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Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - Section C: Modern History - Rama Varma

His personal character Martanda Pillai Dalawa

Treaty with Cochin

The Travancore Lines - The Zamorin repulsed

Reforms Shencottah

Relations with the Nawab of Arcot and the English

The dispute about the Districts of Calacaud

The English First invasion of Hyder Ali

The new ministry Second Invasion of Hyder Ali

Death of De Lannoy

The Maharajah’s pilgrimage to Rameswaram

Domestic Events Kesava Das

The Pope’s message Tippu’s schemes against Travancore

The new English alliance

Purchase of Ayacotta and Cranganore from the Dutch

Tippu’s demands

Tippu’s attack on the lines - His defeat

The attitude of the Madras Government Tippu enters Travancore

The English declare war against Tippu Tippu retreats

Treaty of Seringapatnam Settlement of Malabar

The expenses of the war The treaty of 1795

Internal reforms Rajah Kesava Das

Demise of the Maharajah

Sir Madava Row’s review of the reign Summary


Rama Varma 934-973 M.E / 1758-1798 A.D

This illustrious Maharajah was the longest-lived sovereign of Travancore in recent history and his rule was characterised by wisdom, justice and humanity which endeared him to his subjects. He was highly adored as the Dharma Rajah (the good and just king), a title of honour which has remained with the Travancore Maharajahs ever since, and Englishmen called him ‘The father of his people’. He was a ruler endowed with great natural gifts and possessed abilities of a high order for administration which stood him in good stead under trying and difficult circumstances. Personally he was distinguished by courage and presence of mind of which several stories are still current in all parts of Travancore. The following is one such.

During the severe fight between the Kayangulam Rajah and the late King Martanda Varma, which took place in 1736 A.D., Prince Rama Varma, the heir-apparent, was staying at Padmanabhapuram. For a time no news came to him from the scene of battle — all letters having been intercepted by the order of the Kayangulam Rajah. The Prince immediately went to Kayangulam in cognito and gained entrance into the fort under the guise of a Pathan. News reached the Kayangulam Rajah that some spy from Travancore had entered his fort, and he at once issued orders for his arrest. The Prince managed to remain within the fort several days undetected, but could not get any news of his uncle who with his whole army had been closely besieged by the Kayangulam forces.

He then decided to get out of the fort but could not. At that time the Tevararn Puja of the Kayangulam king was conducted by a Nambudiri of the Ilangallur Illam.* After nightfall the Prince met the Nambudiri and confided to him the secret about himself and sought his help to escape from the fort. The Nambudiri agreed to help the Prince if he could suggest any feasible plan. The Prince thereupon concocted a letter purporting to have been sent to the Nambudiri from his Illam asking him to go home immediately to see his dying mother. The Nambudiri presented the letter to the Kayangulam Rajah and got permission to leave the fort with his servants. The Prince served as a lamp-bearer to the Nambudiri, and thus managed to escape from the fort. In return for this help of the Nambudiri, the Prince in later days created him the chief of his four palace priests, got his house rebuilt, gave him one hundred Parahs of wet land tax free and settled on his family a Homam** in Mavelikara.

NOTEs: * This Ilangallur lllam still exists and the present representative of the house is personally known to me since I was a Tahsildar some 32 years ago. I was instrumental in helping him out of a difficulty caused by the Public Works Department cutting a new road by the side of his Illam. This was a sore trial to the poor man, for if the road had been made it meant the abandonment of his home which had stood there for centuries. The British Resident inspected the spot, and the authorities were at last pleased to save the house and spare him the pain. It was then that I learnt from him personally of the part which his ancestors had played in the making of Travancore history.

** A Homam is a puja and sacrifice offered to the Gods and the performer gets a modest sum in the way of grain, money and other properties for a salary, but it is a privilege highly valued.

Martanda Plllai Dalawa

Aiyappan Martanda Pillai was Dalawa from 1758 to 1763 A.D., and under his supervision, the coronation ceremonies, Tulabharam and Hiranyagarbham were performed. The Maharajah at first directed his efforts to the improvement of the newly acquired territories and to the remodelling of the forces. Reforms were introduced in the revenue and judicial departments. The whole country was divided into three divisions, viz., Vadakkumukham, Pandinjarumukkam and Tekkumukham, each of which being placed under the charge of an officer known as Valia Sarvadhikariakar. There were four subordinate officers called Sarvadhikariakars in each division and below these again there were Kariakars, Provertikars, Chandrakarans, Toraikarans and others. The districts under a Kariakar were again sub-divided into Maniams, Kelvies, Adhikarams or Proverties.

Treaty with Cochin

About 1760 A.D., the Zamorin of Calicut conquered a portion of the Rajah of Cochin’s dominions and his army committed depredations at Karurupadana, a small village between Shoranore and Cochin. The Rajah of Cochin at once sent his minister Paliath Menon to solicit the Travancore Rajah’s assistance and himself came to the court of Travancore. The following agreement was entered into between him and the Rajah of Travancore on the 12th Dhanu 937 M. E. (23rd December 1761 A. D.):—

“On the 12th Magarom 932 an agreement took place between us the particulars of which had been settled by the parties at Mavilicar. On the 3rd Chingom 929, it was there agreed that the parties should lay aside all former enmity which subsisted between them and observe and cultivate a perpetual friendship with each other. In conformity to that agreement I engage that I will not protect or afford any assistance whatever to your enemies in my country. As you wish to receive five hundred candies of pepper out of the produce of your country at any place you may think proper, I have only to request that your merchant or broker may receive that quantity with the consent and in the presence of my merchant, and my merchants shall advance money and receive the remainder of the pepper produced in your country as soon as this agreement shall have taken place.

“The chiefs of Chambagacherry, Ambalapilly and Vadacomcoor have been indisposed towards me and you desire that the sums expended by me in reducing them to subjection shall be levied from them and that until the amount be paid I shall retain the possession of their districts in my own hands and you promise not to take part with them or render them any assistance as I place much confidence in this assurance on your part, I have agreed that the chiefs of Ambalapilly &c., shall be permitted to remain at Trichoor and during the period of their residence at that place you promise not to hold any correspondence with them by letter or otherwise nor to afford them any supplies for their subsistence nor to have an interview with them; you further promise not to grant protection to my enemies in your country. In regard to certain privileges which you possess in my country and some also which 1 possess in your country they must be observed and continued as has ever been the custom.

“All the aforesaid articles having been agreed to, you inform me that the Samoory has entered your country with his troops, expelled your people and taken possession of it and you desire me to assist you by sending my troops, at my own expense, in order to enable you to recover possession of your country by expelling the Samoory’s troops from that part which extends north as far as Poocoidah river and east as far as Chittoor river as also the districts you formerly possessed in Vellapanad Karee. If I should assist you and put you in possession of this country you in return agree to make over to me the district Carapooram extending to the south of Pampolly river and north of Alipie and also Paroor and Alangado with all their rights, &c. , except the three villages, Chetany, Yeado, and Chambalum and you further agree to pay into the hands of my people the amount of half the revenues collected in your country to defray the expenses of my troops until you shall be put in possession of your country.

“When the army shall enter the Palghautcherry country, you consent that I shall place my own servants to collect the revenues in the villages formerly belonging to the Samoory in the same manner as the Samoory collected them. I will send my troops to be paid by me and will use every exertion and render all the assistance in my power to defeat the Samoory’s troops and restore your country.

You shall be put in possession of those villages which were not conquered by me in the year 933 in the district of Carinadoo extending north as far as Murinhapoya river and south as far as Verapole river. When you wish to discharge the petty Poligars in your country, I will join you and render you all the assistance in my power, I desire that Dewauree may read and explain this agreement to the elder Rajah Parumpadapoo. The agreement is drawn up by Shangara Coomaran by order of the Travancore Raja.”*

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual Vol III Page 112

At the time of the agreement Karappuram belonged to Travancore, yet it was purposely included to prevent all future disputes about it. That same year the Rajah of Cochin and the Rajah of Travancore proceeded to Suchindram and the former solemnly made the following declaration in the presence of God.— “We, myself and nephews, do hereby declare under the solemn oath in the presence of Stanumurti* that we shall from this day the 12th Karkadagam 937 M.E , on no account neither oppose nor sanction war against Sri Padmanabha Bala Rama Varma Kulasekhara Perumal, King of Travancore and his nephews.”

NOTEs: * The temple at Suchindram is dedicated to Siva who is locally known as Stanumurti

The Travancore Lines — The Zamorin repulsed

The Travancore troops were accordingly sent to aid the Cochin State and the first thing they undertook was the construction of the famous Travancore lines, stretching in an almost straight line from the shore of the back-water opposite to the town of Cranganore to the foot of the Ghauts. They consisted of an imposing earthen rampart, not very high, extending over thirty miles in length from Palliport along a great portion of the Cochin State on a strip of land ceded by the Cochin Rajah, which served as a check upon the Zamorin’s advances. Just flanking their western extremity were the Dutch forts of Cranganore and Ayacotta. The lines were fronted by a ditch on the north. Flanking towers were placed at intervals and a fort was constructed at the western extremity. The construction of the fortifications was entrusted to the Dalawa and General De Lannoy. The weakness of the fort lay in the fact that so few of the points were closed on the rear or southside and that if one such point were taken the whole line would necessarily collapse. However the lines resisted successfully the advance of the Zamorin’s troops.

In 1762 the Travancoreans under the command of General De Lannoy formed into three divisions and attacked the Zamorin’s garrisons severally at Cranganore, Parur, and Verapoly, with their right flank protected by their fortifications. The Zamorin was defeated in a short time, and his troops were completely driven back from Cochin territory. The Rajah of Travancore reinstated the Cochin Rajah in his dominions. At the same time he also opened Alleppey which he had taken from Cochin, to foreign trade much to the detriment of the Dutch trade. This event made Travancore “master of the whole country from Cranganore to Cape Comorin, a small isolated portion of territory lying round the Cochin Raja’s Palace at Tirupunattura on the east of the backwater, and another portion to the north and south of Cochin on the west of it, being all that was left to the Cochin Raja of his dominions to the south of the Travancore lines”. On the 28th of Edavam 938 M.E (1763 A.D.), the Zamorin entered into a treaty of perpetual alliance with Travancore.

The Zamorin came to Padmanabhapuram to meet the Maharajah and entered into an alliance by which he agreed to indemnify the Maharajah for the expenses of the war by giving the moderate sum of Rs. 150,000, promising at the same tame perpetual friendship and fidelity. After the conclusion of the peace the Dalawa returned to Trivandrum placing a portion of the army, for the security of the country to be maintained at the expense of the Cochin Rajah. About this time Parur and Alangaud were surrendered to Travancore by their Rajah who was thereupon pensioned. The Queen of Karurswarupam also ceded her territory being unable to meet the payment of 6,000 fanams due to the Rajah of Cochin, which was cleared by the Travancore Maharajah. A boundary dispute arose between Travancore and Cochin about Karur and was settled in favour of the former and the Travancore laws were extended to the newly acquired territories.


Forts were erected at Krishnapuram. The palaces were repaired waste lands lying east of the Neendakara bar and south of the backwater were reclaimed and peopled and the tract has since been called Dalawapuram; several roads were opened, and many rest-houses were established between Kunnatnad and Thottapalli. The whole army of the State was remodelled and brought to a state of great efficiency, the number of European officers being also increased. At Varkala twenty-four houses were built and given as gifts to as many Brahmin families and in the Trivandrum Pagoda the Kulasekharamantapam which was begun in 933 M.E. was completed in 940 M.E.


In 1752 A.D. the Poligar of Chokampatti forcibly seized certain portions of the district of Shencottah. In consequence of this act of wanton aggression, the King of Travancore sent an army to Chokampatti, subdued the Poligar and recovered possession of the district. Regarding this event Colonel Munro wrote in July 1810 : —

“The District of Shencottah forms one of the most ancient possessions of Travancore and to which the Rajah’s Government justly attach the greatest importance. The whole of the District continued under the Government of Travancore from a remote period of time until the Malayalam year 928, when the Polygar of Vadagherry or Chokampatti, in the spirit of violence and encroachment which distinguished the conduct of the Tinnevelly Polygars at that period of time, seized some of the lands belonging to Shencottah and retained possession of them by force until 934 or 1759 A.D., when the Rajah despatched a body of troops against the Polygar, defeated him in an action, captured his fort and recovered all the lands that had been seized.”

Relations with the Nawab of Arcot and the English

About the middle of 1758 A.D., the Districts of Tinnevelly and Madura from the forests of Nattam to the gates of Travancore were exposed to the ravages of the Company’s sepoys stationed at different places by Mahomed Issoof Khan, the Nawab’s agent. Maphuze Khan, the dismissed Governor, was still in arms and was recognised by the Poligars of Tinnevelly as their leader. Issoof Khan represented to the Nawab and the Governor of Fort St. George the advisability of entering into a treaty of alliance with the Rajah of Travancore. The two authorities agreed to the proposal as they considered that Maphuze Khan would prove a dangerous enemy if he was allowed to remain at large among his Poligars.

Maphuze Khan in the meanwhile communicated to the King of Travancore the signal defeat of the English at Wandewash, and the letters he had received from Bassaulet Jung and the Pondicherry Government which encouraged him to think that the British power would soon be overthrown in the Carnatic. He also offered the King several districts in Tinnevelly on his border if he would quit the English and join him. The Maharajah sent these letters to Issoof Khan and demanded of him the cession of Calacaud and other districts as a price of his friendship. On the 4th December 1759, the Madras Government wrote to His Highness informing him of the issue of necessary instructions to Mahomad Issoof Khan to deliver to him the territory of Calacaud, and the Maharajah was accordingly confirmed in his possession of the twelve districts. The Travancore troops joined Issoof Khan who after a short operation defeated the Poligars and re-established his authority.

The Governor of Fort St. George wrote to Mahomed Issoof Khan CD the 22nd November 1759 highly appreciating the services rendered to the company by the King of Travancore in putting down the Vadakara Poligar and Puliteven.

Soon after this, Issoof Khan in his turn rebelled against the Nawab of Arcot, and desired to establish himself as an independent chief. With this object he secured aid from the French and even applied to the Travancore King offering to give him all the territories west of Tinnevelly which had once belonged to Travancore. But the offer was coolly declined.

Issoof Khan in resentment marched a force against the King of Travancore but was defeated by the latter. For this rash act of Issoof Khan in attacking the kingdom of Travancore without the permission of the Governor of Madras, he was severely reprimanded for taking on himself to make war on independent States and was asked to report himself at Madras to render an explanation. Issoof Khan wrote back stating that the King of Travancore had defeated a part of his troops near Tinnevelly and that he was going in person against him and therefore could not go as desired. This and similar hostile acts of his were viewed with extreme disapprobation and an army was despatched to capture him.

The King of Travancore also sent a strong force to co-operate with the English at Trichinopoly. Issoof Khan was captured and hanged at Madura as a public enemy in 1766. The following letter from the Rajah of Travancore. dated 25th February 1763, while clearly describing Issoof Khan’s several acts of hostility in the late war between the two, and his overtures for peace, also illustrates the Rajah’s magnanimity and sincere attachment to the Nawab and the Honourable Company —

“I had the pleasure to receive two letters from you dated the 3rd and 14th of December 1762 with a copy of letter concerning Usoff Cawn, on the 24th of February 1763 advising me of the strict and old friendship of the Company and I understood the contents. I lately sent you a letter through the means of the Chief of Anjengo thereby acquainting you of the disturbances and troubles raised by Usoff Cawn without the Nabob’s or Company’s orders, that he fought with my people and that he afterwards was desirous of a friendship altho’ he was a servant of the Company’s, yet he behaved so disrespectfully and committed inexpressible hostilities, he has plundered, demolished, and set fire to all the Countries together with the Pagodas in which our Gods were kept as well as their Seats or Chariots, and thus by his hostilities occasioned the loss of many lacks to my Circar which in reality is the Company’s own loss.

“He had no business to commence a war with me, notwithstanding he did it to his own folly. Some of Usoff Cawn’s people were taken prisoners of war by me whom I treated civilly and sent them back to his camp giving them presents and money for their expenses on the road, but when he has taken some of my people he has been so base to cut off their noses and ears and sent them away disgracefully. Great numbers of my people were killed in the fight. Before I received your letter Usoff Cawn sent some people to acquaint me that he began a war with me through his own folly and that it would be better to enter into a friendship. Altho* the said Usoflf Cawn might have committed great crimes yet as he was the Company’s servant, I out of regard for my old friendship for the Company as well as in regard to the affairs of the Nabob’s Circar, thought fit to make peace with him.

“As no proper person is with him to keep him by good advice from bad actions is the reason that he acted so wickedly. If the day of misfortune overtake him what can he do? By the blessing of God he will meet with his deserts and punishment by his own Masters. The friendship being concluded the 21st February last, he returned towards Tinnevelly &c. Countries are conferred on Usoff Cawn or on some others either by the Nabob’s Circar or by the Company.

“You will give strict orders to such as may be appointed not to meddle or go even near or round my Districts. My business is to regard the Company’s interest and that of Nabob’s. Usoff Cawn tried all he could to sow discord between me, you, and the Nabob, but you was wise enough not to hearken to him, which made me perfectly easy and cemented the friendship between us.

If Usoff Cawn goes to your place accordingly, it is well, if not I am certain the Company’s army will march to punish him accordingly as you informed me, then I shall join in this business according as the Company may write me.” *

NOTEs: * Extract from Military Country Correspondence, Vol. XI - Ancient Records of Fort St. George.

The dispute about the Districts of Calacaud

It has been stated that, in recognition of the strict friendship subsisting between the Honourable Company and the King of Travancore and as a recompense for the latter’s assistance to Issoof Khan in reducing to subjection the rebellious Poligars, he was reinstated in the possession of the twelve districts around Calacaud (which were formerly possessed by his ancestors) by a writing under the Sign Manual of the Governor of Madras. But about the end of October 1764, Mahomed Ali, the Nawab, accompanied by the English troops arrived at Tinnevelly and ordered the King of Travancore to retire with all his people from those districts, adding that in case of noncompliance he would despatch forces for the purpose. The Rajah out of regard for the Honourable Company delivered up the forts and everything in them and quietly withdrew his forces to Tovala. He then requested the English factors at Anjengo to intercede in his behalf and also wrote to the Governors of Bombay and Madras clearly explaining his claims to those districts. This request of the Rajah was taken as a fitting opportunity by the English to obtain for them the grants and privileges already referred to by the Chief of Angengo in his letter dated 8th September 1757, and to strengthen their relations with the King. The Company’s position was thus clearly expressed by the Anjengo factors in their letter to the President and Governor-in-Council at Fort St. George —

“In consequence of the King’s request we take the liberty of representing to your Honours that should the Districts not be restored to His Majesty, it will be attended with consequences fatal to the interest of our Honourable Masters at this settlement. On the contrary should your Honours think proper to favour His Majesty’s request we presume that you will have it greatly in your power, previous to the granting such favour, to obtain for the Honourable Company those valuable Grants and Privileges, represented to your Honours by Mr. Spencer in a letter to the Gentlemen of your Select Committee under the 8th September 1757, we must therefore request your Honours not to come to any conclusion with the King until these points are settled, as probably we may never have such another opportunity in our power as the present of gaining these advantages by the interposition of your Honours’ authority.

“As we have entered into Contracts with the King and his subjects, very valuable to the Hon’ble Company, and are entirely dependent on him and have ever been on the strictest terms of friendship with him, which we are particularly enjoined, by your Honourable Masters and our Superiours at Bombay, to support by a prudent measure, we are prompted from these essential motives to intercede with your Honours on His Majesty’s behalf.”*

NOTEs: * Extract from Anjengo Factory Diaries, Vol. I

The Madras Government on receipt of the Rajah’s letter referred the matter to the Nawab who sent an ambassador to confer with the Travancore minister. Engineer Call, a servant of the Company, was deputed by the Madras Government to arbitrate. The parties met at Nagercoil on the 14th of November 1764. The Nawab’s proposals were briefly these:-

1. That the Sirkar should possess all the lands east of the mountains, while the fort and those to the west of the mountains should belong to the King of Travancore; and the districts of Shencottah and others from the eastward of the mountains of Vadakara to belong to the Sirkar.

2. That the King of Travancore should pay Rs. 100,000 yearly in two payments on account of the lands of the Sirkar taken by him.

3. The original tribute paid by the House of Travancore to the kings of Trichinopoly viz., 400,000 fanams yearly and 100,000 fanams on account of the expenses of the palace servants and five elephants would be reduced to a yearly tribute of Rs. 50,000 exclusive of the Rs. 100,000 mentioned above.

These terms were strongly supported by Engineer Call. The conference thus ended virtually against the Maharajah. The following was His Highness reply to the above proposals: —

“I have seen the proposals which you have thought requisite to make for the preservation of the continuance of the desired friendship between me and the Nabob Saib and as it is therein related that the Lands situated to the eastward of the Hill and Fort, to the sea side must be given up to the Nabob and those to the Westward of the said Hill and Fort be possessed, I reply that my Ancestors for many years possessed the Districts of Calacaudu and Chengota, after which the Aramanean reaped the benefit of them for sometime by force of Arms. We did likewise avoid, however, the continual disputes that arose about the possession.

“I represented the affair to my faithful! friend the Hon’ble Company at Bombay and Madras and they not only answered me that I might possess these our ancient districts, but also sent a order to Essouf Cawn, the person in the Honourable Company’s service who had charge of the Lands, to deliver up to me those districts, under which security I have possessed them ever since without any molestation. And as the relinquishing of the Possessions of my Ancestors will be an act of disgrace, I answer with regard to the Hill and Fort at the Head of the Districts of Calacaudu that there is such a Hill and an old Fort, also privileged writings, which were executed at that time in veneration of the Pagodas where they are deposited and which being examined will inform you of the whole affair. It is upwards of one thousand years since we have been in possession of the Districts of Chengota, but as in the interim the Maniagar of Tengaugy by Force imposed a Tribute to be paid to the Aramanean I continue the same till this day and as this is the rise of these affairs, I cannot comprehend why you should propose to me to give up the Lands to the Eastward of the Hill and Fort without well examining things.

“The District called Atazanelur we have been in possession of a long time and because in the time of Aragapa Mudally we gave this place to him to rent, the Aramanean by force took possession of it, all this being well examined I hope will be admitted as just.

“As it is also mentioned that I had taken the Lands of the Aramanean at rent, and used authority in them and made Peace with Aramanean paying him one hundred thousand (100,000 Rupees), I reply that I did not take the lands of Armanean at rent, nor have I used any authority in them, besides I have accounts the Expenses and Losses attending my Army against the Polygars for the defence of the Hon’ble Company and the Aramanean and there can be no reason for me to pay money for reaping the benefit of my own Lands, and for Tribute I will not pay more than 40,000 Fanams a year. In this manner I will satisfy the past as well the future.

“The Hon’ble English Company being the most faithful Friend of both Parties, I hope that, on every circumstance of these affairs being examined, such measures will be taken by them as to prevent any disunion between us and the Nabob and that an everlasting Friendship may be preserved between us.

“The Nabob Saib being at present at Tinnevelly I have represented every circumstance of this affair through my minister Changarayen to his Ambassador Vengudda Salam Ayen to settle the terms for obtaining his consent regarding the Districts of Calacaudu, and paying the due Tribute I hope it will be settled in this manner.” *

NOTEs: * Extract from Anjengo Factory Diaries, Vol. I.

On the 20th January 1765 there was a conference at Anjengo of the Rajah with the Chief and factors there. After the usual ceremonies and compliments the Rajah opened the conference. He first referred to the dispute between him and the Nawab and then expressed his great indignation to oblige the Company by giving up to them all the pepper of his country and excluding the Dutch by giving the English a piece of piece near Cochin at a convenient locality, if the dispute were settled in his favour. The conference ended with the Rajah presenting to them in writing the following proposals: —

“The twelve Districts of Calicaud, and Chengotta, Guilangadu, Aundy Chambier, Vadagare, I claim, and Maleangulong, all these Provinces which anciently belonged to the House of Travancore, the Nabob has taken by Force these twelve Districts of Calicaud, and six Districts of Chengotta which in the time of my Ancestors we possessed. If the Hon’ble Company will act in such manner that the Nabob will give up these places to this House, I propose to give the Hon’ble Company two thousand Candies of Pepper annually without fail, and permission to erect a flagstaff at Brinjohn, and to the Nabob 60,000 Fanams and one Elephant yearly besides, exclusive of the 40,000 Fanams which this House usually paid to the Nabob and thus I determine to give the Nabobs 100,000 Fanams and one Elephant yearly without fail.” *

NOTEs: * Extract from Anjengo Factory Diaries, Vol. I.

His Highness also forwarded to the Government at Madras certain convincing proofs of his claims to those districts viz., copies of five copper plate grants and one extract from the Book of the Gentoos, as it was called. But the Nawab still stuck to his old claims over those district. His plea was that the districts of Calacaud never at any time belonged to Travancore from the establishment of the Mahomeden Govemment down to his time, that Issoof Khan in consideration of the Rajah’s assistance against the rebellious Poligars gave him the disputed districts without either the Nawab’s or the Hon’ble Company’s orders but merely to serve his own purpose, and that with regard to Shencottah and the adjacent districts they were all dependent on Tinnevelly and were given to the Rajah on a yearly rent of 2,000 chuckrams at the time of the Rajahs of Trichinopoly on condition of his proving faithful and obedient.

At last after a good deal of discussion and correspondence between the Nawab and the Honourable Company and chiefly through the intervention of the Governor of Madras, Mr. Robert Palk, the Nawab was prevailed upon to enter into a treaty with the King of Travancore in December 1766.

The terms and other tributary engagements with the Nawab of the Carnatic are clearly explained by the following document found among the old Huzur Records: —

“Cowle namah in the name of Noble Rama Rajah, Zemindar of Malabar in the Carnatic Payen Ghaut from His Highness the late Nabob Wallajah of of the Carnatic:

“Whereas in consequence of the arrival of the five sealed Moochalikas from you professing continual friendship and obedience on your part to my Sircar, declaring that you will not on any account claim the Taluk of Calacaud &c., and that you will render any assistance that may be in your power in the Taluks of Tinnevelly and Madura and promising to send troops at my call for the punishment of the rebels and containing also other professions of fidelity and good will which are inserted on the back of the Purwanah; I have graciously pardoned all your past errors and have agreeably to your request consented to receive the full sum of two lakhs of Teenwahpoor rupees in cash on account of the former Treaty and the plunder committed in the Calacaud Taluk.

“As you agree to pay the annual Nazzaranah according to Mamool, I am pleased to make over to you the villages of Shencotta and the Pagoda of Cape Comorin agreeably to your long cherished desire, and hope that you will duly appreciate the favour thus done to you and evince your sense of it by an increased obedience and service on your part to my Sircar agreeably to your Moochalikas and that you will pay to me regularly the annual sums on account of the villages of Shencotta and the Pagoda of Cape Comorin together with the established Peishkush and remain contented, for you must be aware that as long as you shall continue firm in your promise of submission and fidelity to the Sircar, you will experience the favour of the Huzoor.

Dated the 11th Rujjub, 1180 Hejira.”

(14th December 1766 A.D)..


Wallajuh Amrul Hind Sirajud Dawla Anwarudein Khan Bahadur Munsoor Jung Sepah Sirdar Fiduce Shatlam Padsha Ghazi 1179

The English

We have just seen how the peace between the Nawab and the Rajah was brought about by the intervention of the English Company. But even before this time, there were several agreements between the Anjengo factors and the Rajah of Travancore for bartering pepper for arms and piece-goods. In 1764, the Rajah permitted them to erect a flagstaff at Brinjohn (Vizhinjam) and in 1765 they were allowed to build a large factory at Verapoly.

To correctly understand the history of the period, one should accurately gauge the influence attained by the English East India Company at the time, for they had now become a potent factor in the history of India. When Rama Varma ascended the throne of Travancore they were still merchants. They had won the battle of Plassey in 1757, but had not yet established themselves as sovereign power in any part of India. Starting as a company of merchant with soldiers to protect them and their wares, they gradually grew into a quasi-political power through-out the Indian Continent. In the Madras Presidency, however, their position was peculiar.

They had already interfered in the affairs of the Carnatic and warmly espoused the cause of Anwaruddin and Mahomed Ali against Chanda Sahib. This brought them face to face with the French and the supremacy of the English in South India was firmly established within fifteen years of the Siege of Arcot and ten years of the Treaty of Pondicherry. They were still not territorial sovereigns. The Nawab of the Carnatic in a very short time became their friend and servant. Their relations with Travancore began in the same way, purely commercial at first, and then as small tenants under the Queen of Attungal to whom they were indebted for a few acres of land, and even later on when they interfered on behalf of the Nawab, they came in as friends and advisers of both and not as a superior authority dictating to either. It is an interesting study to note how from these small beginnings this handful of English merchants soon became under the decrees of Providence the arbiters of a mighty Empire, comprising an area of 1,700,000 square miles and owning willing allegiance from hundreds of ruling potentates and three hundred millions of subjects of diverse creeds, races and tongues — a truth which altogether beats fiction and before which the wonders of Aladdin’s lamp so powerfully depicted by the richest oriental imagination fade into a dim haze of feeble light.

Invasion of Hyder Ali

About 1766 A.D., Hyder had invaded and taken possession of the northern countries of Malabar including the dominions of the Zamorin. At Calicut there was a conference between the Dutch Commissioners and Hyder for effecting an offensive and defensive alliance, but nothing came of it. The Cochin Rajah fearing lest his country would be ravaged, at once offered his allegiance to the Mysore Chief who promised not to molest him if he would fulfil certain conditions before a fixed date. But as there was delay in responding to the proposals, Hyder Ali modified his terms with the Cochin Rajah and demanded four lacs of rupees and eight elephants. He then turned to the King of Travancore and demanded of him fifteen lacs of rupees and twenty elephants threatening him with an immediate invasion of his territories in case of refusal. The Cochin Rajah now placed himself unreservedly under the protection of the Dutch, but the Travancore Maharajah feeling strongly assured of the support of the English East India Company replied, “that he was unaware that Hyder went to war to please him, or in accordance with his advice, and was consequently unable to see the justice of his contributing towards his expenses”. He added besides that he was already tributary to the Nawab Mahomed All and could not afford to be a vassal to two suzerains at the same time but that he had no objection to contribute a large sum if Hyder would reinstate the Kolattiri Rajah and the Zamorin in their territories. Hyder Ali gave the Travancore Rajah time to reconsider the proposal and returned to Mysore.

In July 1766, the Travancore Rajah commenced the work of extending the northern lines to within range of the guns of the Dutch fort at Cranganore and on to the territory of the Cranganore Rajah. Day in his Land of the Perumals thus describes the Travancore lines —

“The military frontier of Travancore includes a large portion of the Cochin territory and passes through the southern part of the Kodachayree district. The celebrated Travancore lines were not of any considerable strength; they occupied the greater part of the crests of a series of slopes, which were comparatively open, and not remarkable for elevation or steepness. They commenced at Yellungayree to the eastward of which the hills, were supposed to afford some defence; they then extended twenty-four miles to the westward, and terminated at Jacotay — a name which was occasionally employed to designate the whole work. The latter consisted of a rather strong embankment and parapet of earth: the whole measuring at the highest part above fifteen feet, but the elevation was not always the same.

“The ditch was, generally speaking, about half that depth, or two or three feet broad. An Abattis, composed of a bamboo hedge, was planted, which, in some places where it has been carefully preserved, may still be seen flourishing. Along its inner side ran a broad and level road, and scattered along this at irregular intervals were forty-two small works.”

The Dutch fearing that the extension of these lines would offend the Mysore Chief, required the Travancore people to desist from the work within Dutch limits. The frontier fortifications were satisfactorily completed by the joint efforts of General De Lannoy and Dalawa Soobba Iyer and the magazines were replenished with fresh ammunition to meet exigencies.

Hyder adopted very stringent measures to subdue the refractory Nayar chiefs. He first deprived them of all their privileges and ordered that they should be degraded to the lowest of all the castes. This proving of no avail, for the Nayars preferred death to degradation, he next gave them the option of embracing the Mahomedan religion. Many yielded but most of them fled and took refuge in the kingdom of Travancore. While Hyder was thus attempting an entry into Travancore, his own dominions in the north and east were invaded by the Nizam, the Mahrattas and the English. He therefore abandoned his attempt on Malabar and made haste to meet the opposing armies.

About 1769, Hyder was defeated by the East India Company’s soldiers in several engagements. This convinced him of the existence of a mightier power in South India and tended to sober his arrogance and cruelty. He therefore sued for peace. In the treaty concluded at Madras with the East India Company, special provisions were inserted for the safety and protection of the kingdom of Travancore. Still the Maharajah, wise and far-seeing as he was, issued orders to strengthen the northern fortifications and made arrangements with the English and the Dutch to co-operate with him in case of necessity. He then deputed an ambassador (Stanapati) to the court of Mysore to watch the further movements of that monarch, and similar officers to the courts of the Nawab, the Cochin Rajah and the Zamorin.

The new ministry

In the meantime Dalawa Soobba lyen was succeeded by Gopala lyen, a Travancore Brahmin, in 1768 A.D. but as the latter was found unequal to the task, Tampi Chempakaraman Pillai was appointed Valia Sarvadhikariakar or Deputy Prime-minister to conduct the duties of the Dalawa. In 948 M.E. (1773 A.D), a survey and assessment of lands and gardens were completed under the able supervision of the Deputy Prime-minister.

Invasion of Hyder Ali

In 1774 A.D, Hyder again invaded Malabar and devastated the country. The Zamorin and other Princes of Malabar fled and took refuge in Travancore where they were treated with great hospitality and kindness.

Hyder was ambitious and he could not be expected to keep to the terms of the treaty. He made up his mind to conquer Travancore, so that by enriching his coffers and securing an advantageous position on his enemy’s flank, he might more easily invade the Carnatic. With this view Hyder in 1776 set out with a large army against Travancore. As the Dutch still held the fort at Cranganore which effectually protected the western flank of the Travancore lines, he demanded of them at Cochin a free passage through their territories into Travancore. The Dutch Governor Moens being unwilling to accede to his request declined to comply with it on the plea that the matter should be referred to the Supreme Government at Batavia. Hyder remembering that the very same reply was given him ten years previously, naturally regarded it as evasive and threatened the complete destruction of the Dutch power.

He thereupon ordered a large army of 10,000 men under the command of Sirdar Khan, to seek a route by the Cochin territory. In August 1776, the northern portion of Cochin was invaded and the fort of Trichur taken. The Cochin Rajah offered a Nuzzer of four lacs and four elephants to Hyder and promised to pay an annual tribute of Rs. 120,000.

Hyder’s further advance was effectually checked by the Travancore lines. The Dutch began to hope that the Mysoreans would leave this part of the country for ever, but soon a letter from the Sirdar arrived in which he claimed the territory of Chetwai on behalf of Hyder Ali who now by right of conquest became the successor to the Zamorin from whom it was wrested by the Dutch some time ago with a promise to return it after a certain period.

On the Cochin Council declining to give it up, Sirdar Khan on 9th October 1776 crossed the Chetwai river a little to the north of the Dutch fort, took possession of the customs-house and began to throw up strong works at Paponetty. From here he despatched another letter to the Governor of Cochin stating, that Hyder Ali considered that he had met with a premeditated insult from the Dutch Governor, who had given no decided reply to his letter. Still he wished to be friends, but a free passage for his troops towards Travancore was essential; and were such refused, it would be considered equivalent to a declaration of war.

To this the Governor relied that he was glad that the Mysoreans wished to be regarded as friends and that he would feel obliged by their evacuating the Dutch territory. But before this reply could have reached him, Sirdar Khan attempted to surprise the Cranganore fort but failed. He then wrote another letter demanding the cession of the territory the Dutch had received from the Zamorin in 1758 as well as a Nuzzer and free passage into Travancore. The Governor now found his position very difficult. He therefore proposed that the Dutch, the Cochin Rajah and the Travancore Rajah should join together in attacking Hyder. The Travancore Rajah replied that as he had already entered into an alliance with the Nawab of Arcot and the British, by which he was to act only on the defensive and had been promised assistance by his allies should the Mysore troops advance on his territory, he was unable to enter into a treaty with the Dutch except as a measure purely of defence.

Accordingly the Travancore lines were improved and the forts of Cranganore and Ayacotta were strengthened, the first by having a retrenchment thrown up under its guns, and the second by strong repairs. The Travancore sepoys sent to garrison the Ayacotta fort retreated in expectation of attack by the Mysore troops but on the timely arrival of a Dutch reinforcement the Mysoreans themselves had to retire. A short time after, the whole of the territory of the Rajah of Cranganore excepting the Dutch fort succumbed to Hyder’s General, but his further advance was successfully resisted by the Travancore lines. In January 1778 the Dutch stormed and took the Cranganore Rajah’s palace and pursued the enemy. In March the Travancore Minister went to Cochin to interview the Dutch General, who urged upon him the necessity of preventing Cranganore from falling into Hyder’s hands.

These proceedings of Hyder were in the meantime communicated to the Madras Government and the Nawab of Arcot, who at once resolved to put an end to the rising power of Mysore. In the war that followed, the Travancore sepoys fought side by side with the English at Calicut, Palghat, Tinnevelly and other places. In 1782 Hyder Ali died and was succeeded by his son Tippu. The war continued for two more years in which the Travancore troops fought very bravely in the united action. They were “universally allowed to have behaved remarkably well”. CoL Humberstone wrote to the Rajah about the services rendered by the Travancore force —

“I am well informed how steady and sincere an ally Your Majesty has ever been to the English nation. I will relate to the Governor-in-Council the great friendship you have shown and the services you have rendered to the English interests in general and to the army that I commanded in particular.”

The friendship of the Rajah and the assistance rendered by him were not forgotten at the conclusion of the Mysore peace in March 1784. The Rajah of Travancore was expressly named and included in the treaty as the Company’s friend and ally and the peace plenipotentiaries, Staunton and Hudleston assured the Rajah on behalf of the Company, “Your interests and welfare will always be considered and protected as their own,” and added, “the Company did not on this occasion forget your fidelity and the steady friendship and attachment you have uniformly shown them in every situation and under every change of fortune”.

Death of De Lannoy

While the war was still in progress, the country sustained an irreparable loss by the death, after a short illness, at Udayagiri of General De Lannoy in 1777 A.D. His death was sincerely deplored by all Travancorceans, as he was the founder of European discipline in the Travancore army and as it was in his time that most of the forts in Travancore were constructed. He was buried with military honours in his own church at Udayagiri. The Latin inscription on his tomb when translated reads thus —

“Stand Traveller! Here lies Eustachius Benedictus De Lannoy: who was Commander of the general Travancore Army and for nearly thirty-seven years with the greatest faithfulness served the King, to whom by the strength and fear of his armies he subjected all kingdoms from Kayangulam to Cochin. He lived 62 years and 5 months and died 1st day of June 1777. May he rest in peace.”

The Maharajah’s pilgrimage to Ramesvaram

In 1784 the Maharajah proposed a pilgrimage to the holy island of Ramesvaram not only as a piece of religious duty but also to acquaint himself with the manners and customs and the methods of administration followed in the neighbouring countries. His Highness was accompanied by a large retinue and was escorted by a few companies of sepoys belonging to the English and some officers of the Nawab, as he had to travel through the countries of the Poligars, a set of rude and lawless chieftains. During the tour His Highness inspected the various irrigation works, bridges and inns in the two Districts of Tinnevelly and Madura and the knowledge thus acquired was turned to good account. An improved system of irrigation was set on foot in South Travancore, several public roads were opened in and about Trivandrum and the Government Anchal (postal service) was improved and placed on a better footing.

Domestic Events

But domestic troubles fell thick upon him. In 1786 Prince Makayiram Tirunal (i.e., of the Star Mrigasira), the Maharajah’s younger brother, died. It is said of the Prince that he had learnt the arts of jugglery and legerdemain as a leisure-hour occupation and several stories are current of his feats in them, especially of his encounters with one Pitambara Iyer of Tinnevelly, a professional expert in those arts.

Another Prince (Asvathi Tirunal), an accomplished Sanskrit scholar, died in 1788. As there remained only a young prince (Bala Rama Varma) aged seven and as there was no prospect of the Ranis bringing forth any further issue, two Princesses were adopted from the Kolathunad family.

Kesava Das

In 1788 Chempakaraman Pillai became Dalawa and Kesava Pillai was appointed Sarvadhikariakar. The latter was a gifted official and greatly helped the Dalawa in the administration of affairs. Kesava Pillai was a real patriot honoured by his own King as well as by the British Government. As Mr. P. Aiyappan Pillai B. A.,* observed —

“For, it was during his time and mainly through his labours that the present political relationship with the Paramount Power was established and strengthened — a relationship that has mainly contributed to the intellectual, social and material progress that our country has made ever since — a relationship that has saved the country from vegetating up to the present time in the condition in which the earlier centuries saw it — a relationship that has showered immense blessings, by securing an uninterrupted period of peace and safety, which afforded ample scope and leisure for later administrators to introduce salutary reforms, by opening easy modes of communication, and last, not least, by giving us a true and substantial education which alone will enable our countrymen to appreciate and utilize all that has been the outcome of this relationship. But this is not all. There was much in the man, apart from his political acts, which excites one’s admiration, and ennobles one’s feelings. His life from beginning to end is an exemplary specimen of truth, justice, honesty, loyalty and patriotism.”

NOTEs: * Lecture on "Raja Kesava Dass and his times" delivered under the auspices of the Trivandrum Public Lecture Committee (August 1889)

A brief account of his early life may therefore be given here with advantage.

Kesava Pillai was born of very poor parents in Kunnattur, a hamlet of South Travancore twenty-five miles from Trivandrum, his mother being a maid-servant at the Maharajah’s palace and his father a poor astrologer. At the age of five he was sent to a pial school. The asan (teacher) was so taken up with the superior intelligence of the boy that he offered to teach him free. He was particularly quick in arithmetic and gave promise of a bright future. At twelve years of age he left home owing to poverty and went to Trivandrum. At Puvar a merchant met him and appointed him as an accountant on a small salary. He soon rose in the favour of his master by his integrity and capacity for work. When once the merchant went to pay his respects to the Maharajah he took the boy along with him. As the interview lasted till late in the night the young boy was fast asleep in the antechamber and was left there undisturbed by the merchant when he came away. An interesting anecdote exists about the boy’s having slept in the antechamber.

Early next morning the first sight that greeted the Maharajah’s eyes, it is said, was this half-naked boy whose poor appearance disgusted the Maharajah, for according to the orthodox Hindu notion the fortunes of the day more or less depend on the first object one sees in the morning. For Manu says the King ought to keep in his palace elephants, monkeys, cows &c., on which only he should cast his eyes, when he rises from bed in the early dawn. A half-famished beggarly looking boy is not according to the Shastras an object worthy of being so seen by kings. The boy was at once ordered to be placed under restraint for having slept where he should not have had access. But scarcely had an hour passed before news reached the Maharajah that a ship laden with rich merchandise had neared his port. The Maharajah felt much gratified at the news and attributing the glad tiding to the sight of the young boy in the morning ordered his immediate release and enrolled him as a servant in the palace.

The boy gradually rose in the favour of his Royal master who now began to take a very warm interest in him. He had already formed a high opinion of his talents and aptitude for business. From a clerkship he was soon promoted to the work of supervising the commercial department of the State. Kesava Pillai opened correspondence with the English East India Company and the Dutch who had established factories, by which many material advantages resulted to the country.

He also learnt the art of war under the Flemish General (De Lennoy) who was much attached to him, and this military training enabled him to take active service in the field and made him so efficient a General. He was then made Palace Samprati from which place he rose to the- position of Valia Sarvadhikariakar or Deputy Prime-minister. Kesava Pillai with the object of strengthening the alliance with the Honourable East India Company entered into correspondence with many of the Company’s officers in Madras and Bombay. About this time the Dalawa fell ill and Kesava Pillai was appointed to the high office. The title of Dalawa being too antiquated and old-fashioned, Kesava Pillai sought and obtained the sanction of the Maharajah to change it into that of Dewan, by which his successors have since been known.

The Pope’s message

The Maharajah’s rule was characterised by a wise tolerance to all religions. The Christians who settled in his country were treated with especial consideration. Pope Clement XIV on learning about the numerous benefits they had received from the Maharajah wrote to him a letter, dated 2nd July 1774 A.D., thanking him for his kindness towards the members of his Church resident in Travancore. The letter was received at Verapoly only in 1780, and Bartolomeo, one of the 3 missionaries that carried the letter to the Maharajah, thus describes his reception and interview —

“As soon as we made our appearance before the gate of the castle, the guard presented his arms, and the minister sent a guide to conduct the persons who bore our palanquin to the door of the palm-garden in which the king resided.

“Here our coolies, or palanquin-bearers, were obliged to remain behind us, lest being people of the lowest caste they might contaminate the royal palace. At this door we were received by the king’s commander in chief, who conducted us through the palm-garden to a second door, where the king was waiting for us. He received us standing, and surrounded by a great number of princes and officers. Near him stood his son with a drawn sabre in his hand and in a shady place were three chairs, one of which was destined for the king, and the other two for me and my colleague. When we had all three taken our seats, the attendants formed a circle around us. I then produced the pope’s letter, which I had hitherto carried in a pocket-book richly embroidered according to the eastern manner; raised it aloft; applied it to my forehead in order to show my respect for the personage in whose name I presented it; and then delivered it to Sampradi Kesava Pulla, the secretary of state. The latter handed it to the king, who also raised it up and held it to his forehead as a token of respect for his holiness. At the moment when the pope’s letter was delivered, there was a general discharge of the cannon of the castle...... When the king had conversed for sometime on various topics he ordered his minister and secretary to give such an answer to our petition, and such relief to our grievances which we had specified on an Ola, that we might return home perfectly satisfied and easy. For my part I could not help admiring the goodness of heart, affability, and humanity of this prince, as well as the simplicity of his household establishment and way of life. At that time, he and all the persons of his court, according to the Malabar mode, had nothing on their bodies, but a small piece of cloth fastened round the loins and the only mark of distinction by which his royal dignity could be discovered, was a red velvet cap with gold fringes.” *

NOTEs: * A Voyage to the East Indies - Bartolomeo Page 180

Tippu’s schemes against Travancore

The Mysoreans had ever cherished the conquest of Travancore. We have seen how Hyder was successfully resisted by the Travancore lines. Tippu had long been watching for a favourable opportunity to invade Travancore. The increasing prosperity of the country and the wide fame of the Maharajah aroused his cupidity and envy at the same time, and he was therefore watching for the slightest pretext to invade and subdue Travancore.

With this object in view he had already, about June — August 1787 A.D., reconnoitred the several roads leading into Travancore both from the north by way of the coast and from the east by the Kambam and Gudalur passes. He then invaded Malabar and persecuted the people and chiefs massacring all those; who refused to embrace Islam. Many of the noble families of Malabar including that of the Zamorin fled to Travancore as before and were received with due hospitality. It is said that no less than 30,000 Brahmins with their families fled from their country and took refuge in Travancore. This incensed Tippu Sultan, who at once sent a message to the Maharajah demanding the surrender of the fugitives. But the Maharajah politely replied that the Hindu principles of hospitality would not permit him to give up those helpless persons who had sought protection under him. Tippu then resolved on nothing less than the entire subjugation of Travancore. But he could not make bold to appear as principal in the war, for the Travancore Rajah had been included in the Mangalore treaty as one of the special “friends and allies” of the Honourable Company.

He therefore encouraged the Zamorin to put forward some pretended claims to suzerainty over Travancore, promising him in return the restoration of a portion of his territory. But the Zamorin did not join in this nefarious scheme. Tippu then turned to the Rajah of Cochin who had already become his vassal and pressed him to urge his claims on the Taluqs of Parur and Alangad, which were owned by his ancestors. He also advised the Cochin Rajah to speak to the Rajah of Travancore personally about concluding a treaty of alliance with him. The Cochin Rajah met the Travancore Rajah on the 4th June 1788 A.D., at Annamanadai north-east of Cranganore, where the latter had gone for inspecting his forts and told him everything. The Travancore Rajah replied that he could do nothing without the knowledge of his friends and allies, the English and the Nawab. The matter was soon communicated to the Madras Government who sent Major Bannerman to advise the Rajah.

The new English alliance

Tippu at the same time sent envoys to Travancore with valuable presents to the King. The messengers were received in Durbar in the presence of Major Bannerman and every respect was shown to the Sultan’s Kharita. The messengers pointed out the advantages likely to result from an alliance with the Sultan of Mysore and requested the King to give his decision without delay. They were dismissed with presents and were told that a suitable reply would be sent through the Rajah’s own envoys after due consideration. A reply was accordingly sent by the Rajah in consultation with his trusted Dewan couched in the most polite language possible, stating that he would not enter into any alliance without the consent of the Company.

Tippu’s rage on reading the reply knew no bounds and he immediately began preparations on a large scale to invade Travancore. The Maharajah intimated to the Madras Governor, Sir Archibald Campbell, the whole of the proceedings and requested him to lend him four English officers and twelve sergeants to drill and command his army, and anticipating an early invasion by Tippu, commanded Dewan Kesava Pillai to look to the frontier fortifications. The Governor informed Tippu that aggression against Travancore would be viewed as a violation of the Treaty of 1784 and equivalent to a declaration of war against the English. In his reply, dated 12th August 1788, to the King of Travancore, he stated that the officers asked for could not be granted as it was “contrary to the system now laid down for the management of the English Company’s affairs to lend their officers to command any troops except such as are actually in their own pay and under their authority.”

The Governor at the same time suggested that two or three battalions of the Company’s troops might be employed with advantage in securing the Rajah’s territories against Tippu’s inroads. The Rajah consented to the proposal and agreed that the cost of the maintenance of the troops would be met by the Travancore Sirkar either in cash or by the supply of pepper equivalent in value. It was further settled that in times of peace two battalions of the Company’s sepoys should be stationed on the Travancore frontiers and should not be employed in any other line than that built in the Travancore territory and that if an additional force were needed to strengthen the frontier against the designs of Tippu, it should be maintained at the Company’s cost, provided the Maharajah would order supplies to be given them at the market rate then prevailing in Travancore. The monthly cost of one battalion was estimated at 1,750 Star pagodas, 40 fanams and 40 cash. Accordingly two regiments under the command of Captain Knox were for the first time stationed near Ayacotta and a civil officer, Mr. George Powney, was also sent as agent of the Company at the Travancore court. This officer may be regarded as the first Political Agent in Travancore, the forerunner of the modern British Resident.

The Travancore Rajah also entered into a treaty with the Dutch Governor of Cochin, by which the latter was obliged in the event of an attack to reinforce the forts of Cranganore and Ayacotta.

Purchase of Ayacotta and Cranganore from the Dutch

About 1789 Tippu began his march from Coimbatore with 20,000 regular infantry, 10,000 spearmen and match-lockmen, 5,000 horse and 20 field guns. At Palghat he opened negotiations with the Dutch to purchase the forts of Cranganore and Ayacotta which flanked the defence of the Travancore lines. The Maharajah thought it advisable to purchase these forts from the Dutch and ordered Dewan Kesava Pillai to open up negotiations with them otherwise, according to the arrangement entered into with the Company, the British force could only be used for the protection of the Travancore boundary, and hence if these forts were captured by Tippu, the Company’s regiments would not assist the Travancore sepoys in the interior. The Dutch Governor consulting Dewan Kesava Pillai as to the best method of stopping Tippu’s forces at last resolved to sell the two forts to Travancore. The bargain was struck and the agreement was executed on the 31st July 1789 A. D. This was subsequently ratified by the Government of Batavia. The following is an authentic translation of the agreement for the purchase of the fort of Cranganore and the outpost of Ayacotta, obtained from the Government records at Fort St. George —

“The Enlightened and Powerful King of Travancore, Wanji Bala Martanda Rama Vurma, has sent his first State minister and Dewan, the respectable Kesava Pillay to the most worshipful John Gerard Van Auglebeck, Governor of Netherlands India and Commander of the forces of the Enlightened and Powerful Netherlands Company in the Malabar Coast with the intention of purchasing from the Company the Fort of Cranganore and the Post of Ayacottah with the gardens and lands belonging thereto having consulted and negotiated upon this, it was adjusted upon the following conditions

“The Dewan Kesava Pillay has bought for his master, and the Hon’ble Governor Van Anglebeck on the part of the Company has sold to the King of Travancore for the just sum of three hundred thousand Surat rupees, the Fort of Cranganore and the Post of Ayacottah, with the cannon and ordnance belonging to them as they now stand together with the powder-magazine, though no small arms or any other effects and further, the following lands and gardens: —

The Miskuton island now leased for 390 rupees.

The garden of Kilo Barki now leased for 115 Rs.

The garden of Ascencio de Rosa leased for 190 Rs.

The garden of Nagachetty leased for 164 Rs.

The garden of Hendrick Meyer leased for 230 Rs.

The garden of Babo Probo leased for 64 Rs.

The garden of Alewyn leased for 310 Rs.

The garden of Dama Moosa leased for 1,220 Rs.

The garden of Arekel Ittopoo leased for 199 Rs.

The garden of Konoto Barki leased for 115 Rs.

“The purchase and sale is agreed to upon this condition, that the King of Travancore shall not hinder the navigation of the river past the fort, either to the Company’s vessels or to the vessels of the King of Cochin or their subjects, whether the same be empty or loaded with rice, paddy or goods of any description, as also all floats of wood and bamboos &c., in a word all goods whatever without exception shall pass and repass free and without hindrance nor shall there be any new tax put upon them.

“The King promises solemnly that the firewood which must be brought from above Cranganore shall not be prevented on any pretext or taxed with any duty whatever, but on the contrary that he will assist all in his power to forward the firewood to Cochin by every possible means.

“The Lepers’ House at Paliporto with the buildings, gardens and further ground belonging to it remain in the full and free possession of the Company.

“The Romish Church at Cranganore and Ayacottah stands from ancient time under the Company and must remain under them. The King shall not interfere with the same or with the parsons. The Christians are to remain vassals of the Company and must not be burthened with any new tax.

“The Parson’s house at Paliporto which the Governor erected and gave as a present to the Church shall remain with the Church and no new burdens be permitted.

“The inhabitants shall keep their gardens and lands that they now possess as private property, such as are Christians remain the same as the Catholic Christian vassals of the Company and must not thus under any pretence be burthened with additional taxes, only paying to the King the sum they formerly paid to the Company.

“The King promises before the delivery of the aforesaid fort and lands to make a payment in ready money of Rs. 50,000 and the four following years to pay in equal instalments by furnishing an account of pepper annually to the amount of Rs. 62,500 for the better security of which, and as lawful debtors the merchants David Rahaboy, Ephraim Cohen and Ananta Setty bind themselves.

“All this negotiated in the Fort of Cochin in the year Koilang 974 and on the 19th of the month of Karkadagom or the 31st July 1789.”

The whole transaction was carried through in the presence of Mr. Powney who at once communicated it to the Madras Government. The Maharajah too wrote to them about it. The new Governor of Madras, Mr. Holland, under the erroneous impression that the forts belonged to the Cochin Rajah, a tributary of the Mysore Chief, disapproved of the whole transaction characterising it as collusive and condemning the step as very imprudent and impolitic. He thus wrote to the Maharajah on the 30th of August 1789: —

“I lament that you have taken the indiscreet step which may possibly involve you in much embarrassment, if Tippu should be disposed to wrest from you these late acquisitions. I cannot approve of your having entered into a treaty with the Dutch for the extension of territory without the consent of this Government. This very impolitic conduct makes you liable to a forfeiture of the Company’s protection, for you cannot expect that they will defend territory of which you were not possessed when their troops were sent into your country, and which have since been obtained without their assent.”

He therefore advised the immediate restoration of these forts. The Maharajah made a full representation of the facts to the Governments of Madras, Bombay and Bengal, stating that the forts originally belonged to the Portuguese by right of conquest, from whom they passed to the Dutch who were in undisturbed possession of them for a period of one hundred and twenty-six years, and as such that the Dutch had every right to part with the same without any reference to the Rajah of Cochin or his suzerain. Farther the purchase had been recommended by Major Bannerman both to the Maharajah and Sir Archibald Campbell who had approved of the recommendation, and had been completed in the presence of Mr. Powney as the British representative, and the object of the purchase was not extension of territories but security of the kingdom against foreign aggression.

These arguments in support of the transaction were not sufficient to convince Mr. Holland who had already prejudiced even the mind of Lord Cornwallis, the Governor-General, by his one-sided representation. The Maharajah requested the Governor-General not to dispose of the matter finally until full inquiry had been made. The subject was taken up in Parliament and the Court of Directors referred the matter to Sir Archibald Campbell who stated that he did not recollect the existence of such a sanction and that perhaps Major Bannerman had overstepped his authority if he had intimated the sanction to the Maharajah.

The Madras Government were ordered to make the proper enquiries and the following facts appear to have been proved. Major Bannerman urged the Rajah of Travancore to purchase the forts, which was at once agreed to by Sir Archibald Campbell. Again when Bannerman was in Madras in 1789, Mr. Holland was informed of the Rajah’s intention to purchase the forts and of the importance of the measure. But Mr. Holland did not disapprove of it then, nor did he communicate his disapproval to Mr. Powney. The Rajah and Major Bannerman stood therefore absolved from the charge. Moreover the Sultan himself had recognised the right of sale by the Dutch as he himself offered them double the sum promised by the Rajah of Travancore.

Tippu’s demands

Meanwhile Tippu, encouraged by the attitude taken by the Government of Madras, put forth his claims to the two forts of Cranganore and Ayacotta on the plea that they really belonged to his tributary, the Cochin Rajah, to whom the Dutch were merely paying rent. On the 13th November 1789 Lord Cornwallis issued definite instructions to the Madras Government in regard to the attitude to be taken about the transaction.

“If they had belonged to the Raja of Cochin subsequently to his becoming tributary to Mysore, the Raja of Travancore was to be compelled to restore them to the former possessor. If not, then the Travancore possession of the place was to be supported. If Tippu had actually taken possession of the place he was not to be forcibly dispossessed of them without the sanction of the Supreme Government, unless he had also attacked the other territories of Travancore; but if such attack had occurred then, the Madras Government was positively ordered to deem it as an act of hostility to be followed up vigorously by war.”

This sensible order of Lord Cornwallis saved Travancore from a most embarrassing situation. Later on, as we shall see, it was due to Lord Cornwallis’ firmness and decisive action that Travancore was saved from falling an easy prey into Tippu’s hands. We have already noted that Tippu had reached Palghat with a very large army. He first meant to take Tellicherry and thence to advance against Travancore. The Maharajah had taken every step to strengthen his defences. Kesava Pillai was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the forces. The forts of Cranganore and Ayacotta were repaired and garrisoned. In December 1789 Tippu sent one of his Sirdars to demand on the Travancore Rajah,

1. That his troops holding the Cranganore fort should be withdrawn;

2. That the chiefs and nobles of Malabar who were sheltered by the Rajah of Travancore should be surrendered

3. That the portion of the Travancore lines on the northern side which crossed the Cochin territory should be demolished and it was also formally intimated that on his failure to comply with these demands his territory would be invaded by Tippu.

To the first of these proposals the Rajah replied that he acted under the advice of the English and would still be guided by it. With regard to the second, the Governor of Madras had already written to the Travancore Rajah to discontinue the charitable aid and protection afforded to the Sultan’s rebellious subjects, but the Rajah of Travancore out of moral grounds chose “the alternative of not disavowing and concealing a fact which he did not feel to be disgraceful’’. And with regard to the lines, the Rajah said that they were in existence long before Cochin became tributary to Mysore.

Tippu’s attack on the linesHis defeat

Tippu not satisfied with these replies sent, on the 24th December 1789 A.D., another embassy with two caparisoned elephants ostensibly meant for taking the two Rajahs of Cochin and Travancore, and on the night between the 28th and 29th of December encamped at a place six miles distant northward from the main entrance to the lines. Leaving most of his forces to manoeuvre at day-break in front of the principal gate, Tippu marched with 14,000 infantry and 500 pioneers by a roundabout way at 10 o’clock’ in the night being guided by a native of the country. Before day-break he found himself in possession of a large extent of the rampart on the right flank of the lines.

His aim was to gain the gate about nine miles from the point of entrance, to open it to the division of his army placed to manoeuvre in front of it and to place his whole force within the lines in one day. About 9 o’clock in the morning the Sultan had come three miles along the water in the inner side with his whole force without any opposition, and he at once commanded his pioneers to level down the rampart into the ditch which was there 16 feet wide and 20 deep and thus make a road for him to pass. This was found rather difficult and so he advanced along the rampart in one column, the Travancoreans retreating from successive towers until finally they made a stand in a small square enclosure within the works employed as a magazine, storehouse and barrack, and having drawn a small gun inside they poured grape upon the advancing Mysoreans. The Sultan at once issued orders to take the place at the point of the bayonet. But as they were advancing to execute this ill-advised order, a party of twenty Travancoreans at once poured in a heavy fire which killed the commanding officer and created a panic and inextricable chaos.

“The relieving corps awkwardly advancing along the same flank was met and checked by an impetuous mass of fugitives; the next corps caught the infection, the panic became general and the confusion irretrievable. The Sultaun himself was borne away in the crowd; the rear, now become the front, rushed into the intended road across the ditch, which had been no farther prepared than by cutting down the underwood, and throwing a part of the rampart on the berm; the foremost leaped or were forced into the ditch and such was the pressure of the succeeding mass, that there was no alternative but to follow. The under-most, of course, were trampled to death and in a short time the bodies, by which the ditch was nearly filled enabled the remainder to pass over. The Sultaun was precipitated with the rest, and was only saved by the exertions of some steady and active chelas, who raised him on their shoulders, and enabled him to ascend the counterscarp, after having twice fallen back in the attempt to clamber up and the lameness, which occasionally continued until his death, was occasioned by the severe contusions he received on this occasion.” *

NOTEs: * Wilks' History of Mysore, Vol II Page 145

He then made the best of his way out with very great difficulty and was soon carried in a dhuli unperceived to his tent. In an intense fit of rage and humiliation he swore that he would remain in that camp until he took what he described as ‘this contemptible wall’.

According to the English despatches the ditch was said to have been filled with bales of cotton by the Mysoreans for the purpose of passing in and an accidental inflammation of the cotton made them seek another passage. Mr. Powney in his account written from Parur on the first of January 1790 states —

“Tippu has met with a repulse from the Raja’s troops. He breached a weak part of the lines and filled the ditch with bales of cotton and earth for his cavalry to enter. He made the attack with seven thousand men. They carried it and possessed the lines for three miles in extent, but reinforcements of the Raja’s troops coming from the right and left, the enemy were hemmed in between two fires and were driven out with great slaughter. Near a thousand were left dead within the lines, some horses and prisoners were taken. Zemaul Beg, commander of a cussoom was killed, likewise another person of consequence; it is said to be a son of the late Meer Saib. The enemy as soon as he fell, cut off his head and carried it with them. About two hundred of the Raja’s people were killed and wounded. By all accounts they behaved very gallantly. A Brahman of some consequence is among the prisoners; he says that Tippu was at the attack, and had a horse shot under him. We apprehend he is meditating some grand attack. Report says he has crossed the Chitwa river and is advancing along the sea-side with the intention of attacking Cranganore and Ayacotta. I think we shall be prepared for him at these places. He has certainly drawn off his army from the lines.”

The account of bales of cotton having been used for the purpose of passing over the ditch is not corroborated by other accounts, though it is affirmed by all that the mass of bodies in the ditch were consumed by fire after the retreat, fuel being supposed to have been added for the purpose by the Travancoreans. Tippu’s palanquin, his seals, rings and personal ornaments, sword &c., fell into the Dalawa’s hands as trophies, which were duly forwarded to the Nawab of Arcot at his request. Several officers and men were taken prisoners; of the former five were Europeans and one a Mahratta.

Clarke, in his Life of the Duke of Wellington, gives the following brief account of Tippu’s atrocities in the war of 1790 —

‘’In the war of 1790, in particular, when he had ravaged the country of the Nayar’s on the Malabar Coast, it was computed that upwards of twenty thousand persons had suffered under his persecutions, in the short space of about four months. The men who refused to submit to circumcision were hanged on the trees surrounding the villages and the women of the caste, the noblest in India, on refusing to adopt the Mahomedan custom of covering their bosoms, which they consider as a mark of degradation and slavery, had their breasts cut off and suffered many other insults and indignities. Shortly after this, he had nearly lost his life in an attack on the lines of Travancore where he was forced to leave his palanquin behind him, together with his pistols and a small signet or sealed ring which he usually wore, and which the editor of these sheets has seen, and so very small that the finger on which it was worn must have been delicate in the extreme.”

The attitude of the Madras Government

The Government of Madras, who were apprised of the intended attack on Travancore, were still slow to act. In a letter dated 3rd January 1790, they “deprecated the policy of committing the honour of Government by taking part in the defence of places furtively obtained”, and even went the length of criticising the arguments supporting the cause of Travancore. In another letter written to the Maharajah of Travancore even after the attack on the lines, Mr. Holland gave little hopes of assistance and support. Addressing the Madras Government about 15th January 1790, Tippu gave a singular account of his defeat. He antedated it fifteen days and stated that while his troops were employed in search of the fugitives, the Rajah’s people fired and his troops retaliated and carried the lines, but that on the first intimation of the affair he ordered his troops to desist from the attack and finally he requested the Governor to advise the Rajah to observe the treaty. In reply to this, Mr. Holland wrote to him proposing the appointment of commissioners for the adjustment of the points at issue. He even spoke to Lord Cornwallis on the occasion of his departure for England his own conviction of Tippu’s amicable intentions.

We have already seen that Lord Cornwallis on the 13th of November 1789 transmitted for the guidance of the Madras Government a “broad and well-explained consideration of the serious consequences of war on the one hand and the fatal policy of a tame submission to insult or injury on the other with corresponding instructions which were certainly couched in terms sufficiently explicit”.

The news of the attack on the lines reached Calcutta on the 26th of January 1790 and Lord Cornwallis at once wrote to the Madras Government expressing his hope that war had already been declared against Tippu and declaring that he was determined to exact a full reparation from Tippu for the wanton and unprovoked violation of the treaty. The subsequent inaction of the Government of Mr. Holland roused his anger to such an extent as to accuse them of “a most criminal disobedience of the clear and explicit orders of the Government dated the 29th of August and 13th of November, by not considering themselves to be at war with Tippu from the moment that they heard of his attack” on the Travancore lines.

Meanwhile the Maharajah had ordered the repair of the northern frontier and the concentration of all available troops. He attempted to supply by numbers what he wanted in skill and discipline. The Madras Government did not take any active measures until the beginning of March when General Meadows was appointed to succeed Mr. Holland. The Rajah of Travancore was in a very critical and helpless condition, an idea of which may be gathered from the following extract from one of the private letters of Sir Thomas Munro, then a subaltern in the Madras army (afterwards Governor of Madras) —

“A second attack is daily expected; and if the King is left alone, all his exertions against a power so superior can delay but for a short time his ruin. The English battalions were behind the lines, but not at the place attacked; and it is said that they have orders not to act, even on the defensive. If such be the case, the Rajah ought to dismiss them with scorn for the present is the only moment in which the aid of such a handful of men can be effectual. The barrier once forced, orders for them to act will arrive too late. All their efforts will then avail but little against the numbers of their enemies, and will only serve to draw a heavier vengeance on themselves and the unfortunate Rajah.”*

NOTEs: * Gleig's Life of Sir Thomas Munro, Vol I. Page 93

Tippu enters Travancore

The Maharajah requested the Madras Governor (Mr. Holland) to issue orders to the British contingent to co-operate with him in case of an attack from Tippu which was expected every moment. Aid was promised but not rendered. On the second of March Tippu again commenced hostilities by a skirmish outside the wall and on the sixth he ordered his artillery to work. The wall resisted the heavy fire of the artillery for nearly a month but at last yielded, a breach three quarter of a mile long having been effected. The Travancore army finding that resistance was useless retreated and the Mysoreans entered Travancore. The two battalions of the Company’s sepoys remained passive spectators without giving any aid to the Travancore army on the plea that no orders had been issued to them to march. Tippu next appeared before Cranganore, his army being commanded by Lally. The garrison at Cranganore was defended by the Maharajah’s troops under Captain Flory who however had to abandon the fort, resistance being useless. The fortifications were soon ordered to be demolished. The army of Tippu next marched against the fort of Kuriapalli, which also had to be abandoned soon, and thence to the interior. The plain country was a scene of merciless devastation and the inhabitants were hunted and sent in immense numbers to the usual fate of captivity and death.

The English declare war against Tippu

In the meantime war had been declared by the English against Tippu. On the 30th of March 1790 the following despatch was sent by Lord Cornwallis to the Madras Government —

“So far am I from giving credit to the late Government for economy in not making the necessary preparations for war, according to the positive orders of the Supreme Government, after having received the most gross insults that could be offered to any nation, I think it very possible that every cash of that ill-judged saving, may cost the Company a crore of rupees; besides which, I still more sincerely lament the disgraceful sacrifice, which you have made by that delay, of the honour of your country, by tamely suffering an insolent and cruel enemy to over-whelm the dominions of the Raja of Travancore, which we were bound by the most sacred ties of friendship and good faith to defend.”

While Tippu was carrying on his destructive warfare, a large force consisting of the 75th regiment, two battalions of sepoys and one company of artillery were sent under the command of Colonel Hartley with orders to co-operate with the Travancore army, but it arrived too late, however to be of service in saving the lines.

Tippu retreats

About the 15th of April, the enemy were in possession of the lines near Ayacotta; 6,000 of his horsemen having opened assault on them, the Travancore army withstood for some time but had soon to give way. The Travancore commanders had arranged that they should reassemble at Vypeen, but this arrangement was upset by the consternation of their sepoys who immediately retreated to the woods. Colonel Hartley’s firm resolve to take post at Ayacotta encouraged the Rajah’s troops. On the 8th of May the garrison stationed at Cranganore was removed to Ayacotta which was the only place not touched by Tippu. With the combined troops it was clear hatt Tippu could not effect any considerable forward movement into Travancore.

Tippu then committed various atrocities in the districts of Parur and Alangad where he desecrated the Hindu and Christian places of worship and burned the houses of the rich and poor alike. After establishing his head-quarters at Trichur, he marched southward with his army to Alwaye when his progress was obstructed by natural causes. The monsoon having set in with unusual severity, his army suffered a great deal want of proper shelter and the ammunition and accoutrements became damaged. Many perished by disease. His position had became one of danger and anxiety; the rivers were all full, the Cranganore bar rose high with a swift current going seawards and there were no means of communication except by boats. All this necessitated his return to his native country.

Moreover the military preparations of the English assisted by the Nizam and the Marattas began to disturb his mind. Further a French officer named Macnamara who about this time touched this coast, while paying his respects to the Sultan by whom he was kindly received, repeatedly assured him of the formidable preparations that were being made by the English against Tippu. These quickened his departure from Travancore. He divided his army into two divisions and ordered one to march via Annamanadai and Chalakudi to Trichur and thence to Palghat, and the other via Cranganore and Chowghat to Palghat. But before finally leaving Travancore he ordered the complete demolition of the lines which was effected as a sort of public ceremony.

“The whole army off duty was regularly paraded without arms, and marched in divisions to the appointed stations; the Sultaun, placed on an eminance, set the example of striking the first stroke with a pick-axe the ceremony was repeated by the courtiers and chiefs, the followers of every description, bankers, money-changers, shop-keepers and the mixed crowd of followers were all ordered to assist the soldiers, and the whole was razed to the ground in six days.”*

Tippu thus left Malabar destined never to return again. He had in December 1789 calculated on possessing the whole of Travancore but even about May 1790 he had practically done nothing. He hoped that by conquering Travancore he would be able to invade the southern provinces simultaneously from Travancore, Dindigal and Karur, before the English could be assembled against him, or if they should become humble and obedient, he would have the alternative of consolidating his power in Travancore before he could proceed further. As we have seen he was disappointed in both of these hopes.

Treaty of Seringapatam

The war with Tippu lasted till February 1792. Tippu had at last to yield at Seringapatam where he was opposed by the united army of the English, the Mahrattas and the Nizam. Tippu sued for peace and promised to cede one half of his dominions to the Company, among which he included the districts of Alangad, Parur and Kunnatnad. But Tippu had no right to include these in his dominions, as since 1755 they belonged to the Rajah of Travancore having been ceded to him by the Rajah of Cochin in that year. The Maharajah represented the whole matter to the Governor-General, Lord

Cornwallis, who wrote — “With respect to the talooks of Alangaud, Paravoor and Kunnathunaud, the justice of the cession of them to the Company must be decided by the period of the commencement of the war, when if they were in the possession the Rajah of Travancore by whatever means and more especially if it shall appear that the Rajah of Travancore had acquired these districts from the Rajah of Cochin before the latter became tributary to Hydery Sircar, it would be an act of great injustice on the part of the Company to deprive him of them.”

After considerable correspondence on the subject two Commissioners (Messrs. Page and Boddam) were appointed specially to enquire into the facts and report. Dewan Kesava Pillai was present at the enquiry. The Commissioners gave their verdict in favour of Travancore, declaring that Tippu had no right to include the territories in question in his dominions. The Rajah of Cochin next claimed the Taluqs for himself, but as his claims were also found untenable, Travancore was put in possession of the tract.

Settlement of Malabar

We have already referred to the fact that owing to the anarchy caused by Tippu’s followers many nobles and chiefs of Malabar took shelter in Travancore and were very hospitably treated there. The Travancore Government expended a very large sum of money in providing them with necessaries. In May 1791, General Meadows, the Governor of Madras, requested the Rajah of Travancore to prevail on the Malabar chiefs to join the English against Tippu Sultan and subsequently the Travancore Rajah was vested with the authority of restoring the various Malabar principalities to their respective Princes and Chiefs. The Maharajah delegated his authority to Dewan Kesava Pillai who, after carefully investigating the claims of the Princes, reinstated them all in their respective territories. He also made an arrangement with the Chiefs and nobles by which they were required to supply the British and Travancore commissariat departments with grain.

Among the Princes that took shelter m Travancore at the time were the Zamorin of Calicut, the Rajahs of Chirakkal, Kottayam, Kurumbranad, Vettattnad, Beypore, Tanniore, Palghat and the Chiefs of Koulaparay, Corengotte, Chowghat, Edattara and Mannur.

The expenses of the war

The success of the British arms and the conclusion of peace with Tippu afforded immense satisfaction to the Maharajah who now hoped to have a peaceful rule during the rest of his life. But this was not to be. The English Company now demanded of the Maharajah the defrayal of the whole expenses of the war, which, they alleged, was waged to secure the interests of Travancore. We have seen that according to the agreement of 1788 the Company expressly declared that if an additional force were to be utilised in the Travancore frontier other than the two companies which were placed there and whose maintenance charges were to be met by Travancore, it should be maintained at the Company’s cost.

Such an exorbitant demand in violation of a clearly expressed treaty, and especially at this time when the finances were in a low condition, was received by the Maharajah with feelings of deep distress and anxiety. But Kesava Pillai advised the Maharajah to yield at once to the demands of the Supreme Power and managed to send seven lacs of rupees by several instalments.

Sir Charles Oakley, the new Governor of Madras, was not satisfied with this and at once wrote a very vehement letter to the Maharajah urging upon him to pay the whole expenses of the war by yearly instalments of ten lacs, and this exclusive of the charges of the Travancore troops engaged along with the armies of the Company. The Maharajah in consultation with his Dewan again sent seven lacs to the Madras Government requesting them to free him from any further payments. On the Governor again pressing him for payment of the balance, the Maharajah sent a full representation to Lord Cornwallis who decided in favour of the Maharajah relieving him from further payments on that account.

The Treaty of 1795

Now that the war had been brought to a close, the services of the Company’s battalions stationed at Ayacotta were no longer necessary and the Maharajah wrote to the Madras Government about their withdrawal. The latter however with the object of strengthening treaty stipulations with Travancore, observed that as the forces maintained by the Company were intended to safeguard the interests of their allies also, it was only just and proper that a part of their charges should be met by the allies. The Governor therefore proposed that the contribution be limited to the precise sum agreed upon in 1788 viz., 42,768 Star pagodas per annum.

In September 1793 the Rajah applied to the Supreme Government to have a permanent Treaty concluded for the defence of his country against foreign enemies. On the 17th November 1795, a Treaty of perpetual alliance was concluded between the Honourable English East India Company and the Rajah of Travancore of which the following were the terms —

“Article 1. Before the breaking out of the last war between the Honourable Company and Tippoo Sultan, the three talooks of Paroor, Alumgar, and Koonatnaar, made part of the Rajah of Travancore’s country, and having by the said Sultan been included in his cessions to the Honourable Company by the Treaty of Peace of the 18th of March 1792, the said Company do, in view to their ancient friendship with and the plea of right preferred by the Rajah of Travancore, renounce every claim that they may have to the talooks in question, and all the said three talooks are accordingly left on the former footing as part of the said Rajah’s country.

“2. If any power or States near or remote, by sea or land, shall, without aggression on the part of the Rajah of Travancore, attempt or begin hostility and war upon the country of the said Rajah or of his successors; under such circumstances, the expulsion of, and the protection of the country against, such enemies rest with the Company’s Government.

“3. In consideration of the stipulation in the second Article, the Rajah of Travancore doth engage for himself and his successors to pay annually at Anjengo, both in peace and war, a sum equivalent to the expense of three of the Honourable Company’s battalions of sepoys, together with a company of European artillery and two companies of Lascars.

“4. The Company stipulate that this force of infantry and artillery shall if the Rajah desire it, always be stationed in his country, or on the frontiers near it, or in any other part within the Company’s possessions where he shall prefer; and that “they shall always be in readiness; and in respect to such requisitions as the Rajah and his successors may have occasion to address to the officer in command of these troops, to proceed to act against foreign enemies who shall have invaded the said Rajah’s country, it is proper that such commanding officer stand previously furnished with instructions from the Government of that Presidency whence he shall have been detached; or otherwise, he is immediately on such requisition to procure instructions and the sanction of his said superiors for repelling such invasion but in the event of the Rajah’s country being so unexpectedly invaded by an enemy, that the urgency of the danger or attack from without shall not admit of deferring the necessary operation till the orders of the Government of such Presidency can be received, the commanding officer is, under such circumstances, to apply immediately and without objection the force under his command to the defence and protection of the Rajah and his successors and should it so happen that the aforesaid force and the Rajah’s own army be at any time found unequal to cope with and defend the country against the superior force of the enemy, the expense of such further troops as it may be necessary and requisite for the Company to furnish in such instances, is to be altogether at the said Company’s cost; nor shall their Government in any wise object to furnish such additional force, the expense of which shall in no respect be chargeable on the Rajah or his successors; nor shall the Company ever apply for or demand any sum on that account, nor profess any plea or claim to make any further requisition for pecuniary aid from the Rajah or his successors by reason of any warfare or hostility that may hereafter eventually occur.

“5. As the Company do only engage to defend and protect the country dependent in the Rajah of Travancore against unprovoked attacks; it is to be clearly and distinctly understood between the parties that the Rajahs, present and future, are not to commit any hostile aggression towards any other State whether Indian or European; and in the event of the Rajah or his successors having any disputes of a political nature or tendency, it is necessary that the same shall be transmitted by the latter to the Honourable Company’s Government, who will let determine thereon according to justice and policy and mutual concert.

‘’6. The reigning Rajah of Travancore for the time being shall not keep in his service, in any civil or military capacity, nor allow to remain within his dominions as merchants, or under any other plea or pretext, the subjects or citizens of any nation being at war with Great Britain or with the East India Company; nor under any circumstances of peace or war allow any European nation to obtain settlements (i.e., territory or places under his own authority) within the same, nor enter into any new engagements with any European or Indian States without the previous concurrence of the British Governments in India.

“7. When the Company shall require of the Rajah of Travancore any aid of his troops to assist them in war, it shall be incumbent on the said reigning Rajah for the time being to furnish such aid, to such extent and in such numbers as may be in his power, from his regular infantry and cavalry, exclusive of the native Nayars of his country, which succours thus furnishable by the Rajah, as far as shall be consistent with the safety of his own country, shall be liable to be employed as far by the Company’s Government on either side of the Peninsula as to Madura and Calicut and to be, during such service, at the Company’s expense and under their orders.

“8. That the pepper contract with the Company shall continue in perpetuity, liable, however, after the expiration of the period of the existing contract, to such modifications as to price, period, or quantity, as may, from time to time, be agreed upon between the parties.

“9. The Company engage not to impede in any wise the course of the rule or of administration of the Rajah of Travancore’s Government nor at all to possess themselves or enter upon any part of what regards the management of the present Rajah’s or his successor’s country. At the same time it is provided that all the former agreements between the Honourable Company and the Rajahs of Travancore, relative to the settlements of Anjengo and Eddowa or Erawa, and to the Company’s privileges in respect to trade throughout the Rajah’s dominions, remain in full force, according to the practice hitherto and as otherwise the object of this Treaty is principally to provide for the purposes of external defence, it bears therefore no reference whatever to the Rajah’s situation as a tributary to the Carnatic, concerning which the Rajah of Travancore doth in the sincerity of his heart, of his own accord, acknowledge and declare that in the line of his former fealty, as from of old established, towards the Circar of the soubah of Arcot, there shall never occur any difference or deviation.

“10. All unsettled claims of a pecuniary nature which the contracting parties may have had upon each other, relative to warlike expenses, up to the period of the conclusion of the Treaty of peace with Tippoo Sultan, under date the 18th of March 1792, shall be cancelled and declared null and void.

“11. The Company engage that none of the Rajahs of Malabar under their jurisdiction shall be allowed to commit excesses in the country, or to encroach on the rights of the Rajah of Travancore or of his successors; and both the contracting parties engage not to give shelter to the rebels, whosoever they may be of either of the two States within the country of Malabar; but on the contrary to seize on and mutually to deliver up such persons.

“12. On the commercial vessels of the said Rajah’s frequenting any of the ports in India appertaining to the Honourable Company, they shall obtain every requisite assistance and supply on paying for the same; and in like manner the Honourable Company’s ships shall experience the like assistance and supply in the ports and roads of his country.”

This Treaty was slightly amended in 1797 thus—

“Whereas, in the 7th Article of the above Treaty, the following words occur, ‘which succours thus furnishable by the Rajah, as far as shall be consistent with the safety of his own country, shall be liable to be employed as far by the Company’s Government on either side of the Peninsula as to Madura and Calicut‘, and these terms being deemed not sufficiently expressive of the intentions of the contracting parties; they hereby mutually agree that the words ‘and the boundary of the Cavae’ be added immediately after the word ‘Calicut’, and that accordingly the said Article stand as follows

“Article 7. When the Company shall require of the Rajah of Travancore any aid of his troops to assist them in war, it shall be incumbent on the said reigning Rajah for the time being to furnish such aid, to such extent and in such numbers as may be in his power, from his regular infantry, and cavalry, exclusive of the native Nayars of his country, which succours thus furnishable by the Rajah, as far as shall be consistent with the safety of his own country, shall be liable to be employed as far by the Company’s Government on either side of the Peninsula as to Madura and Calicut and the boundary of the Cavae, and to be during such service at the Company’s expense and under their orders.

“The above treaty having been transmitted to the Honourable Court of Directors for the affairs of the United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies for their confirmation, agreeable to the stipulation therein contained, and the Honourable Court having expressed their assent to the several Articles of the said Treaty, including the amended article subjoined to the original Articles, the said Treaty is hereby ratified by me and my signature, at Trivandrum in the country of Travancore, this 21st day of the month of July, in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninenty-seven of the Christian era, or the nineth day of the month Aru in the year nine hundred and twenty-two Malabar style.” *

NOTEs: * Aitchison's Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sunnads, Vol V Page 310.

Internal reforms

Dewan Kesava Pillai now turned his attention to the internal reforms of the country. His first and foremost object was to raise the commercial importance of the country. For this purpose he visited all the sea-coast towns from Cape Comorin to the north and resolved to open two new ports, one at Alleppey and the other at Vizhinjam. Alleppey was then a mere jungle inhabited by jackals and monkeys. Within a short time, it was converted into a port town, and a warehouse and a few shops were opened.

Merchants were brought from various places especially from the rich provinces of Sindh and Cutch and they were given every facility for carrying on a successful trade. To make their stay permanent, a Hindu temple and a Cutchery were built in addition to a palace for the Maharajah to stay in whenever he should visit the new town. Some of the rich and influential merchants of the present day in Alleppey are the descendants of these settlers. To make the place a centre of commerce a timber depot was opened and one Mathu Tarakan, a rich native Christian, was given the contract to collect all the timber of North Travancore and store it in the depot for sale.

The Sirkar agents known as Vicharippukar stationed in the different forests of the State were ordered to collect the hill produce such as cardamoms, honey, wax, ivory &c., and forward them to this new port thereby laying the foundation for an efficient forest conservancy. Three ships were built at State cost to carry on trade with other parts of India, especially with Bombay and Calcutta. To extend and facilitate communication from the backwater to the new port, several canals and roads were constructed. The backwater as far as the Pallathurithy river was deepened and cocoanut trees were planted on either side of it. For the purpose of increasing traffic, the ports of Colachel and Puntora were improved and a warehouse and a spacious bangalow built. Many fishermen were brought in and were induced to stay there.

Vizhinjam was converted into a small port and a warehouse was opened here. After making all these improvements which brought to the treasury a large income, Kesava Pillai turned his attention to Trivandrum, the capital of the State. The main road leading from the Eastern Fort gate to Karamana was repaired and widened and bazaars and shops were built on both sides of the road. This is the present Chalai Bazaar of Trivandrum.

A bridge over the Killiyar and another over the Karamana were constructed. A good number of weavers, dyers, painters &c.,’ were brought from Tinnevelly and Madura and were made to settle at Kottar which was thus made the centre of cloth trade. Many opulent merchants very soon sprang up and even now the ‘Kottar Chetties’ are proverbial for their wealth and industry.

The old fortifications were improved and a few new ones were added. A fresh impetus was given to the warlike-store manufactory of Udayagiri, where guns, shots &c., were manufactured with greater speed and vigour. All the temples throughout the State, especially the one at Trivandrum, were improved. The tower of the Trivandrum pagoda which was begun by Dalawa Rama lyen was completed. The flagstaff was repaired and gilded big brass lamps called Dipastambham and small copper ones also were made for the temple.

Several new coins were minted, chief among them being the gold coins of Anantarayanpanam, Chinnappanam and Anantavarahan and the the silver chuckrams.

The five custom houses on the banks of the northern backwaters were abolished. A new tax called Nilavari was imposed on all Sirkar pattern lands. For the proper administration of the State, the Sattavariola or a collection of rules and laws was framed for the guidance of the various Sirkar officials. The following are a few specimen provisions of the same —

“Section 14. — Provisions for the religious ceremonies and other wants of the Sirkar shall be purchased from the inhabitants on payment of ready cash, and the established hire shall also be paid for carrying the provisions to the place where such are required but in failure of immediate payment the officer who conducts the transaction shall be made to pay the value with 60 per cent interest and after paying the ryot, the surplus shall be credited to the sirkar as a fine for the neglect.

“17-19. — Strict attention shall be paid to the charitable supply of water mixed with buttermilk to the weary travellers on the road and the public inns, where this water is supplied, shall be thatched and kept always clean. Payment for the buttermilk for this purpose shall be made daily and the pay of the person employed in giving water, shall be paid punctually in every month.

“21. — The officials of every village shall inspect at every season all such lands as have suffered injury by the breaches of banks of tanks, canals &c, and by any accumulation of sand and thus rendered unfit for immediate cultivation. The servants shall exert themselves in having such obstructions removed through the owners in all ordinary cases or cause the same to be removed by the owners of the adjacent lands conjointly but if such works are found too expensive, the same shall be done at the Sirkar expense and the land in question made cultivable at once without allowing the same to be laid waste for any time.

“31-35. — Every dispute between ryots concerning landed property shall be settled by the decision of four men of the village, (in the form of a Panchayat) through the Proverticar; if that officer does not settle the case immediately, he shall be summoned before the district cutcherry and an adequate fine imposed upon him and the case enquired into by thadasthers (jury) formed of the inhabitants of the village where the disputed property is situated and in the presence of the district officer. The parties shall be then made to pay each one fanam as a vow to Padmanabha Swamy and when the case is so decided by the thadasthers (jurors), the party gaining the case shall be required to pay a fee at the rate of ten per cent on the amount of his suit; and the contraparty who loses the the case shall be required to pay a fee of five per cent.

“44. — The district officials shall not apply fetters, chains, and manacles to those ryots who are found entangled in any criminal charge.

“52-55. — When petitioners appear before the district cutcherry, with their complaints, their cases shall be decided reasonably so as to be concurred in by public opinion but no petitioner shall be detained to his inconvenience and put to expense for feeding himself, pending the settlement of his case; that such cases as could be decided soon shall be settled then and there, and the parties dismissed. But such cases as would require time to settle shall be decided within eight days, and if any petitioner is detained before the district cutcherry beyond eight days, he shall be fed at the expense of the district officer.

“57-58. — When a female petitioner comes before the district cutcherry, her complaint shall be heard and settled at once and on no account shall a female be detained for a night.

“59. — That not one of the subjects (ryots) should be oppressed, by placing him in restraint, without allowing him even to attend the calls of nature, or making him stand within a given line in a stooping posture, putting a stone on his back or keeping him in water or under the burning sun or confining him under starvation, neither shall he be subjected to any sort of disgrace.

“83. — The measures by which the ryots are required to give paddy to the Sircar in part-payment of the land tax, shall be annually examined by the district officer and the ryot himself will be allowed to put the paddy into the measures at a fixed height, and the measurement shall be made by clearing the bridge of the parah.” *

NOTEs: * History of Travancore, Page 282.

Rajah Kesava Das

In recognition of the meritorious services which Dewan Kesava Pillai rendered to his country, His Highness the Maharajah granted to him jaghir, which he declined with characteristic modesty saying that the generosity of His Highness had left him no want of any kind. In those days the Dewan had no fixed pay but took from the treasury what was required for actual expenditure. It was long after that the Dewan’s pay was fixed at Rs. 2,000 a month, which sum represented the average of such actual expenses.

The Governor-General, Lord Mornington, had a very high opinion of Dewan Kesava Pillai, and in recognition of his ability and prudence and firm attachment to the East India Company, he was conferred the title of ‘’Rajah Kesava Das” — an honour which the Maharajah and his subjects alike appreciated. The Travancoreans called him Valia Dewanjee (the great Dewan), a name by which he is still gratefully remembered by the people. He was a man of talent and foresight and great powers of organisation. He was a peace minister but energetic in war. He consolidated what Rama lyen Dalawa had conquered, and it was in no small measure due to his method and determination and personal devotion to his sovereign and his country that the war against Tippu was so satisfactorily closed. His name stands out in bold relief as a bright page in Travancore history, serving as an object-lesson that a loyal and whole-hearted minister can be not only a valuable counsellor and collaborateur to his native sovereign but a boon and a blessing as well to his numerous population.

Dewan Kesava Das is a name to conjure with in the mind of the true Travancorean and survives to this day as an inspiring example to successive generations of his countrymen.

Demise of the Maharajah

After a memorable reign of forty years unprecedented in the annals of Travancore, His Highness closed his earthly career on Wednesday the 6th Kumbham 973 M.E, corresponding to 17th February 1798 A.D., on the Hindu holy day Sivarathri at the advanced age of seventy-four leaving behind him only one male member, his nephew, as the sole heir to his throne. The Sivarathri was not good day for a Hindu to die in and the Maharajah, it is said, told his doctor and attendants on his death-bed: “Yes I know that to-day is Chuturdasi, but it is unavoidable considering the sins of war I have committed with Rama Iyan when we both conquered and annexed several petty States to Travancore. Going to hell is unavoidable under the circumstances. I can never forget the horrors to which we have been parties during those wars. How then do you expect me to die on a better day than Chaturdasi? May God forgive me all my sins”. With these words on his lips passed away the great Rama Varma, commonly known as Rama Rajah, Dharma Rajah — the just king, or Kilavan Rajah — the old king. He was the Augustus of Travancore as his uncle Martanda Varma was its Julius Ceasar.

The Honourable East India Company and the Nawab of the Carnatic treated the Maharajah with great regard and esteem and the latter gave him the title of “Manney Sultan Maharaja Raja Rama Raja Bahadur Shemsher Jang”. Rama Varma was the first Maharajah who used the following honorific titles appertaining to the Sovereign to this day viz., Sri Padmanabha Dasa Vanchi Pala Kulasekhara Kiritapati Manney Sultan Maharaja Raja Rama Raja Bahadur Shamsher Jang”. The Hindu pilgrims who happened to pass through His Highness’ dominions used to exclaim with delight and joy, “Jaya Rama Rajah, Jaya Dharma Rajah” — a feeling still exhibited by the thousands of Gosayi travellers as soon as they enter the confines of Travancore.

From his boyhood the Maharajah received under his uncle’s direction a thorough training as a soldier and statesman in view to fit him for the high position he was destined to occupy. He possessed extraordinary talents and took a genuine interest in the work of administration. He was kind and sympathetic but firm and resolute as well. “His wisdom moderation and benevolence were universally acknowledged”, and his “humanity, compassion and hospitality are the theme of traditional praise to this day”. He was a keen observer of men and things and possessed a calm judgment.

Among the many stories still current of his sagacity and circumspection, one may be given here as illustrating his acuteness of observation.

Tippu had sent two Brahmin emissaries to Trivandrum to study the topography of Sri Padmanabha’s temple and supply him with accurate information of its resisting power and buried treasure of which he had heard such fabulous accounts; for it had been his life-long ambition to conquer Travancore and spoliate the great temple of Trivandrum of its ancient sanctity and hoarded wealth.

The Brahmins came, entered the temple, of course without let or hindrance according to the time-honoured birthright of every Brahmin, and squatted in one of the corner rnantapams there for weeks — daily chanting the Vedic hymns at the morning hours when the Maharajah passed to the temple for worship. Thus managing to avoid all suspicion on themselves of their intents, they closely studied His Highness* movements and those of the guards placed over the temple, as well as the different apartments and cellars where the gold and silver and coin of the temple were secreted.

In due course they were announced as great pandits of the east coast (the fact that they were Mysoreans being carefully concealed) and were admitted into the Royal presence to receive their presents before dismissal. It must be noted that all Vedic scholars and pandits visiting Trivandrum are admitted to the Maharajah only in this wise — a custom continuing to this day. The Maharajah gave them rich presents as became their worth and learning, and against all custom which on such-occasions is one of strict silence, he accosted them thus — “How is the Maharajah Tippu Sultan doing? Please convey my respectful compliments to him when you next stand in his Royal presence.”

This un-expected enquiry quite upset the poor Brahmins who were thunderstruck and finding that their whole plans were discovered, made a clean breast of it and begged of the Maharajah for a free pardon and protection. The Maharajah comforted them saying, “I will do you no harm but will see you go unmolested until you pass the confines of Travancore”.

The Brahmins thanked and blessed the Maharajah and swore not to go back to Mysore nor acquaint the Sultan of the condition of the Trivandrum fort or temple to study which they had been sent. The Brahmin emissaries gave up their Mysore homes and went away as voluntary exiles into the Pandy country, where they spent the remainder of their lives in want and obscurity but true to their plighted word.

Another such interesting story was related to me by an old servant of the house of a Sudra Stanika of Padmanabha’s temple where some years ago I halted for a few days in one of my official circuits.

The Maharajah believed that this Stanika gave secret information of the temple treasures to Tippu’s officers, and in grateful appreciation of that help they spared his house from the general conflagration which they had caused to the whole village. The Maharajah now and again used to taunt the Stanika with this circumstance saying, “It is a very lucky thing indeed that your house was spared by Tippu’s officers while the whole village was burnt down by them”. On one occasion the poor Stanika replied, “If Your Highness really believe that I owe it to their help, I shall go home and set fire to my house with a chuttu, (cocoanut-cadjan torch)”. His Highness replied, “No, no, that you should never do, and if you did it now how will that affect the question?”

And the old servant told me that this was a sore point with his master all his life. The present head of this family was with me when the servant related the story. For all the closing years of the Maharajah’s life this Tippu’s invasion was his bugbear, as it left a deep impression on his mind and clouded his otherwise happy and successful reign, as I could well understand it from a Brahmin informant of mine who, himself sixty-five years old now, has heard it from his own father’s lips that the Maharajah went into deep prayer and penance when Tippu had crossed the northern ramparts and had encamped on this side of Alwaye with a determination to march upon Trivandrum and tie his horse to the goldon flagstaff of Padmanabha’s temple. My Brahmin informant’s father was himself a young man then when he took part in the daily Sahasranama-japam*in the temple carried out under the Maharajah’s personal directions.

NOTEs: * This japam consists in reciting the thousand names of Vishnu and is undertaken to obviate impending evils.

When Dewan Kesava Das told him that nearly all was lost and that he himself would fight Tippu so long as there was life in him, the Maharajah said, ‘“Yes, go and fight to the last. As for me I do not wish to live as a prisoner in Tippu’s hands. If God gives me up at this crisis I prefer to die. Let His will be done.” The whole population was deeply moved and pious Brahmins who lived on the bounty of the Maharajah’s hospitality and charity devoutly prayed for his safety, some of the aged among them observing, “What is all this anxiety for! The Maharajah forgets that Tippu would run back for the safety of his own kingdom faster than His Highness’ troops could overtake him”. And so it came to pass. Tippu ran for his life. And the present writer does not wish to realise for himself or for his readers how different would have been the fate of Travancore to-day if the country had fallen into Tippu’s hands.

Sir Madava Row’s review of the reign. In reviewing the reign of this illustrious Maharajah, Rajah Sir T. Madava Row writes thus in his fragment of Travancore history —

“It was during the reign we are bringing to a close that the countries conquered by Travancore and composing this State as it now is, were fully and satisfactorily settled. Peace and order were completely established. The deposed Chiefs quietly acquiesced in honourable retirement, and the new subjects of the Maharajah found themselves in the enjoyment of blessings to which they had long been strangers. The wisdom, the moderation, the benevolence of the ruler of Travancore ware universally felt and acknowledged. Englishmen too proud to stoop to adulation, called him ‘the father of his people’.

The financial system of the country, however cannot be said to have been improved during this reign. Liberal reforms were indeed not possible at a period when there were the most exacting demands upon the treasury. Monopolies were multiplied till almost every important article of trade was engrossed by the system. Pepper, cardamons, ginger, cinnamom, areca-nuts, turmeric, salt, coppra, coir, tobacco, cotton, teak, blackwood and numerous other staples were bought and sold by the Sircar in view to benefit the public revenues.

Of these pepper yielded considerable profits as it used to sell at 140 rupees per candy and was much in demand for European markets. The cultivation of this spice was thereupon artificially stimulated beyond legitimate bounds, as proved by the circumstance that when the pressure of the monopoly was removed, the cultivation manifested a perceptible diminution. The trammels placed on the trade of the country by means of monopolies and transit duties would have proved fatal to commercial prosperity, had it not been that this evil was considerably compensated by the extreme lightness of the land-tax which greatly favoured protection.

“Though the public revenues were thus augmented, they proved quite inadequate to meet the demands arising out of the war with Tippu. The Maharajah was thus constrained to have recourse to a special war-tax. It was assessed exclusively on landed properties and limited to one year. The State imperatively required funds, and the Maharajah therefore imposed a heavy tax for a short period in preference to a light one for a long period. Indeed, the tax was one on capital and not on income. Though it might have been, in some cases, oppressive in its incidence, it had the advantage that it was demanded in the presence of the danger to which the country was exposed, and that its odium rapidly passed away. It had the further advantage that it could not be evaded, in as much as the general survey and assessment of landed properties, instituted in 948 by the Maharajah’s orders, had disclosed to the State the individual possessions of all holders. It is also to be noted that all descriptions of land without respect to tenure came under this extraordinary impost, which in the aggregate is said to have yielded about one million and seven hundred thousand rupees.

“But even extraordinary taxation failed to yield adequate means to answer the incessant call for funds. The Maharajah felt that he could not, without exciting dangerous discontent among his subjects, increase their burdens, and he saw no alternative but that of raising loans. Funds were indeed thus obtained to meet the pressing exigencies of the State, but the obligations incurred inevitably led to difficulties of the gravest character, difficulties which embittered the closing years of the Maharajah and culminated in a perilous crisis in the reign of his successor.

“The deceased Maharajah may unhesitatingly be pronounced a Prince who approached nearest to the Hindu ideal of a good king.

“Judged even by the standard of modern times, the Maharajah must be allowed a high place in the catalogue of beneficent rulers. He was in every sense the model of a mild Hindu, amicable, urbane, just, and generous. His humanity, compassion and hospitality are the theme of traditionary praise to this day. As a sovereign, he was remarkably truthful, straightforward and faithful to engagements. Blessed with a cool and calculating judgment, wisdom and prudence characterised the tenor of his long career, and as a consequence (to use the words of a native courtier of the time), dangers and difficulties which came like mountains passed away like mists. Extravagance and wasteful dissipation, the curse of oriental monarchs, the Maharajah can never be charged with. On the contrary, he carefully husbanded the public resources and prudently restrained his personal expenditure. His conciliatory disposition was conspicuous throughout his blameless life. No one met him but carried away the most favourable impressions of his virtues and good nature. Fra Paolino de San Bartolomeo who sought and obtained the honour of an audience says, ‘For my part I could not help admiring the goodness of heart, affability and humanity of this Prince as well as the simplicity of his household establishment and way of life.’

“The English Commissioners appointed to settle the affairs of Malabar in 1792, and who also made the personal acquaintance of the Maharajah add their testimony by recording that, ‘We own he left a very favourable impression on our minds, both as to his personal good qualities and what we consider as the unequivocal sincerity of his attachment to the Honourable Company’. His memory is justly revered for the rare solicitude he felt and manifested for the welfare of his subjects. In his reign, to quote again the words of Bartolomeo, ‘Public security is restored throughout the whole country; robbery and murder are no longer heard of; no one has occasion to be afraid of the highways; religious worship is never interrupted; the people may rest assured that, on every occasion, justice will be speedily administered’.”

To the above may be added the following account of Fra Bartolomeo regarding the Maharajah and his administration, founded upon close personal knowledge —

“The military forces of the present king of Travancore consist of 50,000 men, disciplined according to the European manner; and 100,000 Malabar Nayris and Ceges, armed with bows and arrows, spears, swords, and battle-axes. He keeps two Valia Sarvadhicariacars, the Vadakemugham and the Tekmugham, one of whom is established in the north and the other in the south. Each of these has under him four officers, called only Sarvadicariacarer. These have inspection over four subalterns or cariacares; and these subalterns have under them Parvarticarer, Ciandracarer and Tarracarer; or collectors of the taxes, overseers and judges. The troops are always marching up and down through the country to change their cantonments, to enforce the collection of the taxes, and to preserve peace and tranquillity. Public security is restored throughout the whole country; robbery and murder are no longer heard of; no one has occasion to be afraid on the highways; religious worship is never interrupted and people may rest assured, that on every occasion justice will be speedily administered.

“The present king has caused several canals to be constructed, in order to unite different rivers with each other and with the sea. By his desire also a very beautiful road has been completed between Cape Comarin, and Cadungalur; so that in the course of twenty-tour hours he can be informed of every thing that takes place throughout his whole kingdom. After deducting the expenses of Government, his yearly income may amount to half a million of rupees, arising from trade, duties, and various kinds of fines. One half of this revenue is deposited in the royal treasury and never touched but in cases of the utmost necessity. The king, as well as all the other Pagan Indians, the chief even not excepted, live according to the manner of the Pythagoreans, and use no other food than rice milk, fruit and herbs.

“He generally wears a turban of dark blue silk a long white robe, fastened at the breast with a string of diamonds long wide drawers of red silk; and shoes, the points of which are bent backwards like those of the Chinese. A sabre is suspended from his shoulders; and in the blue girdle round his loins is stuck a poniard or Persian dagger, which can be used either for attack or defence. When he shews himself to the people in full state, he is attended by 5,000 or 6,000 men, together with a great number of palanquins and elephants.

“At the head of the procession is a band of musicians, and two court-poets, who celebrate in songs his great achievements. He is borne in a palanquin and the principal gentlemen of his court must walk on each side of it. In my time he was very much attached to the Catholic missionaries. As often as he passed by the parsonage house at Angenga, where I resided two years, he always sent two of the gentlemen of his bed-chamber to enquire after my health.

“This sovereign had two powerful enemies one in the north, Tippoo Sultan, now prince of Maissur and Concam and another in the south-east, the prince of Arracate, Mahomed Aly Khan, of whom I have already spoken in the preceding chapter. The latter has it in his power to make an attack, by Tovala, one of the fortresses which lie near Cape Comarin, towards the east; and the former can attempt the same thing in the district of Palacaticeri, the last city in the kingdom of Cancam, towards the west. Through a dread of these two dangerous neighbours, the king of Travancore found himself obliged to conclude a treaty of alliance with the English, and to make a common cause with them both in peace and war. As long as he enjoys the friendship of these allies, from whom he purchases freedom and security at a sufficiently dear rate, and as long as he pays regularly what is due on that account, his dominions will be protected and defended but if ever a quarrel should arise between him and the Governor of Madras, he is one of the first Indian princes that will fall a sacrifice.

“The annual tribute which he is obliged to pay to the English, amounts to half a lack of rupees, or 25,000 Roman scudi. In the time of war he must supply them, over and above, with horses, cannon, soldiers, and rice. He is an affable, polite, contented, prudent, and friendly man. On account of the integrity of his character, and his many good moral qualities, it is the more to be lamented that he is so zealously attached to idolatry, and is so much blinded as not to perceive the value of the Christian religion. It cannot, however, be denied, that nothing tends so much to rivet the affection of subjects, as when the sovereign adheres to the established religion, and worships the deity in the same manner as his people. Rama Varma never omits being present at the ceremonies and devotional exercises of the Pagans.”*

NOTEs: * A Voyage to the East Indies. Page 176


The forty years’ reign of Rama Varma was one of the brightest epochs in Travancore history and a most eventful one too. No other ruler lived so long as to entitle him to be called the ‘Kilavan Rajah’ (aged king), by which name he is still known among the common people.

He died at the advanced age of seventy-four. The troubles of his uncle’s reign distracted by the ceaseless wars and feuds of the Tampis and the Ettuvittil Pillamars, in all of which Rama Varma of course took part as heir to the throne, had hardened his constitution and fitted him the better to endure the wear and tear during the long years of his own rule, clouded as it was by external troubles and worried by a wasteful expenditure and an insufficient revenue within. To add to his troubles his gifted General De Lannoy, who had contributed so much to the success of his arms and the aggrandizement of his territories and who, had he been spared would have so well baffled all external foes like Hyder and Tippu, died at this juncture to the detriment of the State and to his own mortification. It was in Rama Varma’s time that the English appearing first as a commercial firm seeking aid in furtherance of their trade, then as allies and friend proffering counsel and advice, finally erected themselves into a political power commanding great influence in the courts of South India and the sovereign of Travancore naturally therefore attached himself to them.

The Treaty of Mavelikara (1752 A.D.) had given a death-blow to the power and influence of the Dutch in Malabar. The only other potentates with whom Travancore had to deal in the beginning of this reign were the Rajah of Cochin and the Zamorin of Calicut, the latter of whom was the more powerful of the two and had considerably extended his dominions at the expense of his rival, the Rajah of Cochin. Afraid of further encroachment on his territories, the Rajah of Cochin sought the help of Travancore to overthrow the Zamorin’s power. This was easily done and Travancore secured from Cochin the Taluqs of Alangad and Parur in return for its aid and all the three powers were thus cemented together by ties of mutual alliance. But fresh troubles arose for Travancore. The prospect of securing the twelve districts round Calacaud which had long remained under Travancore but which had been wrested away from him induced the Rajah of Travancore to assist the Nawab of Arcot in putting down the power of Maphuze Khan, a Viceroy of Nizam Ali, who rose in revolt against his master.

After having been put in possession of the said districts, the Nawab, however, refused to recognise their cession to Travancore but demanded the withdrawal of the Travancore troops from them. This the Rajah did with much chagrin but complained bitterly of it to the East India Company and requested them to intercede on his behalf. After some correspondence the Company brought about a compromise which was far from honourable to the Rajah of Travancore, as he had to recognise the suzerainty of the Nawab and undertake to pay him an annual tribute in addition to the loss of the said districts, though he got Shencottah and the temple of Cape Comorin in return. Hardly had this trouble ended, when Hyder Ali threatened an invasion upon Travancore.

In the early years of the Company’s wars with Hyder, the Travancore troops fought with the English side by side in Palghat and other places and contributed a great deal to the success of their arms. But when the turn came for the Maharajah of Travancore to seek the aid of the English, his past services were ignored and advantage was taken of his helplessness to secure from him in return concessions out of all proportion to the proffered help and in utter forgetfulness of their early obligations to him when, as humble supplicants to the native throne, they gained a foothold in his territories of a few acres of ground which at first was to be a factory centre for purposes of trade, but which under God’s blessing soon developed into an empire — so broad and so mighty as to enable Sir Henry Fowler a former Secretary of State for India to say in the House of Commons the other day — “The story of the Government of India by Great Britain was one of the most wondrous stories in all our history. There was no parallel to it in the history of our own or other countries. As an Englishman I am prouder of what this country had done in India, than what had been done at home.”

This marvellous achievement could not have entered into their calculations even in their wildest dreams. So when applied to for assistance to train up his men to meet the Mysore foe, the Rajah’s request was coolly refused by the Company and he was ordered to receive two battalions of the Company’s forces on payment of the cost of their upkeep. But even these forces were of no use to him as they had no orders to act in conjunction with the Travancore forces at the moment their services were required. History has no parallel to record to this disgraceful fiasco. Sir T. Munro did not use too strong language when he wrote of the conduct of Holland’s Government that the distinction made between recent acquisition and ancient territory appeared to be a subterfuge of Government to cloak their dread of war under a pretended love of peace.

When hostilities ceased, the Rajah wanted to send the forces back but the Company would not agree they told him that, as the English army was maintained not only for themselves but also to afford aid to their allies as well, it was but fair that the allies should contribute a share of the cost for the upkeep of the same. The argument of course was conclusive. The Rajah had therefore to enter into a treaty with the Company to pay them an annual tribute for the upkeep of their army upon which he was to indent to keep off external foes, and for which he was in future solely to trust to the Company. Thus began our treaty relations with the East India Company. This compact freed the State from all anxiety on account of external foes and the Rajah was thereby enabled to devote his sole and undivided attention to the improvement of the administration, to bettering the condition of his subjects and to developing the resources of his country, the full effects of which were better noticeable in the succeeding reigns.

As has been already remarked, the eternal troubles into which the country was plunged for the greater portion of Rama Varma’s reign and the vast sums of money expended therefore left little scope for the introduction of useful reforms. The Dewan, Rajah Kesava Das, who was no less statesman than a soldier, served his sovereign as ably and as faithfully as Dalawa Rama lyen did the great Martanda Varma. But nevertheless the crippled resources of the State did not permit of beneficial works being carried out on any large scale. He however did his best. He created a port at Alleppey, improved foreign trade and induced a few rich merchants to settle there. This considerably helped commercial activity in the land. He also caused a code of laws to be drawn up for the guidance of officers and introduced order and method into the administrative machinery and provided against failure of justice in the courts. The territorial additions in this reign were Alangad and Parur from Cochin, Shenoottah and Cape Comorin from the Nawab of Arcot and Karurswarupam from the Queen of that territory in return for a small pension and the liquidation of her debts. The territory of Travancore is now exactly as it was left by the great Rama Varma, though considerably improved and strengthened by good administration since his time.

His long life though a matter for congratulation was a chequered one, as long lives generally are, for his peace of mind was disturbed in his later years by wars and rumours of wars, by increased expenditure and an inelastic revenue, by disappointment in the results of the war against Tippu Sultan, by heavy subsidies to the East India Company and above all by the want of a capable heir and successor to the throne, as the Maharajah must have himself foreseen the troubles in store for his nephew, a poor youth of tender years and gross inexperience of the world. But that Rama Varma was a great and good ruler, a man of wonderful capacity and resources, of uncommon rectitude, of boldness, firmness and decision of character, kind and forgiving, all who knew him must ungrudgingly admit. He was an ideal Hindu king still remembered throughout the length and breadth of India as Rama Rajah the Just (Dharma Rajah).