of my letter No. 371 dated 26th August 1905, 1 have the honour to inform you that I have finished the State Manual of Travancore in which I have been engaged continuously for the past nine months and my services are available for any other work which His Highness’ Government may be pleased to entrust with me.’’

I added: —

“I take this opportunity of expressing my grateful acknowledgments to His Highness’ Government for entrusting this important work to me without any solicitation on my part — a work in which I have spent much thought and study during several years past though owing to more pressing duties I could not devote to it that attention which it deserved, except at distant intervals of business. It is due to us also to add that my extremely limited staff and myself have worked at it with energy and diligence.”

To this letter the Dewan made no reply. The additional time thereby gained has however proved of much advantage to the work not only were the proofs read carefully and well, but the old data, already collected, were verified, new data added where possible, some chapters were either revised or wholly re-written, additional matter put in, the manuscript throughout was touched up and the whole book itself satisfactorily finished and passed through the press, with a full table of contents, a glossary of vernacular terms and an exhaustive index. In the letter referred to above, viz.. No. 371 dated 26th August 1905, I observed:

‘’I estimated the work to be completed in 6 months at the most, but that was, as I explained to you in my letter noted in the margin (No. 313 dated 23rd May 1905) under the belief that was to be allowed a staff of 10 clerks applied for by me, the choice of clerks from the permanent Departments who would not run away as 7 or 8 temporary clerks did during the last 7 months, and that I was to be allowed also to expend the money saved every month by shortage of hands.

You disagreed to every one of these 3 proposals. So it became impossible for me to finish the work in 6 months as originally estimated in my letter of the 11th November 1904. ............... I believe I have been very moderate in applying only for 3 months’ time from the 30th June last. Under the circumstances explained above, there was ample justification for my asking for 6 months* more time. But as I have already reported, I am most anxious to be done with this work as early as possible.

Mr. Srinivasa Raghavaiyangar, the talented compiler of the Forty Years’ Progress of Madras, took 27 months to write his book — a volume of 340 pages, speaking of quantity alone, the subject-matter of which is admittedly one of a more homogeneous and less complex nature than that of a State Manual. And yet in his forwarding letter to Government, Srinivasa Raghavaiyangar wrote of the delay in the issue of his book thus —

“The collection and reduction of the necessary statistics and the preparation of the second part of the memorandum took up more time than I had anticipated and I was able to complete the work only last May notwithstanding that I took privilege leave for three months in the beginning of this year for the purpose.”

His achievement is a safe criterion to judge of the work of other labourers in similar fields, for to my mind the late Srinivasa Raghavaiyangar was a perfect embodiment of indefatigable industry, deep thought, wide reading, unostentatious independence and high literary skill. In these circumstances, no special justification seems needed for the unavoidable delay in the issue of the Travancore Manual, a work of an encyclopaedic nature spread over a space of more than 1820 pages of letter-press — to say nothing of the continued strain, the anxious and unremitting attention or the huge preliminary studies it cost.

As for the plan of the book, it is enough to say that the mass of information collected has been thrown into 21 chapters and placed in 3 volumes for convenience of handling. Under these 21 chapter-headings almost every subject of importance and interest concerning the State has been brought in. For these chapter-headings several District Manuals of Madras have been consulted, particularly the revised ones of Bellary and Anantapur by Mr. W. Francis, ICS., and it is enough to observe that the Travancore State Manual is fuller and more comprehensive than the Manuals of Madras. In order to do justice to the amplitude of information collected and the labour spent upon it, the size of the book has been enlarged into three volumes from what was originally intended to be one moderate-sized volume.

It would be false economy, I thought, to throw away the results of great labour and research in order to save some printing space. Tediousness were, in my view, a much lighter fault under such circumstances, especially in a book of this nature; but terseness has been my ambition, though after the most conscientious endeavours to clip and prune I could not do more, on the present occasion, without keeping out matter which I really wished to retain. Even as it is, I feel the chapters on ‘History’ and ‘Castes’ are capable of further amplification, particularly the latter chapter, of which only the outer fringe, so to speak, has been touched in these pages. It is a never ending theme of value and interest, and the stores of information still available on it remain unutilised. A whole volume ought to be devoted to ‘Castes’ alone. The chapter on the ‘Gazetteer’ may well be amplified in a future edition.

In the writing of this book, my aim has been to present to an utter stranger to Travancore such a picture of the land and its people, its natural peculiarities, its origin, history and administration, its forests and animals, its conveniences for residence or travel, its agricultural, commercial, industrial, educational and economic activities, its ethnological, social and religious features as he may not himself be able to form by a 30 years’ study or residence in it.

If this is a correct view of the object of a Manual, I trust I may be permitted to entertain the hope that a fairly successful debut has been made, notwithstanding defects or shortcomings that may exist, especially as this is only a pioneer attempt in a novel direction.

It is not necessary to prejudge here what a revision might give opportunities for, in the way of condensing in some directions or amplifying in others. If I get the chance myself at a not distant date, I should probably do both and thus try to reach the ideally perfect Manual, perhaps a vain Utopian desire, which standard of excellence however, I know, is far from having been attained in the present performance.

In the ‘History’ chapter in which I have spent much thought and study, I have endeavoured to give faithful pictures of Parasurama’s early colonists and their autonomous governments, their landed aristocracy, their peculiar tenures and permanent tenantry, of the later kings and ministers, of wars and conquests, of the dissensions of the Ettuvittil Pillamars, the Tampis and the Yogakkars, their mutual jealousies and intrigues, of the fortunes of the minor principalities which make up the Travancore of today and the events which led to their final absorption, of the chief forces that were at work during successive epochs which enabled a petty village near Eraniel to reach its present dimensions of a compact block of territory 7,000 sq. miles in area, of the European powers that successively bid for supremacy of trade on this coast and the ultimate success of the English East India Company, our early friendships with them and the staunch support which they in return uniformly gave us through all vicissitudes of fortune, ultimately resulting in a strong bond of political alliance and reciprocal trust and confidence, which assured to us internal security and immunity from external aggression, thus enabling us to achieve the triumphs of peace and good government, until step by step we reached the enviable height of being known as the Model Native State’ of India — a title which we have maintained by wise rule and sound financial policy during successive reigns up to this day.

And this has been no easy task as the narrative had to be woven out of a tangled web of falsehoods and misstatements, of exaggerated versions and contradictory chronicles, inseparable from oral tradition, fragmentary record and disorganised debris of scattered and confused materials. The difficulty of writing a history of events which took place long ago is great indeed, for as pointed out by John Morley, in his ‘Life of Gladstone’ ‘Interest grows less vivid truth becomes harder to find out memories pale and colour fades’. It is much more so in the case of a nation — the events of whoso life and progress cover a space of many centuries and comprise multitudinous interests and concerns. The History chapter is dealt with in three sections, viz., Ancient history, Early history, and Modern history — the last comprising a period of 10 reigns or 175 years, bringing the narrative down to the end of the year 1079 M.E (15th August 1904), that being the last year for which full information was available on this and other headings when the book was written.

The labour involved in the task was truly gigantic, for it often entailed a wading through a mass of records of all sorts in order to get at a grain of information. The nature of the research may be judged from the following extract of my letter to the Dewan, dated 25th June 1903:—

“As suggested in your D. O. of 1st Inst., I beg to submit herewith a revised list of records to be obtained from Fort St. George. I have cut down 79 numbers from the list of 33G papers originally selected, which itself was a selection from a total of about 600 papers relating to Travancore. In a matter like this where the granting of the application for records is entirely a question of pleasure with Government, there can be no argument all that I can say is that an indulgent view should be taken of the application and that 1 should be given some latitude in the choice of records. It is possible that a good many of the papers that one has to read through in the preparation of a book or report may not be ultimately utilized. In the opinion of Milman, one of the biographers of Lord Macaulay, ‘The historian, the true historian must not confine himself to the chronicles and annals, the public records, the state papers, the political correspondence of statesmen and ambassadors; he must search into; he must make himself familiar with the lowest, the most ephemeral, the most contemptible of the writings of the day. There is no trash which he must not digest; nothing so dull and wearisome that he must not wade through’. In the instance which the Resident refers to, viz., ‘note of the firing of the usual salute on the departure of the king of Travancore to the north’, I should just like to know what the actual ‘salute’ fired was, if such information is available from that record. It is not of course absolutely essential for my book. It may even be put down as a mere antiquarian curiosity; but if so, it is a curiosity which is justifiable, * * * I shall content myself with the papers that are placed at my disposal.”

‘Archaeology’, ‘Fauna’, ‘ Census and Population V Language and Literature’, ‘Economic Condition’, and ‘Legislation and Statute-book’ are new chapters in this Manual, not found in the revised Madras Gazetteers. ‘Local Self-Government’ is a heading which I have not utilised as we have nothing corresponding to it here just yet. The information under my other chapters viz., ’Religion’ ‘Castes’, ‘Trade and Commerce’, Arts and Industries’, ‘Land Tenures and Land Taxes’, and ‘Administration’ deals with the matter comprised in Mr, Francis’ chapters on the People, Occupation and Trade, Land Revenue Administration, Salt, Abkari and miscellaneous revenue and Administration of Justice. The other chapters are the same in both the books.

I have been much exercised in the matter of arranging the order of the chapters in the Manual. What I have ultimately decided upon, though slightly different from that adopted in the Madras Gazetteers, appears to me to be the most natural order. It is thus. The first 4 chapters deal with the lie of the land, its climatic conditions and its exuberant vegetable and animal life. The next 2 chapters deal with History and its chief basis for facts, viz., Archaeology. The whole of the second volume (chapters VII to XII) deals with the people as a whole in all their many-sidedness, i.e. their growth of numbers, their faiths, ethnography, language, education and health. The first 5 chapters of the third volume deal with the economic condition of the people such as agriculture and irrigation, trade and industries and the conveniences that exist for the same. Then come 3 chapters dealing with ‘ administration’ more or less; and the book concludes with an alphabetical description of places of interest, so necessary for a stranger to understand a country aright. This arrangement I believe is the most natural one to adopt and has been finally resolved upon.

One encouraging circumstance in the course of writing the book has been the fact that some of the chapters were perused in manuscript by Messrs. G. T. Mackenzie, I.C.S., and J. Andrew, I.C.S., our former British Residents. Both of them expressed approbation of the work done. Mr. Mackenzie who took a warm interest in the progress of the Manual from the very beginning wrote to me on the 9th October 1903: —

“I have perused the Mss. of the first portion of the Manual and it seems to me to be excellent.”

Again, he wrote on the 8th February 1904 — “I return these draft chapters with many thanks they are really very good”

Again on the 19th November 1904 (the day he resigned the Civil Service and left Travancore), he was good enough to write of the ‘History’ Chapter thus—

“I have now perused it and find it deeply interesting. I have corrected one or two clerical errors but otherwise there is nothing to alter.”

Since then, one whole chapter and a portion of another have been submitted for His Highness the Maharajah’s perusal. Mr. B. C. C. Carr, I.C.S, Bar-at-Law, the present British Resident has now perused several chapters of the Manual. He wrote on the 8th April 1906—

“I am much obliged to you for your kindness in sending me the advance copy of the second portion of the State Manual. It contains a great deal of interesting matter and I hope to study it shortly. I have already received the bound copy of Vol. I and am very glad to have it.”

To my numerous helpers in this work I offer my grateful acknowledgments. No work of this magnitude can be satisfactorily performed except with the aid of a host of coadjutors; and I have had that aid from all sides — officers of Government, retired public servants, vakils, journalists, private individuals, land-lords, planters, bankers, merchants, agriculturists, Vydians, Mantravadis, Christian metrans, bishops and missionaries and numerous other correspondents of divers sorts. As was justly remarked by Sir J. A. Baines, KCSL ICS, in his preface to the Imperial Census Report of 1891.

“The Census deals with so many subjects each of which, in the present day falls within the province of a specialist that no single individual can safely trust to his own unaided capacity in reviewing them, but is forced like Moliere, a prendre son bien on ill be trouve, and I have done my best to acknowledge such depredations at the time I have found it convenient to make them.”

The same may be said of my State Manual, for which if I have been compelled to make depredations, it will be noted that I have ungrudgingly acknowledged them in the body of the book itself, for such acknowledgment not only lessens the burden of my responsibility but also confirms my own opinions, thereby enhancing the value of the work achieved.

I must next express my obligations to Mr. C. V. Raman Pillai, B. A., the energetic Superintendent of the Government Press, for the help and co-operation he has willingly rendered in passing this huge work through the press, in spite of repeated calls on him for urgent work from other departments of the State. He has also prepared the index to the Manual which I entrusted him with, under orders of Government, on account of his special experience in it as the late Indexer to the Travancore High Court. I have to commend his work to the notice of Government.

A map of Travancore specially designed for this book by Mr. G.N. Krishna Rao, Superintendent of Survey is placed in the pocket at the end of the third volume. A few photographs are also inserted to illustrate the book; more should have been put in but for the cost. If time had permitted, I should have added a volume of appendix of papers made in this connection, containing monographs on several special subjects, Sthalapuranoms of temples and places of pilgrimage, accounts of noble families and the chiefs of petty principalities, extracts made from books, newspapers and magazines and documents examined in the course of these studies and other evidence relied on in the writing of the Manual, all of which will form a mass of valuable data, upon which to base more extended researches in the same direction in the future.

In conclusion, I beg to tender my respectful thanks to His Highness the Maharajah’s Government for having vouchsafed to me the opportunity of performing so herculean a task — notwithstanding the many difficulties and obstacles I had at the outset.

At one time it appeared to me, judging from the correspondence that took place, that I was engaged in a thankless work amidst inhospitable surroundings, and that though I had undertaken it years ago under favourable auspices, a change had come and I was evidently exhausting myself in an uphill work, which would give no satisfaction. The following extract of my letter to the Dewan, dated the 20th June 1905, will explain the circumstance.

I wrote: —

“I do not wish to refer to the observation which you have more than once made in your letters ‘about entrusting the work to other agency’. This is a matter entirely left to the pleasure of Government. I was appointed to the writing of the State Manual by His Highness’ Government without any solicitation on my part; and three of your immediate predecessors who knew me and the public service thoroughly well for long years, concurred in thinking that the work should be done by me, as if they could not think of any other officer equally competent to do it, though for my part I did not show the least unwillingness to give it up, especially as I was so fully occupied otherwise. They evidently meant it to be done by me during intervals of business, as they all knew the quality of similar work I had done before, which repeatedly received the approbation of His Highness’ Government.”

This however was only a passing cloud and the situation soon improved. Now that the difficulties have all been surmounted and the work itself done and done to my own satisfaction more or less, there is but one feeling uppermost in my mind, and that is one of deep thankfulness and gratitude to Government for the opportunity afforded me to associate my name with a book of this nature, in which I trust Government will see ample evidence of earnest, assiduous and sustained labours on my part, for more than a year past.

It is hardly necessary to add that the views expressed and the suggestions made in these volumes, the result of years of patient study and observation, are wholly conceived in the interests of the State and the people and as such I have no doubt they will receive careful consideration at the hands of Government in due time, for when carried out they will, I am satisfied, not only add to the credit of His Highness’ enlightened rule but, in the wise words of Bacon, “make the estate of his people still more and more happy, after the manner of the legislators in ancient and heroical times.”

Trivandrum, V. NAGAM AIYA.

16th August 1906.

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