TRAVANCORE STATE MANUAL Volume One
V. NAGAM AIYA
Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - Section C: Modern History - Martanda Varma
Final overthrow of the triumvirate and the Battle of Poracad
Dedication of Travancore to Sri Padmanabhaswamy
Histories make men wise”. Bacon.
“The world knows nothing of its greatest men”. Taylor
Martanda Varma 904-933 M.E / 1729 - 1758 A.D
Martanda Varma, the founder of modern Travancore, succeeded his uncle at the early age of twenty-three. He ascended the musnud in 904 M.E (1729 A.D.). At the time of his accession the state of the country was far from happy. There were no organised departments for the transaction of State business. The finances were in an extremely unsatisfactory condition. The country was honeycombed with petty chieftains, who collecting around themselves bands of brigands, subsisted on pillage and plunder and harassed the Rajah and his people by turns frustrating all attempts to establish order or any settled form of government. The Rajah’s following was small and his authority so nominal that the Ettuvittil Pillamars and the Madampimars were more or less independent rulers of their own estates. Anarchy prevailed in South Travancore to a sad extent which was further intensified by the regicidal proclivities of these petty chieftains and the Yogakkars — a body of managers of the temple of Sri Padmanabhaswamy owning enormous landed wealth and commanding the influence and power which go with it. The young Rajah had a very hard task before him. Even as First Prince* and Elaya Rajah** of tender years, he set himself to put down with a strong hand the lawlessness of these disloyal chiefs. In consequence, he had earned their undying hatred and his life was more than once attempted.
NOTEs: * Heir-presumptive
He sought the aid of the English and the Dutch and would have completely quelled the rebels but for the timidity and weakness of his uncle, the King who compelled him to desist. He had fled from place to place and on several occasions slept on the tops of trees in far off jungles.
Now that he was the acknowledged sovereign of the land he, with the instincts of a true soldier, set to work to establish his sway and consolidate the State, and before the close of his reign in 1758 A.D., he had regained all the lost tracts, strengthened his rule, established order and improved his resources thus wiping out the ignominy and humiliation to which his ancestors had been subjected for two centuries. Men of real worth were selected to fill offices of trust and responsibility. Aromukam Pillai, the acting Dalawa and an officer of high merit, was confirmed and Kumaraswamy Pillai, a brave and veteran soldier, was made the Commander-in-chief, with Thanu Pillai, the Dalawa’s brother, as his assistant. In the Palace establishment, Rama lyen, an intelligent and honest Brahmin youth of the State itself, was appointed Rayasom (Under-secretary), an office of great trust and difficulty in those times.
Martanda Varma reorganised the financial department, enforced economy in every branch of the State expenditure and improved the army. The regiments were increased in number, better discipline was enforced, superior arms were supplied and a better sense of loyalty and obedience was infused among the rank and file. With a strong and well-disciplined army at his disposal, the young Maharajah thought the maintenance of the Trichinopoly forces an unnecessary drain on his treasury and thereupon disbanded it, and in its place he soon raised an army of Maravas
The Tampi Insurrection. 905 M.E (1730 A.D). The late Maharajah had left two sons known as “Kunju Tampis” alias Pappu Tampi and Raman Tampi. Taking advantage of the disorganised state of the country and at the instigation of the wicked insurgents, the Ettuvittil Pillamars or heads of eight houses, the Madampimars (petty chiefs) and the Yogakkars already referred to, the Tampis secretly repaired to Trichinopoly in 1729 A.D., with a view to secure the help of the Pandyan Governor there in order to defy the authority of the young Rajah. On their arrival at Trichinopoly, they were welcomed by the Governor with all honours due to the sons of the Maharajah. They told him that the young King of Travancore was a usurper, that he had no respect for the Pandyan Chief and that the dismissal of the contingent and non-payment of the tribute were only preliminaries to an invasion of the Pandyan Kingdom itself. They further told him that, as sons of the late Maharajah, they were according to the principles of natural justice the proper heirs to their father’s throne, and that the new tyrant besides dispossessing them of this right had even denied them the bare means of a decent living.
The Governor who was already exasperated against the Maharajah for his having disbanded the Trichinopoly contingent, espoused their cause with avidity and deputed one of his officers, Alagappa Mudaliar by name with a small force to enquire into the claims of the rival parties and to install Pappu Tampi the elder son on his father’s throne. Pappu Tampi was much gratified and in return promised to bear all the expenses of the undertaking and to pay a large tribute when he was placed on the throne.
For a time, everything seemed bright and prosperous to the Tampi’s dream. The army arrived at Udayagiri and encamped at Puliakurichi. The Mudaliar called upon the Maharajah to explain his conduct. Palace Bayasom Bama lyen and Narayana lyen were thereupon deputed to negotiate with the Mudaliar and acquaint him with the law of inheritance obtaining on this coast. They discussed the question as instructed and convinced the Mudaliar that in the Royal family of Travancore succession was in the female line, that the nephews inherit the uncles’ property, that the kings marry from families inferior to themselves in point of caste, that the sons begotten of such union have therefore no title of succession to the throne and that a liberal provision is always made from the State funds for their maintenance in comfort and dignity. The Mudaliar having heard them and satisfied himself from independent enquiries, dismissed the claims of the Tampis as utterly false, reprimanded them severely for their conduct and advised them to be loyal and faithful to their father’s nephew and their own rightful sovereign. The Maharajah sent suitable presents to the Mudaliar who at once left the country quite pleased, leaving behind him half of his force to help the Maharajah against his refractory subjects. The Maharajah, however, still apprehended fresh outbreaks from the disloyal Tampis and their wicked confederates and therefore organised several new regiments of Maravas equipped with fire-arms and constructed forts at all important strategic points.
The just decision of the Mudaliar, the retention of a portion of the Trichinopoly force, the new fortifications, the raising of the additional regiments and the mobilisation of the forces throughout the country struck awe into the hearts of the rebellious Tampis and the confederate chieftains, and secured peace to the Maharajah and his subjects. For a long time thereafter, the insurgents did not make any attempts to recover their lost ground.
The King then ordered the building anew of the temple of Sri Padmanabhaswamy, his family deity, himself personally supervising the work. The image of the God was remade and 12,000 Saligramams were put into the idol itself. The front mantapam of the inner shrine known as Ottakkal mantapam was built in 1730 A.D., with one huge slab of stone, 20 feet square and 2½ feet thick, brought from the Tirumala hill three miles from the capital (Trivandrum). The next thing that engaged the attention of the Maharajah was the improvement of the irrigation system of Nanjanad and two important dams of irrigation work, viz., the “Ponmana dam” and the “Puthenar dam” were constructed. The construction of the dams was personally superintended by His Highness himself and the people still fondly point to the hole made in the rock on which the Maharajah sat as the one in which a huge cadjan umbrella was fixed, thus saving to the Dam Works the labour of one servant who was to hold on His Highness the umbrella. The present writer has himself seen the hole in the rock at Puthen Anai in which the Maharajah’s umbrella is said to have been fixed. The Puthenar dam besides supplying water for irrigation purposes, supplied also good drinking water to the inhabitants of Padmanabhapuram, the Maharajah’s capital. Many public roads were opened and markets and thoroughfares were established.
The rules of revenue procedure were improved; the power of the Yogakkars was broken and the supreme authority over the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple virtually passed into the hands of the Maharajah. Thus within two years, various reforms were introduced in all the departments of the State.
The Ettuvittil Pillamars. The discomfiture of the Tampis only quieted the Ettuvittil Pillamars for a time. Their rebellious spirit was scotched, not extinguished. The new reforms and the popularity of the Maharajah roused their hate against him more than ever and they therefore resolved to put an end to the sovereignty of Martanda Varma once for all. A conference was held by them in the mantapam of the Venganur Ambalam, an inn about seven miles south of Trivandrum. They there unanimously resolved to assassinate the King during his procession to the sea-beach on the next Auratday. This resolution was committed to writing in cadjan olas and secretly circulated amongst their friends and adherents, — the ola-chits themselves being carried in the slippers of the messengers.
The Maharajah duly came to know of these proceedings. An old and faithful Pandaram — the keeper of the well attached to the inn (Ambalam) — having overheard the resolutions of the conspirators at the Venganur meeting brought accurate news of the conspiracy to Rama lyen who acquainted the Maharajah of the same. Detectives were employed to intercept the cadjan letters carried by the messengers to the conspirators. Two such messengers were seized with the olas containing copies of the resolution in their slippers. They were closely imprisoned in the palace and the news was kept very secret. The intercepting of the conspiracy letters was not known to the rebels. They were anxiously looking forward to the Aurat day of the Panguni Ootsavam (festival) for the execution of their plans.
With the approach of the festival in the Padmanabhaswamy temple, the rebel chieftains and their retinues flocked in large numbers to Trivandrum. When the procession itself started from the temple, the King walked boldly in front of Padmanabha’s image with the State sword in hand. He was escorted by an unusually strong body of troops whose disposition told the rebels clearly what the Maharajah meant. Thus outwitted and cowed down, the rebel chiefs meekly escorted the idol to the sea-beach and back again to the temple trying their best not to look foolish in the discovery of their plot and their own ignominious discomfiture.
A few months later the Maharajah toured down to Nagercoil and there in consultation with his minister determined upon the extirpation of the refractory Pillamars of the eight houses. Secret orders were issued to the military to simultaneously arrest all the rebel chieftains at a given signal. Horsemen were posted between Nagercoil and Trivandrum for carrying out the order. During these preparations Pappu Tampi came one morning to the palace to pay his respects to the Maharajah. The guards on duty had been specially instructed not to let him in but to resist him by force if he should attempt a forcible entry.
The sons of kings had the privilege of paying respects to their father’s heir and successor without the formality of a previous announcement, and in accordance with that privilege, Pappu Tampi that morning walked straight up the stairs. But the sentries on guard stopped him which incensed him and he, in order to avenge the insult offered, drew his sword but before he could strike, he was mortally wounded by another sentry from behind. The younger Tampi who was witnessing the whole scene from behind immediately rushed upstairs to revenge himself upon the King seated on his swinging cot and struck him but the blow missed its aim, the sword hitting against the low beam of the roof which gave the King time to recover himself from the shock, and being a clever swordsman and a well-built soldier he disarmed the Tampi, threw him down and sitting on his chest, plunged his Persian dagger into his heart and lifting the dead body, threw it over the window amidst the assembled crowd below. The few followers of the Tampi who stood outside the palace took to their heels as soon as they saw the fate of their master.
Orders were immediately issued for the arrest of all the rebels, troops were speedily sent to Trivandrum and in a few hours the Pillamars were seized and bound in chains. They were duly brought to Nagercoil and ushered into the Kings’ presence. The two messengers who had been closely imprisoned in the palace were then produced. The olas were read to them. The rebels admitted their crime, the weaker among them craved for mercy. The King was too noble to be blinded by any spirit of vindictiveness but ordered a judicial enquiry into the conspiracy after which judgment was duly pronounced with the following result. The four Pottis among the conspirators were to be banished the land, the other rebels were to suffer immediate deaths and their properties were to be confiscated to the State. Their women and children were to be sold to the fishermen of the coast as slaves.
The Edathura Potti and the Pandarams (Elampallur Pandaram and Edathura Pandaram) were driven out of the country. The execution of the rebels took place at the Mukhamantapam (Cutchery) at Padmanabhapuram. The houses of the Ettuvittil Pillamars were forthwith razed to the ground and with the materials thereof the magnificent pile of buildings known as Ramanamatam and the Tevarathukoikal at Trivandrum were constructed. Thus ended the long tale of crime and bloodshed committed by the lawless band of Ettuvittil Pillamars and Madampimars who molested the land for a period of two centuries and more.
Arumukam Pillai the minister died in 911 M. E. (1736 A.D). His brother who succeeded him died within a year after. In 912 M.E, Rama lyen was appointed Dalawa. The King was now at the head of a prosperous kingdom and a powerful army. With so capable a counsellor as Rama lyen at his back, he set his heart upon extending his dominion northwards.
Amalgamation of Travancore with Attungal
After the suppression of the internal revolt, the consolidation and extension of his dominion engaged Martanda Varma’s attention.
‘The Tamburetties of Attingara possessed the sovereignty of Travancore from remote antiquity, until Raja Martanden Wurmah.............persuaded the Tamburetty to resign the sovereign authority to the Rajas, both for herself and for all succeeding Tamburetties. To perpetuate these conditions, a regular treaty was executed between the Raja and the Tamburetty, which was inscribed on a silver plate, and ratified by the most solemn imprecations, limiting the successions to the offsprings of the Attinga Tamburetties. Having concluded this arrangement Raja Martanden Wurmah directed his arms against the neighbouring states”*
NOTEs: * Hamilton's Descrpition of Hindostan, Vol. II. Page 315
Extension of Territory— First conquest of Quilon
In 906 M.E (1731 A.D), the Rajah of Desinganad (modern Quilon) who was a cousin of the Travancore Maharajah adopted a Princess from the Royal family of Kayangulam. The Travancore Maharajah was not consulted. He therefore suspected that the alliance meant a combination between his cousin and the Kayangulam Rajah for offensive and defensive purposes against himself (Travancore). Incensed at this action of the Quilon Rajah, the Maharajah invaded Quilon with a powerful army, took it and destroyed its forts and other defensive works. The Rajah being thus defeated entered into a treaty with the Travancore King, by which he agreed to cancel the Kayangulam adoption, to pay tribute to Travancore, to demolish his fortifications, to break off his alliance with the Rajah of Kayangulam and further agreed to the annexation by Travancore of his own territory after his death. The Quilon Rajah was then brought to Trivandrum and lodged in the palace at Valiakoikal and was kept in State Prison though treated like a noble guest and relative. A small detachment of soldiers was stationed at Quilon for its peace under the command of Dalawa Arumukam Pillai.
War with Kayangulam
The Rajah of Kayangulam viewed these proceedings with alarm and allying himself with the Rajah of Cochin, sent secret emissaries to Trivandrum to inform the captive Prince that if he could escape from imprisonment and return to Quilon he would help him to get back the lost territory. The Rajah managed to escape from Trivandrum and joined the Kayangulam Chief. On his return, new forts were built, additional troops were raised and Quilon was strengthened with a view to withstand attacks from Travancore. The Maharajah on learning of the Quilon Rajah’s escape sent Rama lyen with a large army to recapture him. But Rama lyen’s forces could not make any impression on the strong fortifications of Quilon and he therefore retreated. Elated with this success, the Rajah of Quilon with the help of the Kayangulam Chief invaded the territories of Travancore at Kallada and Mavelikara.
Enraged at the intrusion of the Kayangulam Rajah in the affairs of himself and his relative (the Quilon Rajah) which they had already settled amongst themselves, the Maharajah made preparations for a simultaneous attack on Quilon and Kayangulam. Large additions were made to the infantry and fire-arms were obtained from English merchants trading at Angengo and Edawa. Thus strongly equipped, he sent out two large regiments to attack Quilon and Kayangulam simultaneously. This was in 909 M.E (1734 A.D).
Several battles were fought against the Kayangulam Rajah but without any decisive result. At last in a sanguinary fight in which the Rajah of Kayangulam personally commanded his army, he was mortally wounded by a Travancore sepoy. On the death of their Chief the whole army fled in confusion, but Kayangulam was not conquered. The Rajah’s brother succeeded to the throne and the war was continued with greater vigour by him. The Maharajah reinforced his army by obtaining the services of a thousand mounted troops from the Poligar of Tinnevelly and a few regiments of Maravas commanded by Ponan Pandya Tevan, and put the Dalawa Arumukam Pillai at the head of the combined forces.
The army marched into the Kayangulam territory and several important places were captured. Although the Kayangulam Chief had his old fort strengthened and new ones built, and though his huge army was reinforced by contingents from the Kottayam and Changanachery Rajahs, he understood his perilous situation and seeing no help forthcoming from Cochin or the Dutch sued for peace and a truce was effected. The war was thus brought to a close and hostilities were suspended for a time.
In 909 M.E (1734 A.D.), Vira Kerala Varma, Rajah of Elayadathu Swarupam, comprising the modem Taluqs of Shencottah, Valliyur (British territory), Kottarakara, Pattanapurom and Nedumangad, died and was succeeded by a young Princess whose territories were administered by an unprincipled officer known as Saravadhikariakar. The Maharajah unwilling to permit the notorious regent to commit aggressions into his own territories interfered, banished the Saravadhikariakar and took the Government into his own hands, permitting the Princess to live either at Kottarakara or at Trivandrum as she pleased on a liberal pension. But the territory was actually annexed only in 916 M.E, under the peculiar circumstances detailed later on.
Kayangulam war continued— Dutch Interference
In the same year the Rajah of Quilon died the Rajah of Kayangulam usurped the throne basing his claim on the adoption of 906 M. E., though that adoption had already been declared null and void by the peace of Quilon. The Maharajah remonstrated but to no purpose. The Rajah was strongly supported by the Cochin Rajah and the Dutch.
The subsequent events became specially interesting as the Dutch, at least the then Dutch Governor at Cochin, M. A. Maten, directly interfered in the war and took the field against Travancore. He sent a message to Maharajah Martanda Varma asking him to stop farther aggressions on Kayangulam and Quilon. The Maharajah politely replied that he (the Governor) need not trouble himself about affairs which did not concern him.
A little later in 1739 A.D., M. Van Imhoff, the Dutch Governor of Ceylon, came to Cochin to examine into and report on the Cochin accounts. In his report to the Supreme Government at Batavia, dated 6th July 1739, he says “that the king of Travancore having been successful in the wars which he had undertaken, had rendered himself so much respected among the chief kings of the Malabar coast, that he was looked upon by every one with eyes of jealousy and apprehension”.
He was therefore of opinion, “that if it were requisite for the Company to maintain a balance of power amongst the chiefs of the Malabar coast, it could never be made to preponderate more to the prejudice or danger of the Company than in favour of that prince, who was almost wholly attached to their competitors, and whose increase of power could not but be pregnant with the most alarming consequences to their interests, whilst he at the same time merited some chastisement for his insolence towards them, independent of the primary consideration of maintaining a due balance among the native powers of Malabar”*.
NOTEs: * Stavorinus' Voyages to the East Indies, Vol. III. Page 240.
So having the curtailment of the rising power of Travancore as his chief object, he took up the cause of the Princess of the Elayadathu Swarupam and sent a protest to the King of Travancore in 1740 espousing her cause. But seeing that his messages did not take effect, he sought a personal interview during which he tried persuasion, but finding it of no avail threatened an immediate invasion of his territories. The Maharajah jestingly said that, if the “superior power” should go that length, “there are forests in Travancore into which I and my people can retire in safety”. Imhoff retorted, “where the Travancoreans could go the Dutch could follow”. And the interview is said to have abruptly closed with a scornful remark from His Highness that “he had himself been thinking of some day invading Europe with his munchies (canoes) and fishermen”. Unfortunately for the Dutch Governor Imhoff, his threat could not be immediately put into action as the strength of the military forces under his command was not adequate to cope with the well-disciplined forces of Travancore. He wrote to Ceylon for a detachment of infantry and artillery, while he collected a force at Quilon and trained the men in warfare for sudden emergencies.
Annexation of Elayadathu Swarupam
In 1741 A.D., Van Imhoff installed the Princess of Elayadathu Swarupam on her throne in defiance of the Maharajah. In return he got some lands and some privileges from her viz., “a large farm at Airoor, about three Dutch miles from Quilon, and also Bichoor in the Berkencoor country, where they erected a strong redoubt,” which were all abandoned at the peace of 1742. When these proceedings came to the knowledge of the Maharajah, he collected his forces and attacked the Dutch and the Elayadathu Princess. The Dutch were completely defeated and not one soldier of the Dutch regiments remained to tell the tale of the triumphal annexation of Elayadathu Swarupam to Travancore. The Princess fled to Cochin and placed herself under the protection of Van Imhofif and, it is said, “the Dutch pensioned her at two rupees five annas (daily it is to be hoped)”. The Maharajah’s army then attacked the Dutch forts in Travancore and captured all of them. The Dutch retired to Cochin. At the same time the Danes were deprived of their factory at Colachel.
The Dutch war
BATTLE OF COLACHEL. After thus defeating the Dutch, the Maharajah turned his attention to Kayangulam. When the greater portion of the Travancore forces was concentrated on Kayangulam, fresh reinforcements arrived from Ceylon with which the Dutch invaded the Travancore territory. They landed at Tengapatnam, Cadiapatnam, Midalam and other places in South Travancore and began harassing the inhabitants. As the whole Travancore force was concentrated in the north and as the attack of the Dutch in the south was unexpected, several villages fell into their hands and they marched to Eraniel unimpeded committing atrocities all along the way. When the Maharajah heard of this, he marched to the south abandoning the northern expedition and ordered Rama lyen Dalawa to join him at Padmanabhapuram. But before the arrival of the Travancore forces the whole country between Colachel and Kottar surrendered to the Dutch, who meeting with no opposition made preparations to take Padmanabhapuram. The Maharajah, however, arrived at Padmanabhapuram just in time to avert the impending capture of his capital. Ho raised a fresh regiment of Nayars and incorporated them with the regular infantry stationed there. Soon after, Rama Iyen arrived with his whole force from the north. The Dutch lost heart on seeing the Travancore army so soon before them.
The famous battle of Colachel was fought on the 15th Karkadagam 916 M.E (31st July 1741 A. D.), and the Dutch were completely defeated. They retreated to their ships deserting their fortifications at Colachel and leaving their dead comrades on the battle-field. The Travancore army took 24 prisoners, besides 389 muskets, a few pieces of cannon and a large number of swords. In the meantime the Dutch fleet hastened back to Cochin.
It was just before this battle that the Maharajah had sent ambassadors to the French at Pondicherry to conclude a treaty of friendship and mutual help. He promised the French the grant of lands at Colachel and other places for constructing factories. But as the Dutch were completely defeated and that without much effort, the negotiations were dropped. Though the battle of Colachel was fought in 1741, peace with the Dutch was finally concluded and ratified by the Batavian Government only on the 18th October 1748.
The Dutch prisoners were very kindly treated and they decided to stay and take service under the Maharajah. It is said that some of the descendants of these Dutch soldiers are still found in Travancore. Among the prisoners were two men of note, Eustachias De Lannoy and Donadi who specially attracted the Maharajah’s notice and whom he appointed to high military offices in the State. These two Dutchmen played a very conspicuous part in the subsequent history of Travancore and their military genius and fidelity to the Maharajah were of the utmost value to him in his subsequent expeditions and expansion of territory. The first, De Lannoy, commonly known in Travancore as the Valia Kappithan (Great Captain) was in the manner of an experiment entrusted with the organisation and drilling of a special regiment of sepoys; this he did very successfully and to the satisfaction of the Maharajah. Several heroic stories are extant of the achievements of this particular regiment. De Lannoy was next made a Captain and entrusted with the construction of forts and the organisation of magazines and arsenals.
He reorganised the whole army and disciplined it on European models, gave it a smart appearance and raised its efficiency to a very high order.
About this time Nagercoil, Suchindram and Kottar were invaded by Chanda Sahib and Baba Sahib, two relatives of the Nawab of Arcot, Dost Ali Khan. Their object was the acquisition of some territory for the Nawab’s son. The Dalawa tried to fight them out; but failing this, he gave them large presents and bought them off. The two chiefs immediately retraced their steps and Nanjanad was free again.
Battle of Quilon
Soon after the expulsion of the Dutch and the retirement of the Moslem chiefs from South Travancore, the Dalawa with Captain De Lamioy, who was now made his chief assistant, directed his armies to Quilon whence they had been so suddenly called away to the south. Several battles were fought against the combined forces of the Kayangulam Rajah and the Dutch whose alliance gave the former fresh hopes. Much perseverance, stubbornness and heroism were displayed on both sides. Six thousand men of the Travancore army attacked the Dutch fort at Quilon which was gallantly defended by the Nayars commanded by one Achyuta Variyar, a Kariyakar of the Kayangulam Rajah. The Travancore force was defeated and was obliged to retreat. This was in 918 M. E (1742 A.D).
The Travancore army was soon reinforced by five thousand Nayars and a corps of Sappers and Miners. Large stores of arms and ammunition were purchased from the English and the French. The big guns mounted on the ramparts of Udayagiri, Padmanabhapuram and Trivandrum were removed for service in the north and everything was made complete for taking the fort at a given signal.
Emboldened by his temporary victory, the Kayangulam Rajah aided by the Dutch forces invaded Travancore and laid siege to Kilimanur twenty miles south of Quilon. The Maharajah who was at that time in Suchindram (South Travancore) hastened to Kilimanur and repulsed the Kayangulam forces conducting the operations in person with the help of the heir-apparent Prince Rama Varma, the Dalawa and Captain De Lannoy. The Kayangulam forces held out for sixty-eight days, at the end of which they surrendered and the fort was retaken. The remaining part of the Dutch and Kayangulam forces retreated to Quilon with a heavy loss.
Treaty of Mannar
The Maharajah then advanced upon Kayangulam and the Rajah surrendered. A treaty was concluded between the two parties in 917 M.E (September 1742 A.D.). The conditions of the treaty were—
1. That the Kayangulam Rajah should be a vassal of the Travancore King,
2. that the enemies of Travancore should be considered as his own enemies and treated accordingly,
3. that he should pay annually Rs. 1,000 and an elephant to Travancore, and
4. that he should cede a large portion of his territory to Travancore.
Annexation of Quilon
After the fall of Kayangulam, the Quilon Rajah allying himself with the Dutch, again challenged the Maharajah, but after several engagements in which the Rajah sustained thorough defeat, Quilon was finally annexed to Travancore in 917 M.E (1742 A.D.)
Annexation of Kayangulam
The fallen Rajah of Kayangulam again intrigued. He did not pay the tribute since the ratification of the treaty of Mannar. In 921 M.E (1746 A.D.), Rama lyen proceeded to Mavelikara and demanded the payment of arrears of tribute due to the Maharajah. Unwilling to pay the tribute, he disposed of his properties and fled abandoning his territories. The State was then annexed to Travancore after a sanguinary war with the Rajah’s skilful officers, which lasted for about three years. The Kayangulam Rajah had anticipated the fate of his army. He knew that his ill-trained Nayars were no match to the Travancore forces which had the advantage of European discipline and superior arms.
When the victorious army entered the palace in search of the Royal family and the Rajah’s treasure, they were surprised to find that there was not a soul within and that the rooms were emptied of even their ordinary furniture. The Rajah had taken away with him most of his valuables and what he could not conveniently carry, he threw into the Ashtamudi lake. But they made one important discovery. The arms and military stores found in the palace of the Kayangulam Rajah bore the name of ‘Devan Narayanan’, which was the emblem of the Ampalapuzha Brahmin Chief. Evidently the Kayangulam Rajah was aided in his wars by the neighbouring chief of Ampalapuzha against whom the Maharajah therefore next turned his attention.
Conquest of Ampalapuzha
There was abundant evidence to show the complicity of the Ampalapuzha Chief with the Kayangulam Rajah. Ampalapuzha or Chempakachery, as it was then known, was governed by a line of Brahmin chiefs and the reigning Rajah was a sagacious and accomplished Prince.
An interesting local tradition exists as to the origin of the Chempakachery Rajahs. The tract of the country known as Kuttanad was in the rule of a powerful oligarchy of Nambudiri Brahmins, their head-quarters being Ampalapuzha, where the ancient temple dedicated to Sri Krishna stands. This temple owned most of the lands there. The managing trustees of the temple property formed the oligarchy who ruled the State. The business of State used to be transacted in the Council-hall still known as mantrasala of the Ampalapuzha temple, where the proud Brahmins met every day for business as well as for recreation.
One day while engaged in chess after business was over and rioting and revelling and chewing to their hearts’ content, a ship-wrecked crew of a few hundred Europeans, probably Portuguese, arrived with their arms, related their adventures by the sea and begged of the chess-playing Brahmins to give them food and shelter. The thoughtless Nambudiris mad with the fatal game of dice and revelry told the hungry crew in a vein of cruel jest pointing to a pious old man coming from his ablutions and noon-day prayers to worship at the temple that they themselves were poor and humble and could not help the unfortunates, but ‘here comes the greatest man of the village who will feed and clothe you, if you seek his help’.
The distressed crew took it in right earnest and applied to the old man, explaining their miserable condition by signs and symbols and seeking immediate succour at his hands. That pious old Brahmin, be it remembered, was the poorest man in the village and lived on one meal a day, spending himself wholly in prayers and religious exercises and keeping himself aloof from his noisy but opulent neighbours. When he saw the supplications of these Europeans distressed by thirst and hunger and saw also the jesting reference made to him by the proud dice-players at the mantrasala, he comprehended the situation in an instant, discovered that there was no escape for him and took it as a sign from the God Krishna, and thereupon handed over to the hungry crew one of his very few golden rings which formed the sum total of his earthly possessions.
Even to this day Nambudiris of all grades and ranks carry in their fingers a number of gold rings, each of 1 £ sterling value, a point of special vanity with that class of people. The poor Nambudiri directed them by signs to go to the bazaar and sell that ring and buy their food and drink, which being done, they came back to his house and mounted guard there to do his bidding. Next day he gave another gold ring and that sufficed for their second day’s meal. The armed aliens had now become his faithful retinue. So runs the story. The Nambudiri had now reached the depth of his pocket and was afraid he had not the wherewithal to maintain his new regiment for the third day. Necessity is the mother of invention and he hit upon a happy idea. His genius turned the situation to his advantage. He sent the armed retinue with a servant boy of his own to one of the oligarchists’ houses with orders to remove the inmates without offering any violence or insult to them and bring away the whole of his goods to his own quarters. Day after day all the richest houses in the village were similarly dealt with and the spoils brought to his house maintained him and his army in great affluence. He next sent men to collect the temple dues. He took charge of the Devaswam itself and managed it on behalf of the God. He appointed officers and collected taxes. By one stroke of fortune he became king. Thus came into existence the line of the Chempakachery Rajahs at Ampalapuzha.
At the time of the Travancore invasion, the Ampalapuzha army was commanded by Mathu Panikkar, a Sudra knight of great valour. The soldiers used specially made arrows with poisoned tips invented by the Rajah himself. The Dalawa’s forces attacked the Ampalapuzha lines, but the enemy kept them at bay for six days. The poisoned arrows committed great havoc. The terrible slaughter made the ‘Travancore troops to believe that God Devan Narayanan* was himself leading the Ampalapuzha force. A panic seized the Maharajah’s troops and they shrunk back from the war against the Brahmin representative of the deity. Rama lyen had therefore to wait for the arrival of Te Lanuoy with his artillery and Mussalman and Christian soldiers.
NOTEs: * The name of the Amabalapuzha Temple God.
In the meantime dissensions arose among the officers of the Ampalapuzha army. Mathu Panikkar and Tekkedathu Bhattatiri, the two leading officers offered to betray their Chief and join Travancore on certain terms. These were readily agreed to by Rama lyen. The Rajah was captured in his own palace while playing a game of chess. He immediately surrendered. He was removed first to Trivandrum and then to Kodumalur in the Ettumanur Taluq and granted a liberal allowance. The Tekkedathu Bhattatiri was rewarded with the supervision of the Ampalapuzha temple which the late Rajah managed and Mathu Panikkar was granted lands, titles and privileges. One of the privileges showing great consideration and confidence in the Panikkar is that he still accompanies the Travancore Maharajahs in their tours in North Travancore, with his own vallams (boats) and a large retinue of trained boatmen — he himself mounting guard in the Maharajah’s cabin-boat.
The Dutch Peace Conferences
The treaty of Mannar and the annexation of Quilon had considerably upset the Dutch who, finding that any more hostilities with Travancore would seriously injure their trade which had already suffered during these wars, sued for peace. But they were informed by Rama lyen Dalawa through the Kayangulam Chief that he was prepared to march his force against them, but that the Maharajah would have no objection to effect a peaceful settlement with them, if they would agree to reasonable conditions which His Highness might propose. This was a happy message to the Dutch who welcomed it gladly and they requested the Rajah of Cochin and Tekkumkur to effect a settlement with Travancore but these efforts proved futile. The Dutch Governor therefore addressed the Maharajah direct for an amicable settlement. A conference was held at Mavelikara, where Rama lyen Dalawa and Talavadi Kunju Muthathu Kariakar met Ezekil Rabbi and Silvester Mendes, representatives of the Dutch.
After a long discussion a treaty was drafted in January 1743 with conditions fairly favourable to Travancore, and the affairs were so far completed that some members were about to proceed to Mavelikara to conclude the business. But the Travancore representatives proposed some further provisions restraining the interference of the Dutch with Travancore or any other Native Prince of Malabar in their wars. This revised proposal was sent to the Cochin Council and they hesitated to send a reply without permission from their Home Government. At the same time Rabbi and Captain Mendes informed the Council of their personal impression that the Maharajah was not likely to enter into a treaty with them and consequently the negotiations were dropped. Some time later, the peace negotiations were re-opened and both parties met at Paravur (near Quilon), but as Rama lyen Dalawa stuck to the original conditions, the conference failed, only to meet again at the same place for the third time with the same result.
Treaty of Mavelikara
With the final annexation of Kayangulam in 921 M.E, (1746 A.D)., the Dutch lost all hope and seeing that they could not get pepper from Travancore as the English had already monopolised this article, they again opened negotiations with Travancore in 922 M.E. (1747 A.D) accepted the draft treaty as originally proposed by Rama lyen, and forwarded the same to Batavia for sanction, which was obtained on the 18th October 1748 A.D. But as the Cochin Council made some slight modifications in it, it was not accepted until further reference was made to Batavia stating the Maharajah’s objections. After a period of five years the treaty was finally ratified on the 15th August 1753 A.D. This treaty is known as the Treaty of Mavelikara, whereby the Dutch bound themselves in future to follow a strict peace policy, to keep clear of all disputes and never again to resort to force except in self-defence.
“The ninth article of this treaty does not appear in a light very honourable to the Company; it stipulates that the Company shall recede from all engagements which they may have entered into with the other Malabar princes whom the king of Travancore might choose to attack, and on no account interfere in their disputes or afford them assistance or shelter; nor in any respect raise any opposition to the enterprises of the king..
“By the twentieth article, the Company bound themselves to provide that prince annually to the value of twelve thousand rupees, or eighteen thousand gilders, various sorts of warlike stores and ammunition, and the prices of those articles were fixed as follows viz.
One firelock at ... ... rupees 7.16 or f. 11-11 (£ l-l-0)
One hundred gunflints, ... 0-13 ( 0-l.2)
One pound of gunpowder ... 0-13 ( 0-1.2)
One hundred leaden musket bullets .... 0-14 ( 0-1.3)
as likewise some ironwork and Brass cannon.
“On the other hand the king engaged to sell to the Company all the cotton cloths, and every year three thousand candils of pepper, of five hundred pounds weight each, together with all the other productions which the lands he already was possessed of yielded: and the future quantity of two thousand candils of pepper out of those territories which he might in future conquer. For which the Company, according to articles V and VI, engaged to pay, namely, for each candil of good and sound pepper, properly harped and sifted, from the kingdoms of Travancore and Anjengo sixty-five rupees (f. 97 15) and for the pepper produced in the countries which the king of Travancore might succeed in subduing, in consequence of the neutrality of the Company, fifty-five rupees (f. 82-15) per candil; and moreover an export duty of four fanam rageas (1 shilling sterling) per candil.
“The twenty-fourth article says; That the king shall besides receive an annual douceur or present, from the Company, the value, however, of which was left to be fixed by them; this was afterwards settled by the Government of Batavia, at five thousand gilders (about £.454 sterling), upon the condition that the stipulated quantity of pepper should be duly delivered.
“The twenty-fifth article states that the Company’s subjects be left unmolested in the lands, which have anciently belonged to them.”*
NOTEs:* Stavarinus' Voyages, Vol. III. Page 246
These were the important provisions of the treaty. Some of the other provisions were —
1. That Travancore and the Dutch should be mutual friends;
2. that Travancore should not permit any other European power to acquire a footing in its territories, but should leave undisturbed the English factories at Anjengo, Edawa, and Vizhinjam; but that the English should not be allowed greater advantages than they were entitled to under existing treaties
3. that the Dutch should not in any way aid the enemies of Travancore or give them refuge
4. that the two contracting Powers should apprehend and deliver up deserters to each other and
5. that Travancore should restore to the Dutch such goods and men as belonged to them and might have been wrecked on the Travancore coast.
At the instance of the Cochin Rajah, the Dutch Commandant F.Cunes, who was present at the conference at Mavelikara, tried his best to get a clause inserted in the treaty for the protection of that Prince’s interests. But the Maharajah simply gave a promise that he “would live in friendship with the Rajah of Cochin, provided he gave no cause to the contrary.”
As Mr. Logan observes, this treaty gave the coup de grace to Dutch influence in Malabar. Day in his Land of the Perumals thus comments upon the treaty —
“Thus the Dutch threw over their Native Allies and pledged themselves to leave them all to the mercy of Travancore. Had the Treaty ended here, it might have been charitably surmised that it had been wrung from them in consequence of disastrous defeat but unfortunately the concluding portion shows that a pecuniary motive was also at work, as it agrees, to make a yearly present in money to Travancore, to supply its Rajah annually on payment with various kinds of warlike stones and ammunition to the value of Rs. 12,000, whilst they were to receive l,500,000 pounds of pepper, at Rs. 13 for every 100 pounds, with any other production his state yielded; and 10,000 pounds more out of the territories to be conquered, at Rs. 11 for every 100 pounds. Certainly giving up their former Allies to an ancient enemy, and providing arms to subdue their former friends, for the sake of gaining 4 annas, or 6 pence on every 25 pounds of pepper, was an inglorious act.”
And in a foot-note he says that the Travancore Rajah never fulfilled his obligations with regard to the supply of pepper, and concludes with the remark, “anyhow, the treaty does not appear to have brought either credit or money to the Dutch”.
In 1750 A.D. the French attempted to form a settlement at Colachel. It does not appear that they were successful. In the next year the Rajah of Travancore wrote to the King of Colastria ‘advising him not to put any confidence in the French, but to assist the English as much as he could’”.
The Ancient Records at Fort St. George mention a letter dated 21st June 1748 from the Chief and factors at Anjengo to the President and Governor of Fort St. David, stating that an army of Moors was encamped on this side of Tinnevelly waiting for reinforcements and fair weather to attack the King of Travancore who had made grand preparations to receive them. No information is available regarding the details of this attempted invasion. The records also refer to a peace between Travancore and Cochin brought about by the Dutch Governor at this period.
Conquest of Minor States
The petty principalities of Tekkumkur (Changanachery) and Vadakkumkur (Kottayam and Ettumanur) having sided with the enemy in the Kayangulam war, the Dalawa next directed his forces against them. The armies of the chieftains consisted of Madampis (big landlords) and Nayars who were more a rabble of the cowardly proletariat than well-disciplined fighting men. They never dreamt of the invasion of their own territories, for they thought that their participation in the Kayangulam war would not have come to the knowledge of the Maharajah. In despair, therefore, their chiefs resolved upon marshalling a large number of foreign Brahmin settlers in the vanguard of their fighting men to deter the Maharajah’s forces from action, as they would naturally dislike the killing of Brahmins, Brahmahatti or Brahminicide being the most heinous of sins according to the Hindu Shastras. The Dalawa however ordered firing, but his men would not. Then he ordered a body of fishermen to attack the Brahmins who, at the sight of their low caste adversaries, took to flight.
When the Brahmins fled, the resisting element in the war disappeared and the Dalawa had not to wait long to capture the Kottayam Rajah. The Rajah of Changanachery fled to Calicut and the territories of both the Princes were annexed to Travancore. The Rajah of Vadakkumkur seeing the rising power of Travancore and the fate of his neighbours also fled to Calicut and his country extending up to the Muvattupuzha river was easily annexed to Travancore.
After the capture of Changanachery, the Dalawa raised fortifications along Kottayam, Chengannur and Kumarakam up to the Western Ghauts at Kondur, and having garrisoned the important stations proceeded north to demarcate the northern boundary of Travancore which now extended from Edawa, the old boundary, to Periyar as the result of fifteen years of strenuous fighting. Fra Bartolomeo writes —
“Thus ended the dominion of the petty Malabar sovereigns and princes; thus was humanity avenged and thus were the crimes punished and licentiousness suppressed, by which the country had been distracted ever since the tenth century.”*
NOTEs: * Voyage to the East Indies. Page 172.
Final overthrow of the triumvirate and the Battle of Poracad
The fugitive Rajah of Ampalapuzha who escaped from Kodumalur and the Rajahs of Tekkumkur and Vadakkumkur sought the co-operation of the Cochin Rajah for recovering their lost dominions. Preparations were made on a large scale to promote the object in view. Having secured the support of the Paliyathu Menon (familiarly known as Paliyathu Achan), the most influential Cochin noble at the time, and the nobles of Kodachery Kartavu, Korati Kaimal and others, they collected a fleet of native boats and made ready to proceed by sea, carrying men, rifles, guns and ammunition. These forces received additional strength by many of the disaffected Nayars of Kayangulam, Ampalapuzha, Changanachery and Ettumanur joining them.
The Maharajah privately got intelligence of these proceedings through the Dutch and he proceeded to Mavelikara with his nephew, Rama lyen Dalawa and Captain De Lannoy at the head of a sufficient force. But as the Maharajah was slightly indisposed the Prince in conjunction with the Dalawa and De Lannoy proceeded to attack the enemy encamped at Poracad, The artillery, infantry and cavalry did fearful havoc in the engagements that followed and the enemies were completely defeated at Poracad. The greater portion of the Cochin forces were slain and the remainder fled. Paliyathu Menon and Kodachery Kartavu with several other nobles were taken prisoners and the Kayangulam Nayars who took part in the engagement were severely punished.
The Dalawa then took possession of the Cochin Rajah’s palace at Madathinkara and marching further north he encamped at Arukutti. The approach of the army alarmed the Cochin Rajah who apologising for his past conduct sued for peace and despatched a messenger to Trivandrum with a request that the further advance of the Travancore army be stopped by the Maharajah. He promised to enter into a treaty and to be a faithful ally of the Maharajah and this application was supported by the Dutch Governor of Cochin. The Maharajah accordingly commanded Rama lyen to desist from further operations and Arukutti was made the northern limit of Travancore, which continues even today.
Annexation of Karappuram
In 928 M.E (1753 A.D.), the tract of land known as Karappuram in the Shertallay Taluq became the bone of contention between Travancore and Cochin. To enforce the claims of Cochin over the disputed land, Paliyathu Menon and Kodachery Kartavu who had been released after the peace collected a large force. The Dalawa hearing of this marched with his garrison from Mavelikara and drove the Cochin forces beyond Arukutti. At this the defeated party again sued for peace. But the Maharajah having commanded the Dalawa to restore the conquered tract, the situation continued to be for a time as it was. Towards the close of the year the King had to halt at Mavelikara on his way to inspect his new territories in the north. The Rajah of Cochin met him in the palace with proposals for peace and both the rulers agreed to help each other in time of need. The Cochin Rajah ceded to Travancore Karappuram extending from Ariyad to Arur.
The Northern Insurrection
In 929 M.E (1754 A.D.), the inhabitants of the north, especially those of Ampalapuzha, Changanachery, Kottayam and Ettumanur at the instigation of the Zamorin manifested symptoms of revolt and these were fomented by several knights and nobles whose power had been broken by Travancore. This disheartened the Travancoreans very greatly and even brave Rama lyen faltered. He requested the Maharajah to tour in the northern Taluqs and make a few days’ halt there. On the arrival of the Maharajah the rebellion subsided. But the Maharajah wished to crash the spirit of rebellion altogether, and with that object sought the aid of Hyder Ali of Mysore. When this was known all rebellion collapsed and peace was restored. Hyder Ali immediately replied promising to lend his troops to be stationed in Travancore. This the Maharajah thankfully declined on the ground of the disappearance of the situation which necessitated his application. Hyder was quite offended and “Travancore” was marked out for revenge, and the first seed of enmity between Travancore and Mysore was thus sown.
The Attack of the Zamorin
The Zamorin of Calicut compelled the several petty principalities of Malabar to recognise him as their sovereign, as he was made, he said, the over-lord of Malabar by the last Cheraman Perumal. The Cochin Rajah refused to acknowledge his suzerainty but claimed the over-lordship for himself. Disputes arose and the question having assumed an acute form, the Zamorin invaded Cochin with a large army of Nayars and Moors in 930 M.E (1755 A.D)., when a large part of Cochin including Parur and Alangad was conquered by the Zamorin, and Cranganore, Trichur, Parur and Verapoly were made military stations. His further advance was stopped by the remonstrances of the Dutch.
Taking advantage of the Zamorin’s movements, the Maharajah who had conquered Tekkumkur and Vadakkumkur, finally subdued them and also Poracad and several other places which still owed nominal allegiance to Cochin. The Calicut Chief winning all the petty rulers of Malabar to his side, who were only too glad to join him now that the Dutch were no longer able to protect them against Travancore, opened negotiations with the Dutch for an alliance and promised to pay them two thousand candies of pepper annually, if they would join in a league against Travancore. They not only refrained from joining him but conveyed the project of the Zamorin to the Maharajah. In the meantime the Zamorin had invaded Cochin and was about to pass down his troops by water from Parur to Poracad when his forces were severely defeated by the Travancore army under Rama lyen and De Lannoy. The Zamorin attempted a second invasion but was prevented from carrying it out, as the ‘Lion of Mysore’ ‘had already marched into his territories from the other side.
Peace of Mavelikara (1757 A.D.).
The attitude of the Zamorin and the growing power of Mysore and the East India Company induced Cochin to seek the support of Travancore. The Cochin Rajah came to Mavelikara to see the Maharajah and apologised to him for his conduct at Poracad. A treaty was concluded, by which the Cochin Rajah agreed,
1. To have perpetual friendship with Travancore,
2. To cede all the places which by right of conquest belonged to Travancore,
3. To surrender all his claims over the several petty principalities except Alangad and Parur
4. To render no help to the enemies of Travancore, and
5. To have nothing to do with the deposed rulers of Ampalapuzha, Tekkumkur and Vadakkumkur who were tributary to the Cochin Rajah. The deposed ruler of Ampalapuzha was permitted to stay at Trichur.
Disturbances in the eastern parts of Travancore (1752 — 1755 A.D)
While Travancore was making conquests in the northern provinces, its eastern possessions such as Calacaud and Valliyur were annexed to Madura by the Nawab of the Carnatic into whose hands the sovereignty of the Pandyan provinces of Tinnevelly, Madura and Trichinopoly finally passed. During the siege of Trichinopoly by Chanda Sahib, three Mussalman officers were appointed by the Nawab as Viceroys to govern those districts. These men in course of time shook off their allegiance and became independent. One of them was Moodemiah, the Viceroy at Trichinopoly. The Maharajah knowing the disposition of the officer who was ready to dispose of villages and territories for a sufficient consideration, deputed Rama lyen Dalawa to negotiate with him and purchased the tract between Cape Comorin and Calacaud to the extent of thirty miles. A garrison consisting of two thousand men was also stationed at Calacaud for the protection of the country thus obtained.
The Nawab of Carnatic irritated at the defiance and independence of Moodemiah attacked him and expelled him from his place with the aid of the English East India Company. The garrison at Calacaud hearing of the southward march of the forces of the Nawab and the English under Col. Heron abandoned their posts and retired to Tovala. Maphuze Khan, the commander of the Nawab’s forces, seized Calacaud and the neighbouring Travancore possessions. The Company’s forces soon after returned to Trichinopoly. When Moodemiah heard of the retirement of the Company’s forces to Trichinopoly, he, in alliance with the Poligar of Nellitangaville, popularly known as ‘Pulitevar’, proposed to the Maharajah the reconquest of Calacaud. A tripartite treaty was entered into and preparations were made to oppose Maphuze Khan, the Maharajah of Travancore contributing four thousand Nayar sepoys.
Battle of Calacaud
The two armies met near Calacaud and after a very hot engagement the army of Maphuze Khan was put to flight. But the Travancore army, however, retired home to avoid causing offence to the English Company. Subsequently learning that the English were indifferent, a force was sent under Dc Lannoy, which defeated Maphuze Khan and recovered Calacaud. The kingdom of Travancore now extended from Periyar in the north to Calacand in the south, a length of about two hundred miles.
The interference of the English
The English Company had by this time established themselves as a quasi-political power in the Madras Presidency. The siege of Arcot by Clive took place in 1751 A.D. and Anwaruddin, the Nawab of the Carnatic, owed his position to the help of the English. The Nawab was highly enraged at the conduct of the Maharajah of Travancore and wrote to the Governor of Madras, Lord Pigot, in 1755 explaining the position of His Highness as that of one of his own Poligars and as such he should pay Peishkush to the Sirkar, that the boundary between his territory and the Sirkar was well marked by a wall and that the few districts taken possession of by him in the Tinnevelly District by unlawful means should be restored to the Sirkar. In 1755 the Governor of Madras wrote to the Rajah of Travancore asking him why he sent an army to Tinnevelly to assist the rebels against the Nawab. The Rajah in reply said that he had no intention of offending either the Nawab or the Company but that he was only anxious to secure what by right belonged to him, and that he was willing to settle his disputes with the Nawab amicably.
The following is a true extract from the Rajah’s letter to the Governor of Madras read at the meeting of the Select Committee held on 20th October 1757—
“It is much to my satisfaction that these lands in dispute under the jurisdiction of Tinnevelly are now entirely in the hands of the Hon’ble Company who are my old and faithful friends, and from whom I am continually receiving great favours. From this consideration it was, that on March of the year 1755, as soon as I received a Letter of Advice, from the Colonel, the Commander-in-chief of those Forces of the Hon’ble Company which were at Tinnevelly, I directly sent orders to my forces which were then chiefly about Calacuda, to retreat to Towal (N. B. the Pass of the Mountains into the Travancore Country) reflecting that it would be doing a great injury to lift up my Arms against so firm a friend of mine. From this I proceed to declare impartially and without any sinister view, that from ancient times the Districts and Lands belonging to the Kingdom of Travencore are as follows — First, Calacuda, Nangachier, Vigiapadi, Darapurao, Panacudi, Vallier, Tirucunamcudi, Vigianarainam, and some other small Aldeas which are under the said Districts, which I desire you’ll please to release, because in justice it ought to be.
“If in this any difficulties should arise which you should not be able to adjust there with this my Minister (for as you desired me in yours to send one of my Ministers fully instructed in regard to those concerns, I have pitched on the Bearer who is the most faithful and esteemed by me amongst my Ministers, by name Ganua Sastrigaley having given him full authority and power to adjust this affair) but should difficulties arise and prevent it he may be sent to Anjengo, both parties accepting the mediation of the Chief Mr. John Spencer and abide by what he shall determine. And thus the Tribute which was accustomed to be paid by me to those of Aramane* will be received, or in any other way the General of Madras shall direct me; besides this there is a District given us by the Aramane to open us a way thro’ the Hills to pass all sorts of Merchandise named Chingotta with some Aldeas belonging thereto, which you will be pleased to grant me.
NOTEs: * Aramanai is the Tamil word for 'Palace'. Here it refers to the Nawab's Sirkar.
“Things being thus, I believe everything will be adjusted in a friendly manner, that the Hon’ble Company on their part may be entirely satisfied with the conveniences and advantages which they will reap from this kingdom; and in like manner that I myself may remain at rest, free from any other thought, but of the favours I do continually hope for, and actually receive from the Hon’ble Company; and the Hon’ble Company on their part shall experience an increase of their Commerce on such terms as shall keep us united for ever.
“At sight of your Letter I directly sent an Order to my Forces that they should let everything remain on the present footing till these matters are adjusted.”*
NOTEs: * Ancient Records of Fort St. George.
The following extract from a letter from John Spencer, Chief of Anjengo, to the Hon’ble George Pigot Esq., and others of the Select Committee, Madras, dated 8th September 1757, explains fully the situation of the Honourable English Company —
“I then mentioned the King of Travancore’s having acceded to the proposal made by Mr. Pigot of sending a Messenger to Madras to adjust the disputes relative to the district about Tinnevelly. For this purpose came down here the 5th instant a Bramin much esteemed by the King, to whom I have given a letter to introduce him, and have noticed that any courtesy to him will be extremely well taken by the King. He set out from hence the same day, but as he was to wait some days at a place not far distant, for what they esteemed a lucky day to commence his journey, and as he will not, I believe, be very expeditious on his way, I send this by the return of the Pattamar, together with a Translation of the King’s letter to Mr. Pigot by the same Ambassador, that your Honour, &c., may have time to consider what the King desires, previous to his Ambassador’s arrival with you.
“The King in his letter is desirous that if any doubt arises that cannot well be adjusted with his Messenger, a reference should be had to me to settle it with him, but for many reasons such a reference should be avoided if possible, more especially as I am entirely unacquainted with the dispute; but I hope your Honour, &c., will be able to settle matters in an amicable manner, and if you do, I shall also hope it will be productive of many good consequences to the Company in these parts. I am obliged by your Honours’ promise of using your endeavours to obtain whatever shall be recommended for the Hon’ble Company’s interest. For this purpose I now enclose your Honour, &c. copies of the most material of our Priviledges which we obtained from the Queen of Attinga, in whose Territories the Fort is situated. Her country is now in the absolute power of the King of Travancore, and he holds the Heiress of the Family under restraint in the Palace of Attinga, but being of the same Family himself, does not otherwise treat her ill yet she has not the least shadow of Authority left nor is there any appearance of that Branch of the Family ever recovering their Authority again.
“By those grants we are entitled to the produce of the Pepper of the Queen of Attinga’s Country, and to purchase it of the Merchants on the best terms we can, but for above ten years past the King has taken the entire produce of Pepper into his own hands and it’s death to his subjects to be found out in selling and exporting a grain without his License. To his own Territories he has added those of several other Kings to the Northward so that he has possession of the Country as far as Cochin, and of the produce of Pepper in it.
“A very considerable part of this Pepper he sells at very high rates to Merchants who carry it by oxen to the inland parts on your side, and a large quantity is parted with to the people of the Munchuas, or Boats, who go between the Island of Ceylon and the Main to your Coast by virtue of Dutch Passports, without which he could not manage it, and in consideration of these Passports, and the large price they also give him for Pepper, and by indulging him in Warlike Stores they come in annually for a large share of Pepper also.
“It is not above ten years since that the King thus became the sole Pepper Merchant of his Country and he has now so much to his own benefit experienced the advantages of it, as it is much to be feared that it is a thing he will never depart from. It’s to be remarked that by the help of the Hon’ble Company he was first enabled to acquire an influence in the country, and which he is continually acknowledging tho’ he makes them such indifferent returns for it. When he thus became the Pepper Merchant himself he immediately insisted on Arms and Warlike Stores in lieu of Pepper, tho’ at the same time he enhanced the price of that Commodity greatly, the gentlemen then here and likewise the Governor and Council did all they prudently could to withstand an innovation so prejudicial to the Hon’ble Company’s Priviledges and the safety of the Europeans in general on the Coast, and for a time actually held their hands, but as the Dutch on one side supplied him with Arms, &c., and the Danes and other Europeans at times did the same at Coletchy, for which they got Pepper, he withheld Pepper from us under pretence that we showed ourselves less friendly to him than others.
Therefore, tho’ reluctantly the Hon’ble Company were necessitated to submit to the said evil other Europeans had indulged him in; but not doing it in so great a degree as he has been desirous, the annual quantity of Pepper we have received has been but small, on a medium not above 600 Candies per annum.
“By our Priviledges we have a right to impede the Export of Pepper, but for want of a proper Force it has been judged, and indeed would be imprudent to enforce it, and it is to be observed that hitherto, any renewal of Priviledges with him has been avoided, lest he should think we ourselves imagine that those we have from the Attinga Family of no validity, and indeed he himself seems to think they are not of much, that at most we are by them only entitled to the Pepper of the Produce of the Attinga Country which is very inconsiderable, I am assured not above three hundred Candies annually. I have not yet had a meeting with the King, having waived it till he completes a Contract made so long ago as March 1755 for 1,500 Candies with a condition to complete it by the end of July the same year but even so late as July the 31st last, there were about 400 Candies of this very Contract outstanding.
“However by declining the meeting he was desirous of and giving him to understand nothing further was to be expected till that Contract was fully complied with, it had such effect that he has taken all opportunitys the weather would permit of to send Pepper in, and in very little while the Contract will I hope now be completed.
“The Hon’ble Company as above have consented (tho’ its a thing they with reason are averse to, and should avoid if other Europeans would do the same) to supply him with Arms and most of the necessaries he requires excepting Iron Keutlage or Broken guns which he runs into Shott, of which he wants an annual large supply at so low a rate as Rs. 20 per Candy of 560. The impossibility of complying with this must appear at first sight from the Hon’ble Company being so much straitened as they are in point of Tonnage outwards to Bombay, even was the price he offered anything advantageous, but this I am not without hopes of prevailing on him to relinquish, when I have a conference with him, and if his Messenger should request anything of this nature of your Honour, &c., please to set forth the impracticability of it in the strongest terms you can, as I have done to those of his Ministers that I have yet met with.
“From this your Honour, &c., will be enabled to form some idea of our situation with respect to this Government. Certain it is that at present the Hon’ble Company’s annual investment here does not much exceed the amount of their annual charge, but I shall hope thro’ your means to improve their Commerce greatly. I have wrote the King particularly in regard to the little advantage the Hon’ble Company can possibly reap by a settlement so circumstanced, but cannot be at any certainty till I have a Meeting with him and even then he pays so little regard to his promises that little dependence can be had on them.
“As before remarked I imagine he will never relinquish the Pepper Trade therefore the next best for the Hon’ble Company would be to be assured here of an annual certain quantity at a reasonable rate. He has at times given hopes of 2,000 Candies which is what should be insisted on, and I shall do what I can at my Meeting to obtain it, but this is I am afraid rather a thing to be wished for, than expected from him, tho’ I doubt not he will heartily promise it to us.”*
NOTEs: * Ancient Records of Fort St. George.
Consolidation and Reform
After the cessation of hostilities and the extension of the territory to the limits of Cochin, the Maharajah directed his attention to the internal reforms of his Kingdom. With this view he commissioned General De Lannoy to improve the military department and Rama lyen the revenue department.
Captain De Lannoy was appointed Commander-in-chief of the Travancore forces and was raised to the rank of a General. He is familiarly known to the Travancoreans as the Valia Kappithan, as stated already, and is remembered to this day even by the common people. The Maharajah’s palace at Padmanabhapuram was protected by a fort of granite walls with strong ramparts, and a bigger wall of the same material with parapets and embrasures was constructed around the hill at Udayagiri. The mud walls erected at the gaps of the mountain range from Cape Comorin to Aramboly were replaced by a long line of stone walls.
An arsenal was established at Udayagiri where cannon, mortars, weapons, powder and shot were manufactured. The batteries were all supplied with the necessary artillery. Batteries were erected on the sea-coast at different places between Cape Comorin and Poracad. De Lannoy then proceeded to the north and repaired and strengthened the forts of Quilon, Mavelikara, Changanachery, Kottayam, Ettumanur, Muvattupuzha, Todupuzha and Minachil and constructed new batteries and forts with laterite stones. Remnants of these structures still exist at Karimannur in Todupuzha, Kumarakam in Ettumanur, Lalam in Minachil and Piravam in Muvattupuzha, mostly in ruins and overgrown with scrub jungle.
The army next engaged his attention. He raised its strength to 50,000 troops consisting of cavalry, infantry, artillery and irregulars and disciplined them after the latest European model. The greater part of the army was equipped with weapons manufactured in Europe, and Europeans, Eurasians, Nayars and Pathans were appointed to command the several regiments. All the forts from Aramboly in the south to Todupuzha in the north were strongly garrisoned, and Padmanabhapuram, Trivandrum and Quilon were made the central reserves to supply men and ammunition to the minor forts. The whole force was composed of Nayars, Sikhs, and Pathans under the supreme command of De Lannoy.
Under the direction of the Maharajah, Rama lyen Dalawa organised a commercial department and established pandakasalas or store-houses and depots at Padmanabhapuram, Trivandrum, Quilon, Mavelikara and Arakkuzha in Muvattupuzha. These were called torams and were guarded by the military. They stored pepper, tobacco, cassia, arecanut &c., purchased at rates fixed by the Sirkar.
These depots were placed under the supervision of officers called Vicharippukars or Torakars. The Sirkar monopolised the trade in these articles and rules were promulgated compelling the people to purchase them from the Sirkar only prohibiting their sale in large quantities to any person other than the Sirkar. A set of large and spacious buildings were constructed at Mavelikara which was made the centre of the commercial department and the head-quarters of the Dalawa.
Next, custom houses known as ‘Chowkeys’ were established at the frontiers and duties on articles exported and imported were imposed and collected.
The manufacture of salt was encouraged and an improved system of manufacture was adopted and depots were established for its storage and sale. ‘“All these systems,” says Mr. Shungoonny Menon, “were peaceably and permanently established without any great discontent among the populace”, and Rama lyen Dalawa constantly moved from place to place to see the successful carrying out of these measures.
The lands that were conquered in the recent wars were assessed, and their administration on a sound financial basis was established, which gave a fresh impetus to the ryots to turn their lands to the best account possible. A survey of lands of the whole State was begun in 926 M.E (1750 — 1751 A.D.), and the principle of a periodic assessment was adopted instead of a yearly fixing of rates. This difficult work was completed in three years of strenuous work and a Pattah specifying the tax levied on each property was given to every landholder. The first Ayacut account in Travancore was based on this settlement.
Having increased and strengthened the sources of revenue, the Dalawa turned his attention to the items of State expenditure. He framed a system of budget called Pathivu-kanakku (fixed budget), fixing allotments for the expenditure on Devaswams, Oottupurahs, Palaces, Revenue and Military establishments, Pensions, Purchase of goods and Miscellaneous charges. This Pathivu was so carefully made that the Huzur Account Department till very recently retained it in their annual budgets.
Besides the several public works carried out in Trivandrum, palaces were constructed for the Maharajah and the other members of the Royal family. A granite wall for the Trivandrum fort was substituted in the place of the old mud wall but as the Dalawa died before it was completed, the work was abandoned and to this day it remains in an unfinished state — partly granite, partly mud.
The magnificent stone corridor of the temple of Sri Padmanabhaswamy known as the Sivelipurai, measuring 420 feet from east to west and 226½ feet north to south, was built by the Maharajah. This was the biggest work carried out in His Highness’ reign. This corridor is 20 feet broad and 23 feet high and is supported by 368 granite sculptured pillars 13 feet in height and 2½ feet in diameter. The roof of the corridor is a terrace paved with granite slabs 25 feet long, 2½ feet broad and 1¾ feet thick. This gigantic work was completed in six months with the aid of 4,000 masons brought from Tinnevelly, Madura, Trichinopoly and other places working daily at it, assisted by 6,000 coolies and 100 elephants.
The great tower or the eastern Gopuram of the pagoda the foundation of which was laid so early as 741 M.E (1566 A.D)., but whose construction was unaccountably delayed so long, was undertaken and executed up to the fifth storey in a short time. The next two storeys were completed in the next reign.
A tremendous log of teak covered with gold, silver or copper plate is planted in front of every important Hindu temple. This is called the God’s Dwajam or flagstaff and the planting of it is an important ceremony attended with much pomp and expense in every temple. The one in front of Padmanabhaswamy’s temple is a golden Dwajam for which the teak log was obtained from the Kakkachal forest some thirty miles east of Trivandrum. The log is said to have been brought by men and elephants without touching the ground, it being essential according to the rules of Silpa-sastram for temple-building that such a log should not be dragged along the ground.
The palaces at Padmanabhapuram and Krishnapuram and several Oottupurahs and other useful buildings were constructed. Broad roads were made throughout the land affording convenience for traffic and passengers. Several canals connecting the lagoons of North Travancore were cut so that from Edawa near Varkala to the Cochin frontier the travelling was made easy and comfortable being one continuous smooth-water sailing. On this side of Varkala water communication was interrupted by the barrier which was subsequently overcome by tunnelling through the cliffs — a feat of engineering which could not have been dreamt of in Martanda Varma Maharajah’s days.
In expiation of the sin incurred by war and annexation of several petty States, the Maharajah convened a meeting of all the learned Brahmins of Malabar, Tinnevelly and Madura and under their advice inaugurated the Bhadradipam and Murajapam ceremonies in the Trivandrum temple, the prayers adopted for them being those prescribed in the Vedas as followed by Kartaviryarjuna, a powerful Kshatriya king. The first Murajapam was celebrated in 926 M.E (1751 A.D.) on a grand scale costing two lacs of Rupees. The coronation ceremony (Hiranyagarbham) was also preformed, the Tulapurushadanam or weighing against gold having been already celebrated in 924 M.E (1749 A.D.). The remaining fourteen Danams which go to make up the shastraic sixteen or Shodasadanams of the true Hindu, were also duly performed in 928 M.E. (1753 A.D.), at a cost of about 1¼ lacs of Rupees. It has to be borne in mind that a Murajapam costing two lacs of Rupees in Travancore one hundred and fifty-four years ago, must be a very magnificent one compared to the Murajapam of 1899 which cost about Rs. 3,17,000, for what a rupee secured in those semi-civilised days could not be promptly got for a rupee and a half now. No wonder then that while the Nambudiris thank and bless H. H. the Maharajah for keeping up the ancient hospitality to their community, they know from the traditions in their families that it lacks the magnificence and personal attention which His Highness’ ancestors could under a less complex State machinery bestow.
A local Knighthood — Chempakaraman. To reward public servants who distinguished themselves in the service of the State, the Maharajah instituted an order of knighthood known as Chempakaraman. Shungoonny Menon thus describes the ceremony of conferring the title in his History of Travancore.
“The recipient of this distinguished honour when selected is presented before the Maharajah on a propitious day fixed for the ceremonial. His Highness then, delivering a short speech in the presence of all the officers of State, expressive of the satisfaction afforded by the knight-elect to justify His Highness’ bestowing such an exalted title on him, gives him some special presents and names him by the title Chempakaraman after his name.
“The knight then proceeds to the gates of the palace followed by the prime minister and the other officials. At the gate in a hall attached to it, takes place the subsequent ceremony which consists in the presentation of a new piece of peculiar kind of silk, eight yards long, called Veeravaly Pattu and the wearing of a suit of new clothes. The knight being dressed properly after the Travancore fashion, one end of the silk is tied round his head, leaving the other end to the extent of two and a half or three yards loose like the train of a long robe. He is then placed on an elephant and behind him three nobles or other persons invested with similar titles, seat themselves bearing the train of the knight’s turban.
“The knight is then carried in procession, accompanied by a native band, a small detachment of military together with all the State peons, karikarahs and other servants. The procession moves round the four streets inside the fort and returns to the gate, where the knight dismounts from the elephant and proceeds with the prime minister who is waiting for him to the latter’s seat, where the knight then enjoys the privilege of being seated with the minister. The new knight is now presented with a quantity of betel leaves and arecanuts together with a few ripe limes in a silver plate, called thattom or thampalam, and thus ends the ceremony. From this day the title Chempakaraman Pillay is always added to his name. This is a highly prized distinction among the natives of Travancore and is conferred only in rare cases as a special token of Royal favour.”
Dedication of Travancore to Sri Padmanabhaswamy
For the better safety of his ancient house and the consolidation of his acquired dominions so as to make internal disturbances in the country impossible and make his own position secure, the thoughtful Maharajah determined upon the bold step of dedicating his kingdom to Sri Padmanabhaswamy, the tutelary deity of the Royal house of Travancore.
Accordingly on the morning of the 5th Makaram 925 M.E. (January 1750 A.D.), accompanied by the heir-apparent and all the other male and female members of the Royal family, the Maharaja with his Prime Minister proceeded to Sri Padmanabha’s temple where all the priests and Yogakkars had also been summoned. His Highness laid his State sword before the God on the Ottakkal mantapam and made over the whole territory to the Devaswam and assumed its management as the vassal of that deity. From this day forward he styled himself Sri Padmanahha Dasa, meaning “the servant of Sri Padmanabhaswamy.”
This stroke of policy had the desired effect and the people of Travancore have ever after regarded the country as the possession of the God and the person of the sovereign as His representative to them on earth. None of them would dare to do or speak ill of their sovereign for by so doing they would be guilty of Swamidroham or blaspheming the deity.
Thus the kingdom of Travancore became Sri Pandaravagai; and the State servants Sri Pandara Kariyam Chaivargal and the denomination of the Taluqs was changed into Mantapathumvathukkal, literally the door way of the God’s mantapam, for the first revenue Cutchery was held in front of Sri Padmanabhaswamy’s mantapam.
In 923 M.E (1748 A.D), two Princesses were adopted into the Travancore dynasty from the Kolathunad family (Chirakkal house). They belonged to ‘Pallikovilakam’ of that house. They were first taken to Mannar and entertained there for some months and finally brought to Trivandrum at the auspicious hour for adoption. The marriage ceremony of one of these Princesses was performed in the same year at Attungal. The two Ranis were married to Kochu Kovil Tampurans of Tattara Kovil and Edathura Matam respectively. The Senior Rani gave birth to two sons, one born in 931 M.E, under the star of Asvathi — the famous Asvathi Tirunal, and the other in the following year. The Junior Rani also gave birth to two children, one male born in 932 M.E, and the other female born in 934 M.E
Death of Rama lyen Dalawa
In 931 M.W. (1756 A.D.), the Dalawa Rama lyen fell ill at his official residence at Mavelikara and the Maharajah sent the heir-apparent Rama Varma at once to visit him and to enquire after his health. He was also asked to ascertain from the Dalawa his wishes as to the manner in which his name should be perpetuated. When the Prince reached Mavelikara, he found the Dalawa sinking and on being informed of the Maharajah’s wishes to perpetuate his name, Rama lyen said with his characteristic modesty “I disclaim any personal right to the proposed honour. I was merely the instrument in my Royal master’s hands. Although I have accomplished all my aims I am only sorry that I was not permitted to conquer and annex Cochin.”
In spite of the best medical help, this remarkable Dalawa expired soon after the Elaya Rajah returned to Trivandrum. The strong-minded Maharajah was deeply moved by the news of his faithful minister’s death and gave way to melancholy thoughts which soon brought on his own end.
Rama lyen was unselfish and honest and so poor that no private property of any value was found in his residence when he died, though he had served the State for eighteen years in various capacities and had held high and lucrative offices. No successor was appointed to his place as Dalawa but the work was carried on by the Sarvadhikariakar Aiyappan Martanda Pillai. In recognition of the meritorious services rendered by Rama lyen the Maharajah was pleased to bestow the title of Dalawa on his brothers.
Very little is known of Rama lyen’s life and career. He has left no direct lineal descendants, but his Dayadis (agnatic descendants) are still alive, one of whom is known to perform the Sradha or anniversary ceremony to the Dalawa even to this day, for which he gets from Government a small annual allowance of paddy (Melvaram). The same family also performs a Sumangali Prarthana, a propitiatory ceremony in honour of the Dalawa’s wife who died of childbirth.
Rama lyen was born in Yervadi, a village in the District of Tinnevelly, to which his family originally belonged. When he was six years old, his poor father gave up his native village and came to Travancore and settled in the insignificant hamlet of Aruvikkara near Tiruvattar in Kalkulam Taluq, about thirty-five miles south-east of Trivandrum.
When twenty years old, Rama lyen lost his father and soon after, his mother also. Rama lyen had three brothers and one sister. After the death of his parents, Rama lyen frequently visited Trivandrum, attracted to it chiefly no doubt by the perennial round of ceremonies and festivities there, which even now draw large crowds of the Brahmin population from the surrounding villages, but more so by the opportunities for distinction which it gave to a young man of his intelligence and ardent nature.
On one such occasion he made up his mind to stay and take service as a ‘Kutti-pattar’ (boy-servant) under one Attiyara Potti of Vanchiyur, a Brahmin jenmi of great opulence and one of the Yogakkars or Committee of management of Padmanabha’s temple. In those early days, Maharajah Martanda Varma visited his intimate friends in their houses and, when specially requested, used to dine there.
One evening when the illustrious Maharajah was dining at the Attiyara Pottimatam*, the boy Rama lyen waited on his master’s Royal guest at dinner. Observing that the lamplight was dim, the Potti ordered Rama lyen to trim the wick and brighten the light. When the boy went to it, he found there was no wick-trimmer in the brass lamp (generally a piece of brass four inches long used for trimming the oil-lights of the Hindu households) and according to the Hindu Shastras it is a sin to trim the wick with one’s own finger (though now universally done through ignorance by the women and servants), which however the young Rama lyen knew, and with his ready genius he pulled out the gold ring from his finger and trimmed the wick, after which he washed the gold ring with water and put it on as before.
NOTEs: * 'Matam' means the house of a Brahmin.
The Maharajah who noticed the boy’s whole proceeding was quite pleased with him and after enquiries about his antecedents took him into his own service. It was this petty incident at the Potti’s house that led to Maharajah Martanda Varma’s coming to know of Rama lyen, which casual acquaintance soon developed into a strong tie of attachment and devotion on the one side and of great confidence and appreciation on the other, with such signal benefit in later years to both of them and to the State itself.*
NOTEs: * Since writing the above, the following version of the story has come to my knowledge. Such variations are inevitable where history has to rely on oral tradition:
Unable to pay the taxes due to Government and being constantly subjected to torture and oppression by the officers of the Government of the Nawab of the Carnatic, Rama lyen's family including his father, mother, four brothers and a sister migrated to Travancore between 893 M. E. and 906 M.E. (1718—1731 A. D.). Their first settlement was at Shencottah where lived a maternal uncle of Rama lyen’s, one Subrahmanya Sastrial, a great Sanskiit scholar and sometimes Guru (tutor) to the Rajahs of Kottarakara and Travancore. Once when the Travancore Maharajah invited the Sastrial to his court he took with him young Rama lyen also. His introduction to the Rajah’s favour is said to have been brought about in this wise.
One evening as the Maharajah was at his evening (prayers) in his palace at Trivandrum, the Sastri and his nephew happened to be in attendance on His Highness. The Maharajah was seated in front of an ordinary metal lamp facing the west, when the light began to grow dim on account of the snuff in the wick. The boy standing behind at a respectable distance noticed it at once and calmly stepped forward to trim the wick.
With keen precaution he first lighted another wick which he held in his left hand and then trimmed the light with the right hand. This done, he put out the newly lighted wick and retired. The Maharajah who was observing the boy’s proceeding marked his caution and intelligence and requested the Sastri to leave his nephew in his service, which he was only too glad to do, and Rama lyen was first appointed Pakatasala Rayasom (a petty clerk in the palace) on a monthly salary of Rs. 2 and fanam 1.
On another occasion when the Maharajah was at his supper he received a letter from the Nawab of the Carnatic which required on immediate reply. A reply was prepared by His Highness on which however young Rama lyen was able to find matter for criticism. He was at once commanded to draft the reply himself which he did to the entire satisfaction of his royal master. Ever since Rama lyen rose in His Highness’ favour aud was always consulted and confided in by the Maharajah.
Another domestic incident also helped to estrange Rama lyen’s feelings from home and kith and centre them all on his Royal master and his affairs. Rama lyen seldom visited Aruvikkara, where his wife and brothers were living, except in connection with his parents’ anniversaries, and his wife rarely accompanied him to Trivandrum to live with him there owing to his heavy pressure of official work in the palace where his presence was constantly required. He had no son. His brother Gopala lyen had sons, one of whom Rama lyen wanted to adopt, but was not permitted to do so. This conduct of his brother offended Rama lyen deeply and led to his leaving home in disgust. Rama lyen had thus no family concerns to attend to and therefore devoted himself heart and soul to his Royal master’s service. He was soon appointed Palace Rayasom and then Dalawa when Thanu Pilial died in 912 M.E. Of this remarkable Rama lyen and his Royal master, the late illustrious Maharajah (Visakham Tirunal) thus records his tribute of admiration —
“The present territorial configuration of the Native State of Travancore developed itself in the eighteenth century and almost contemporaneously with, and under circumstances not dissimilar to those of, the growth of the British power in India. Rajah Martanda Varma succeeded to a heritage as thorny as it was poor. The feeble rule of a series of his predecessors had fostered the greed of the surrounding chieftains and the turbulence of internal malcontents to such an extent that their kingdom was almost a misnomer, and their authority little better than a mockery.
“But Martanda Varma was one of those whom the world produces but at rare intervals. He was born to command and to conquer. He had the best of schooling — that of hardship. He had the best of teachers — foes. He was served by one of the ablest of minsters. Sully did not serve Henry IV of France more ably and faithfully than Ramaiya did Martanda Varma. ‘The Baron de Rosny was the very man to remedy this state of matters; rude, obstinate and haughty, but at the same time resolute, active, indefatigable, wholly devoted to his master’s interests’, Ramaiya was unrelenting, unsparing and often unscrupulous to his master’s enemies but his self was merged completely in that of his master. He was as fearless in the Council-room as he was in the battle-field. With such a minister at his right hand, and with a strong will, abiding patience, and indomitable courage, the Rajah not only won back what his predecessors had lost, but subjugated, one after another, the neighbouring chiefs who were a perpetual source of trouble.”*
NOTEs: * The Calcutta Review for April 1884.
In short, to quote the words of Gibbon, Rama lyen had “a heart to resolve, a head to contrive and a hand to execute”.
One anecdote of Rama lyen’s self-abnegation still lingers in the public mind. Rama lyen, after his wife’s death, consorted with a Sudra girl at Mavelikara, whither his work in connection with the northern conquests often took him. She was poor and on her entreaties for help on his death-bed, he gave her a cadjan-chit* for presentation to the Maharajah. But the poor woman was not able to pay her respects to the Maharajah at Trivandrum. In the next reign she went and submitted the cadjan-chit to His Highness Rama Varma which contained a request in the handwriting of the Dalawa himself to his Sovereign-master asking for remission of a few chuckrams+ tax on her house-garden as she was, Rama lyen said, a poor dependent of his. The Maharajah granted the remission of the tax on the woman’s land as prayed for and in addition loaded her with presents of cloths and jewels in grateful recognition of Rama lyen’s invaluable services to the State. His Highness gave her also a monthly allowance of a few measures of paddy and rice which is said to be continued to the family to this day. This story is in the mouth of every Travancorean, illustrative of Rama lyen’s unselfishness as well as his scanty means.
NOTEs: * Until recently all Vernacular correspondence in Travancore was carried on on Palmyra olas using an iron style for a pen.
+ Chuckram is a Travancore coin equivalent to 6.73 pies of the Madras currency.
Demise of the Maharajah
Ever since the death of the faithful Dalawa, the Maharajah was slowly pining away. On the 27th Mithunam 933 M.E (July 1758), he knew his end was approaching and so called his nephew the Elaya Rajah to his bed-side and gave him the following advice —
1. “That no deviation whatever should be made in regard to the dedication of the kingdom to Sri Padmanabhaswamy, and that all further territorial acquisitions should be made over to the Devaswam.
2. “That not a hair’s breadth of alteration or deviation should be made in the established charities and the institutions connected with the same.
3. “That no family dissension or quarrel should be allowed in the royal house.
4. “That the enmity of the Kayenkulam Rajah should neither be forgotten nor their ill deeds endured.
5. “That the expenses of the State should not be allowed to exceed the income.
6. “That the palace expenditure should be defrayed from the profits of the commercial department.
7. “That, above all, the friendship existing between the English East India Company and Travancore should be maintained at any risk, and that full confidence should always be placed in the support and aid of that honourable association.”*
NOTEs: * Shungoonny Menon's History of Travancore. Page 175
Prince Rama Varma solemnly assured his dying uncle that he would stick to every letter of his advice, on which the Maharajah was gratified and blessed him, and in a few minutes quietly passed away praying devoutly to God, in the presence of all the members of his Royal house, his loyal officers and a large retinue of servants. The Maharajah was fifty-three years old and was a virtuous and capable Prince who ruled the country well for twenty-nine years during which period Travancore reached its present enlarged dimensions. The stories still extant amongst the people show their grateful remembrance of him and the esteem in which he is held as the founder of modern Travancore.
In his dealings with foreign powers the Maharajah was cautious and conciliatory. When the Pandyan Government, with whom the former Rajahs had perpetual alliance, finally passed into the hands of the Nawab of the Carnatic, the Maharajah negotiated with the Nawab renewing the terms of the old treaty his predecessors had with the Pandyan Kingdom. Accordingly His Highness entered into a treaty with the Nawab on the following conditions —
1. That Travancore should pay to the Nawab a sum of Rs. 6,000 and one elephant per annum.
2. And that the Nawab should afford every protection to Travancore from foreign and local enemies.
Thus the Maharajah secured the aid of the most powerful Ruler in Southern India.
With the Treaty of Mavelikara in 932 M.E (1757 A.D.), the Cochin Rajah declared perpetual alliance with Travancore. The defeat at the battle of Poracad added to the invasion by Hyder Ali Khan, greatly checked the haughty spirit and power of the Zamorin who thereafter ceased his hostilities against Travancore.
Travancore and the Dutch became mutual friends by the Datdh treaty of 928 M.E (1753 A.D.) and the Dutch were bound to supply Travancore with the ammunition of war annually to the value of Rs. 12,000.
The English merchants at Anjengo were ever ready to render assistance when required. In June 1757 A.D., the factors at Anjengo wrote to Fort St. George reporting the great advantages which the Company might derive through friendship with the Rajah of Travancore. The Maharajah himself wrote in 1757 A.D., expressing his willingness to have the differences between himself and the Nawab settled amicably by the English.
In January 1767 the Madras Governor wrote to Issoof Khan, the Company’s renter in Tinnevelly, advising him to preserve the friendship with the King of Travancore. Thus arose our friendship and union with great new European Power in India attended with such beneficial results in the next century and a half of Travancore history.
3. Rama Varma