TRAVANCORE STATE MANUAL Volume One
V. NAGAM AIYA
Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - Section C: Modern History - Gouri Lakshmi Bayi
GOURI LAKSHMI BAYI 986-990 M.E / 1811 - 1815 A.D
With the death of Bala Rama Varma the affairs of the State took a rapid turn for the better. The days of darkness and disorder were over and a bright era of peace and prosperity began with the reign of Rani Lakshmi Bayi. The Princess was barely twenty years old when her uncle died and was declared heir to the throne.
A rival claimant appeared in the person of a young and ambitious member of the Mavelikara royal family who was taken into the palace as a pet and treated as such by the late Maharajah. He was called by courtesy the Elaya Rajah or Heir-apparent. This treatment naturally turned the young man’s head and he accordingly aspired to the musnud in succession to the late Maharajah. His claims were duly enquired into and found untenable. It may be remarked that even prior to the death of the late Maharajah, the young man was solicitous in pushing forward his claims to the musnud. The Princess Lakshmi Bayi was however quite a match to him, for she had put into the hands of the Dewan a document showing the weakness of his cause. This act exasperated him and he ever afterwards bore a bitter grudge against her. When he knew that the Rani’s claims would succeed, he had recourse to art. He tried hard to gain her over to his side. He went to the length of coaxing her to make a formal renunciation of her right to succession in his favour. But the Rani remained firm frustrating all his wicked designs.
The disappointed young Rajah was however allowed to live at the capital even after the Rani’s installation. This privilege he abused by employing his time in scheming and plotting against her. The Resident found it desirable to place him under a sort of surveillance by appointing one Killadar Mahasing of the Madras Police establishment of approved discretion and fidelity as a watch over him. Nevertheless the Rani felt as anxious as ever. The Colonel deemed it necessary to make this new appointment, not only as a help to the Rani, but also in the interests of the Company, as the turbulent and intriguing spirit of the times rendered it expedient. This appointment ceased to exist in the time of the Maharajah Rama Varma whose reign began in 1829-1830 A.D.
“The whole country was split into two factions, partisans of the young Rajah and of the Dewan. Both of them were unprincipled men. But the young Prince was more dangerous and hostile to the British Government, already a partisan of Valu Tbumby, and surrounded by turbulent characters. He was further cruel and impetuous. The policy pursued by Colonel Munro was to prevent a coalition of the two powerful parties. The people of the country acted less from principle than from feeling and short-sighted views of interest.
“Their motives frequently fluctuated, and their enmities and reconciliation were often sudden and apparently unaccountable. Their combination would have it in their power to rise against the British Government at any moment. This truth was more than illustrated by the history of the previous rein in the instance of the deceased Maharajah and his Dewan Valu Thumby. The latter was for some years exposed to the determined hostility of the former, and owed on two occasions the preservation of his life to the protection of the British Government.
“With all that a union was apparent amongst them in an unprovoked war against the former benefactors and friends of Valu Thumby, and security against similar coalitions could be found only in a system of administration sufficiently benevolent and just to satisfy the mass of the people, and sufficiently authoritative and rigorous, to deter men in power from prosecuting schemes of faction or sedition, and the absence of such security justified the policy pursued by the Resident.
“Colonel Munro maintained a kind of balance of power between the young Rajah’s and the Dewan’s parties but on the whole leaning to the latter in way of support, in other words while the Resident endeavoured by attention and kindness to prevent the young Prince from meditating any improper measures, he found it requisite to support the Dewan’s party in opposition to the former’s, and by this means to prevent a coalition of the two. Nevertheless it was soon discovered that the Mavalickuray Prince’s residence at the capital was perilous to the peace ol the Sovereign and the interests of the country. He was therefore sent as a State prisoner first to Tellicherry and afterwards to Chingleput.”*
NOTEs: * Mr. Nanoo Pillay's Manuscript Sketch of the Progress of Travancore
When Lakshmi Bayi’s claims were indisputably established, she was declared the rightful heir and successor to Bala Rama Varma and placed on the gadi with the approval of the Madras Government and the Court of Directors. The young Rani was endowed with remarkable intelligence and judgment. She fully understood the responsibilities of her position as a ruler. Female sovereigns seem to excel everywhere in the art of administration and such was the case happily in Travancore too and when to the natural advantage of sex they added real talent and grip for management of public affairs as our Rani Lakshmi Bayi and her sister Parvathi Bayi did, they manage to leave an imperishable reputation. Lakshmi Bayi’s special merit, young as she was, consisted in resisting the influence of evil counsellors, flatterers and sycophants.
Her husband, Raja Raja Varma of the Changanachery family of Koil Tampurans and grand-uncle of Kerala Varma C.S.I. the present Valia Koil Tampuran, was a Sanskrit scholar and a man of the world, and his valuable counsel was always sought and obeyed in all important affairs of State. She placed full confidence in the British Government and received the utmost support from Colonel Munro, the Resident. She was a brave Rani though young, and the following speech delivered by her when she was placed on the musnud, shows of what stuff she was made. Addressing Colonel Munro Ethreyum Bahumanapetta Sahabay (i. e., very esteemed Sahib), she said: —
“I had not expected even in my dreams that I would be called upon ever in my life to assume a Musnud which had been most worthily and deservedly occupied by my ancestors from time immemorial and latterly supported and protected under the auspices of the Honourable East India Company. My uncle, who has been just removed from this world to a better one by divine will, was only twenty years of age, and if such had not been the will of Sri Padmanabha- swamy (alluding to the household god), my uncle could have held the sceptre for a greater length of time like my grand-uncle, who departed to heaven in the year 973 M.E; but since it has been the will and command of my house-hold deity, I am ready to obey, but being a young female quite unprepared and unqualified for such a high and responsible position, I cannot do better than to place myself under the guidance and support of the Honourable East India Company, whose bosom had been an asylum for the protection of an infant like Travancore, since the time Sri Padmanabhaswamy had effected an alliance with such a respectable Company of the European nation. To you, Colonel, I entrust everything connected with my country, and from this day I look upon you as my own elder brother and so I need say no more.”
This speech made a deep impression on the minds of the European and native audience present. The new sovereign began her reign with a determination to get rid of her unscrupulous Dewan Oommini Tampi, the feeling towards whom was embittered further by her coming to know of his misappropriation of articles and ornaments, worth more than half a lac of rupees and belonging to the late Dewan Velu Tampi and of other principal men, which had been confiscated to the State. On the 15th April 1811, Her Highness the Rani addressed Col. Munro a Malayalam letter, of which the following is a true translation —
“I am desirous that the following representation of my wishes should be seriously considered. I suffer a degree of anxiety which deprives me of all happiness. Formerly certain seditious persons excited disorders and troubles and were even guilty of great embezzlements and injustice. They are endeavouring at present to pursue the same seditious course of measures. I allude to the present Dewan and his followers, of whom I entertain the most serious apprehensions. The removal of these apprehensions, and of the highly improper things which have created them, depends upon the power and protection of the English gentlemen alone.
“As I consider the gentlemen of the Company in the light of parents, and myself as their daughter, I have committed my cares and services to them, and expect the comfort and happiness of myself and my country from their justice and protection only. If the Company do not protect and assist me, who will protect me? My representation is this, that I do not require the services of the present Dewan. As I am a woman, it is not becoming to write more; but I earnestly trust that my wishes may be taken into serious consideration, and that the present Dewan may be removed from office and made accountable for the property and effects which he has embezzled.”
In another letter she again observed —
“She could at best imperfectly describe the evils inflicted upon her country by the conduct of Oommini Tampi, neither was it necessary for her to attempt a description of them as they were well known to the Resident; that her earnest desire was to fulfil her engagements and to strengthen the friendship which had so long subsisted between this State and the British Government and she was satisfied that the Government would in return consult her wishes, and she might add, her safety by removing Oommini from office.”
The Resident Col. Munro fully confirmed Her Highness’ views, for he observed:
“His behaviour towards the Rajah was harsh and vindictive, his management of the country was irregular and oppressive, and his conduct to the Resident exhibited a system of deception and counteraction. He was particularly obnoxious to Rani, and his continuance in office would therefore be unfavourable to the attainment of that close and cordial union between the States* which I considered it highly desirable to establish.”
NOTEs: * Travancore and the Honourable Company's Government
When the Dewan’s dismissal was resolved upon, and the question was as to who should succeed him, the Rani wrote that “there was no person in Travancore that she wished to elevate to the office of Dewan and that her own wishes were that the Resident should superintend the affairs of the country as she had a degree of confidence in his justice, judgement and integrity which she could not place in the conduct of any other person”. She added that “she regarded the Resident as her brother and was convinced that the Resident should always act for the good of herself and her people”’. This arrangement was just what the Resident himself conceived to be the best under the circumstances.
In one of his letters to the Madras he observed—
‘I know no person in the country qualified for the situation of Dewan, and the history of the transactions in Travancore for the last ten years would not admit of my placing much confidence in the conduct of any Dewan that might be nominated to office, for of two Dewans appointed by the British influence enduring that period of time, one was guilty of open rebellion against its authority; and the other of numerous instances of mismanagement and oppression. It appears therefore to be desirable that the office of Dewan should be discontinued, and that the Resident should superintend that administration of affairs if that measure should be agreeable to the wishes of Her Highness the Rani and of the people. I had the best reasons for knowing that the measure would be highly acceptable to Her Highness, and to a great majority of people; and its adoption was further recommended by a variety of considerations drawn from the past history and actual situation of Travancore.
“The history of this country exhibits a course of low intrigues, a jealous policy which could not be effectually suppressed under the administration of a Dewan; and which might not only influence the Rajah’s conduct, but foster a spirit of turbulence and a faction in the country. The administration of Travancore has been capricious, oppressive and cruel and could not be radically corrected while it remained in the hands of a person located under its operation, and familiarised to its vices. The situation of the country full of abuses, would be ameliorated, the attachment of the people secured, and the future commotions prevented by the justice, moderation and humanity of an authority possessing the confidence of the Rani and acting under the immediate direction of the British Government. The introduction of this arrangement so conducive in my judgement to the future prosperity of Travancore was facilitated by existing circumstances for the evils long suffered under the Dewans, and a general aversion to the administration of Oomminy Tampi rendered the people desirous of being placed under the protection of British justice.”
With the approval of the Madras Government the Resident wrote to Oommini Tampi to say that “as there did not appear in the judgment of the British Government and of Her Highness the Rani to be any occasion at present for the office of Dewan, he was relieved from the duties of that situation”. Her Highness the Rani accordingly issued neets under her signature to all the functionaries announcing Oommini Tampi’s removal and the Resident’s assumption of the duties of the administration at her instance.
Oommini Tampi was in a rage. He carried on a set of intrigues against Col. Munro. One of them was his setting up one Mallan Pillai. a late Valia Sarvadhikariakar of the Central Division, with whom he was connected by marriage, to lay before the Government of Madras most unfounded charges against the Resident through one Mr. Johnstone, his attorney. The Government had too great a confidence on their accredited agent at the Court of Travancore to believe the stories trumped up by designing persons. It was however resolved that Oommini Tampi should live elsewhere from the capital. Quilon was fixed upon as the place of his permanent residence. It is said that during his stay there he plotted against the Colonel’s life which led to his deportation as a State prisoner to Chingleput. Col. Munro was appointed on the 18th Edavam 986 M.E (June 1811 A.D.). On the very next day, the Rani wrote to him in the following terms —
“My dear and brotherly Colonel Sahib, since the Colonel is aware of the honour and position of my country and its customs and manners, it would be unnecessary for me either to write at length or to speak at large concerning them. All the systems established by my ancestors for the maintenance of the various charitable institutions, as well as for the protection and advancement of the welfare of my subjects, I request the Colonel will see conducted according to mamool and with-out the least difference.
“The subject of paying the Brahmins who had been deputed for Setusnanam (pilgrimage to Ramesvaram), and who have been complaining of nonpayment, has already been brought to your notice by me requesting early disbursement of the same. Mahasing Killadar has also been instructed to settle the matter at once.
“Speedy and correct despatch of business will, I think, be the more facilitated by our mutual correspondence on matters concerning the administration, and I have no doubt the Colonel will concur with me in this opinion of mine.
“As I am a female and have entrusted my brotherly Colonel with all my affairs, I have full confidence that you will have me and my country, with all my subjects and all the charities, conducted in accordance with mamool (usage).”
It should be remarked here that though the Rani had appointed the British Resident at her Court to be her Dewan as well, she kept the management of the State virtually in her own hands. This has been the well-recognised constitution of Travancore, for Colonel Munro writes “that the executive administration in Travancore should not only be conducted with integrity and zeal but that the people in general and more especially Her Highness the Rani and the party attached to her interests should have the means of knowing that it is conducted in that manner”.
Every appointment was submitted for her sanction and every detail was sent up to the palace for information or record there. Mr. Nanoo Pillay writes in his manuscript Sketch already referred to:— “The financial department was further desired by Colonel Munro to forward to Her Highness the Ranee twice every month statements of the receipts and issues of the Government and the sums paid and balances due to the company.” Officers of the Huzur were instructed to submit papers and statements directly to Her Highness. Nanoo Pillay adds—
“With the view to prevent these evils, Colonel Munro discouraged the issue of money excepting for urgent services in the provinces and directed all the collections to be sent to the Huzzoor treasury where accurate accounts were kept. This Department was placed under a native of Travancore, a man of respectable character named Chithumparem Pillay to whom particular instructions were given to make no issues of money excepting upon bills signed by the Superintendent of the finance department and countersigned by the Resident to keep accurate accounts according to given forma of all receipts and issues at the treasury and of all payments to the Company’s treasury, and to furnish Her Highness the Ranee with regular report of his charge.”
Munro found the administration clogged by corruption and want of discipline. The central power was weak and in consequence the subordinate staff was not properly controlled. The affairs of the State had been conducted by a gradation of officers, designated the Valia Sarvadhikariakars, Sarvadhikariakars, Kariakars and Provertikars. Of these the Kariakars were the principal officers who came into direct contact with the people in the exercise of their several functions fiscal, magisterial, judicial and military, subject to a nominal control of the superior officers. The tyranny and oppression to which the people were subjected by these officers at the time Munro took charge of the administration, is thus graphically described by him in an elaborate Report submitted to the Madras Government on 7th March 1818: —
“No description can produce an adequate impression of the tyranny, corruption and abuses of the system, full of activity and energy in everything mischievous, oppressive and infamous, but slow and dilatory to effect any purpose of humanity, mercy and justice. This body of public officers, united with each other on fixed principles of combination and mutual support, resented a complaint against one of their number, as an attack upon the whole. Their pay was very small, and never issued from the treasury, but supplied from several authorised exactions made by themselves. They offered, on receiving their appointment, large nuzzers to the Rajah, and had afterwards to make presents, on days of public solemnity, that exceeded the half of their pay. They realised, in the course of two or three years, large sums of money and were generally subjected to a complete confiscation of their property for the benefit of the State.
“The Rajah, therefore, imposed no restraint on their rapacity, aware that their plunder would be transferred to his own treasury. Nor does it appear that this consideration had any effect in checking their extortions; they calculated upon being able to conceal their property during their lives, and felt little concern as to the mode of its disposal after their death. On the part of the people, complaint was useless, redress hopeless they had only one remedy, and that was bribery. This practice was universal, and it was one of the melancholy circumstances in the situation of the people, that one of the greatest evils was necessarily resorted to as a good, to mitigate the still more intolerable grievances of injustice and oppression. Innocence was protected, justice obtained, and right secured by bribes. There were also still more efficacious means of injury, and their universal use produced an extraordinary spirit of avarice in the country for every man endeavoured to have a secret hoard of money, as the best protection of his liberty, property and life.” *
NOTEs: * Appendix to Report from Select Committee on the Affairs of the East India Company - Political. Page 276.
Attached to the Kariakars, there was a regular gradation of accountants who managed the revenue accounts, and in general surpassed even the Kariakars in extortion and plunder. Colonel Munro therefore first aimed at remodelling the service and establishing order and regularity in the administration. He introduced a system of corporal punishments in the case of erring public servants. The servants punished were not dismissed but were asked to continue and work on right lines.
The end seems to have justified the means. He went on circuit through-out the length and breadth of the land from Parur to Tovala, checking abuses and punishing miscreants. The result was that in the course of a year order and discipline were restored. In all his actions he eagerly sought the opinions of the representatives of the various castes.
To remedy the confusion resulting from a combination of offices and to relieve the people from tyranny and corruption, the offices of Sarvadhikariakar and Valia Sarvadhikariakar were abolished and the Kariakars were deprived of their judicial and magisterial functions and were reduced to the position of mere collectors of revenue. For the proper administration of justice, a Court of Appeal and five Zillah Courts (viz., at Padmanabhapuram, Trivandrum, Mavelikara, Vaikam and Alwaye), were established for the trial of offences and for adjudicating on civil claims. The Appeal Court was stationed at the seat of government and was presided over by four Judges including the Dewan. The Zillah Courts had each two Judges and a Sastri. The officers were all selected from among the most respectable Nayars, Brahmins, and Christians. A few ordinances or Sattavariolas were promulgated for the guidance of the Courts, based on the procedure and laws prevalent in the land, the Dharma Sastras and the regulations issued by the British Government for the guidance of their own Courts. Another Court called the Huzur Court was formed for the trial of Sirkar servants.
The reduction of the militia necessitated the raising of a separate corps for the conduct of police duties and Darogas of Police were appointed and placed under the immediate orders of the Dewan, independent of the judicial and revenue departments.
A Kariakar under the new designation of Tahsildar was placed in charge of each district (or Mantapathum - vathukkal) with an accountant or Samprati and a number of Provertikars under him, his duties being confined to the collection of the land revenue. These arrangements were not viewed with favour by the authorities in England. They were “apprehensive that the measure of depriving the Kariakars of their magisterial and judicial functions would have the effect of rendering that large body of officers disaffected to the British Government.”
They were also of opinion, “that an attempt to assimilate the judicial and revenue system of administration in Travancore to that of the Company’s territories was little calculated to suit the habits of a people, to whom it was presumed that the ancient and simple forms to which they were accustomed must be more agreeable than the artificial and operose proceedings of the regular courts of law.”
But before the despatch containing these observations (dated 10th August 1814) could reach India, Col. Munro had ceased to be Dewan. He however justifies the measures in the following words in his Report to the Government of Fort St. George already referred to.
“It was extremely desirable to communicate a pacific disposition to the Government and the people of Travancore the strict gradation of authority established among the Karigars, and the entire command which they possessed over the services of the people, contributed to perpetuate military feelings in the country, and to facilitate the means of commotion and insurrection. They were, in fact, at once military and civil governors exercising absolute power in their districts. The investiture of their office was given by the Rajah with a sword, and this weapon, together with the ensigns of their office, were carefully displayed wherever they appeared. The unlimited powers exercised by the kanigarswere peculiarly liable to abuse in their capacity of revenue servants.
“In absolute governments the conduct of the revenue servants requires generally to be observed with more jealousy and vigilance than that of the other public functionaries. The constant and authoritative intercourse which they have with the people, touching their property and interests, gives them an influence, which, if strengthened by the power of a magistrate or judge, will assuredly be perverted by the natives of India to purposes of corruption and injustice. The authority of the karigars enabled them to prosecute the system of rapine, fraud and coercion, which I have described, and it was essential to the purity of the revenue administration of the country, that they should be divested of the magisterial functions which they possessed. But the views which I have stated could not be accomplished by any half measures they could be accomplished only by reducing the karigars merely to the office of revenue servants, and depriving them of all direct authority over the persons or property of the people.
“It was in vain to hope that the karigars would relinquish their habits of command and control while they possessed the means of pursuing them. Persons hereafter appointed to that office would always aspire to follow the example of their predecessors and there was no method of preventing the undue exercise of the karigars’ powers, but by depriving them of that power altogether. The gradations of rank among the karigars’ opposed (offered?) considerable obstacles to the efficient execution of their duties. An order disagreeable to the karigars was seldom enforced; it was sent from the wallee-survaddy karigars with a private intimation to disobey it, and it was conveyed from the sur-vaddy karigars to the karigars, and from the karigars to the proworteeoars with a similar request.
“If called to account, these officers asserted that they had transmitted the order, and laid the blame of disobedience on their inferiors, and it was difficult to examine, 200 or 300 proworteecars. But any order favourable to the feelings or wishes of the karigars was carried into effect with the promptitude of military obedience. In fact, responsibility could not be fixed; they had a kind of military constitution, without the laws, sanction and discipline which prevent it from degenerating into anarchy and misrule. In pursuance of these considerations, the karigars halve been gradually deprived of all direct authority over the people, and reduced to the situation of collectors, or rather receivers of the revenues the offices of wallee-survaddy karigars, and survaddy karigars have been abolished, together with their correspondent accountants a karigar under the title of tasildar, has been retained at the head of every mundaputwasil or district, with an accountant denominated sumpreddy pillay, and having a certain number of proworteecars under him. This plan admits of no evasion in complying with orders; and the duties of tasildars being confined to the collection of the land revenue, are executed with more efficiency. The influence of names is considerable, and the discontinuance of the title of karigars will be attended with advantage.”
These arguments were evidently thrown away on the Court of Directors, for though a century has since elapsed, the Tahsildar Magistrates continue in power in Travancore to this day.
Munro then abolished several vexatious taxes, such as the tax on the inheritance of property, the capitation tax on all males from 16 to 60 except Nayars, Moplahs and Artizans, the tax on nets and fishermen, taxes on Christian festivals, etc. He made a detailed enquiry into the condition of the ryots and the settlement of their accounts and abolished the system of fictitious remissions, the amount of which never benefited the ryots but really went into the pockets of the subordinate officers. The system of farming the land and sea customs revenues hitherto prevailing was abolished and a selected number of chowkeys or custom-houses were opened and placed under the management of responsible officers of State. Pepper, tobacco and salt were made government monopolies and their sale was regulated by measures beneficial to the people.
He also established a clear and definite scale of pensions to dependent chiefs and Sirkar servants. He reorganised the expenditure of the palace establishments. He had brought with him one Reddy Row who was a good Mahratta scholar and accountant. He was asked to organise an account department for the State, which he accordingly did.
By these various reforms and enforcing strict economy everywhere, Munro secured substantial savings. The State debt amounted to one whole year’s revenue and a large part of this was due to the East India Company as arrears of subsidy. In less than three years he was able to pay off besides the current subsidy, debts to the extent of eighteen lacs of rupees to the Company and nearly six lacs to private individuals.
The DEVASWAMS or religious institutions next engaged his attention. These institutions were ill-managed, the revenues from them being in most cases diverted from their proper uses or misappropriated by the trustees for their own private use. Velu Tampi, when Dalawa, attempted a reform in this direction but the sad events of the last reign interfered with the completion of the work. Col. Munro on the recommendation of a committee of learned Brahmins, allotted upon a large and liberal scale allowances for the due performance of religious and other ceremonies at all the pagodas and secured to the people adequate prices for the articles supplied for the use of these establishments, in place of the arbitrary exactions to which they had formerly been subjected on that score. New rules were framed for their management and the institutions themselves brought directly under the control of the Sirkar. The result was that the temples and charities assumed were better managed and the State gained an addition to its revenues.
In 1811 Munro got the Rani’s sanction for the construction of bridges and jungars for crossing certain rivers and channels to facilitate thorough communication, and appointed Captain Arthur Superintending Engineer, Quilon, to carry out the works. During his term of office as Dewan, he constructed the Residencies at Quilon and Trivandrum.
After the revolt of Velu Tampi in 1809, there was practically no army in Travancore. Munro organised two battalions of Nayar sepoys and one company of cavalry as “bodyguard and escort to Royalty”.
European officers were appointed to the command of this small force.
In 1811, he made arrangements for starting a pearl fishery near Cape Comorin. He introduced improved methods of manufacturing common salt and started new bankshalls for their sale. He also appointed a superintendent of bazaars called Cotwall whose chief functions were — management and control of the bazaar; superintendence of the police and the preservation of order; superintendence of the sale of arrack and of tobacco; encouraging the people to sell their rice in the market and protecting them from insult or injury; preventing any duties being levied upon articles of provisions brought to the bazaar; fixing the price of grain every week in consultation with the merchants who should not be allowed to sell them at a dearer price, but might sell them if they chose, at a cheaper price; inducing the inhabitants to form vegetable gardens; attending to the sale of bread and sheep and slaughter of cattle, and insisting on the goodness of their quality; regulating the sale of arrack to the common people and to the troops; stopping contraband trade in tobacco, betel-nut and other articles which were the monopolies of the Sirkar; and procuring coolies for the use of officers and troops marching from Quilon.
The coolies were to be registered and if they ran away after receiving their proper hire they should be punished. One of the above items viz., the fixing of the price of grain is still gratefully remembered by the people of Travancore who always believed that Government should regulate by its own authority the market prices of rice and other provisions essential to their existence, as otherwise bazaar men combine in a body and put exorbitant prices on them. This article of faith still lingers in the minds of the Travancore people without reference to the recent advance made by the science of Political Economy, as they bitterly complain of the inability or indifference of recent ministers to help them in so important a direction.
By a Royal Proclamation of 1812 A.D. (21st Vrischigam 987 M.E) , the purchase and sale of all slaves other than those attached to the soil for purposes of agriculture e.g., the Koravars, Pulayas, Pallas, Malayars and Vedars, were strictly prohibited, and all transgressors were declared liable to confiscation of their property and banishment from the country. The Sirkar also relinquished the tax on slaves. But the total abolition of slavery and the enfranchisement of slaves took place only in 1855, as will be seen later on.
On the 16th April 1813 A.D., the Rani was blessed with a son. The infant Prince Rama Varma was proclaimed Maharajah on the 29th July of the same year and the Queen-mother continued to rule the land in the name of her son. In Chingam 990 M.E. (1814 A.D.), another Prince was born viz., Martanda Varma. In introducing Prince Rama Varma to the audience in a Durbar in 1814 A.D., Rani Lakshmi Bayi spoke to the following effect —
“As the Honourable East India Company have been acting with justice, it pleased Sri Padmanabhaswaniy to accomplish everything agreeably to their desire.
“At the instance of my household deity (Sri Padmanabhaswamy), I have placed this child of mine on the bosom of the Company and the responsibility of the future support and respectable treatment of this Royal scion shall now rest with the Honourable Company. What more need I say?”
Colonel Monro was in charge of the administration of affairs till 1814. Lieut. Horsely bears the following testimony to his brilliant administration —
“The arduous task of raising the country from the state of declension into which it had sunk, was after a successful administration of three years fully accomplished, though not without opposition from some of the higher ranks whose enmity was directed against a reformation incompatible with the wretched state of plunder and excess of all kinds which they had so long enjoyed with impunity. The beneficial reformation which deserves and receives the gratitude of the people, has, it is hoped, established the name and authority of the British to their affections.” *
NOTEs: * Selections from the Records of Travancore - No 1. Memoirs of Travancore Page 7.
Dewan Nanoo Pillay observes:—
“It will be remembered that the investment by Her Highness the Ranee of the powers of the Prime Minister in the Resident was a temporary arrangement brought about by critical circumstances. Consistently with the spirit of the subsisting treaty the dictates of even a benevolent policy could scarcely have justified the Resident to administer the country for a prolonged period - justice demanded that the Ruler of Travancore should manage the affairs of the country through her own Minister. Colonel Munro’s own opinion as embodied in an authentic record runs thus: — ‘The maintenance of that form of Government (that is Travancore’s administration by her own Dewan) will also be gratifying to a people attached to their old usages and not without apprehensions which have rather increased than diminished by the late great ameliorations, in their conduct of the intended transfer of their country to the British Government.
“The Resident’s endeavours to introduce order and regularity into the administration of the Government and to extinguish the rapacity, corruption and injustice which formerly prevailed were regarded by some classes of the people as preparatory steps to the complete assumption of the country, while, these endeavours carried into effect through the agency of a Dewan of respectable character would produce their proper effect without exciting any of the fears which he has alluded. The appointment of a Dewan, by relieving the Resident from an incredible number of subordinate details, will enable him to direct more of his attention to general arrangements for the improvement of the country and the happiness of the people. It is true, that such an appointment will diminish the direct influence to control over the proceedings of the Government and the people, and the knowledge of occurrences now possessed by the Resident but if a Dewan of moderate temper of mind should be appointed to office and if the Resident shall exercise a vigilant superintendence over the conduct of affairs, he will return a sufficient degree of authority and influence to secure their proper management.”
Colonel Munro himself writes thus of his administration m his Report to the Madras Government which has already been more than once referred to —
“I certainly was not induced to take charge of the office of dewan by any prospect of facility in the execution of its duties, for I saw that they would be laborious, arduous and difficult. The principle of my proceedings was to conciliate both the Rajah and the people, and this could be accomplished only by conferring benefits on them. To please the Rajah, it was necessary that the authority, dignity and revenues should be maintained unimpaired, and especially that the burdens of the country should be speedily removed and to please the people, it was requisite that the oppressions, the onerous imposts and the ruinous monopolies under which they laboured should be abolished, measures which would of course decrease the revenues and the means of paving the debt. I however cherished a hope, that by a system of activity, order and justice, I might succeed in accomplishing those objects, apparently irreconcilable.
“My expectations were not disappointed in less than three years, although I encountered far greater difficulties than I had anticipated, I succeeded in paying, besides the current subsidy, debts of 18 lacs of rupees to the Company, and nearly 6 lacs to individuals in abolishing the most oppressive monopolies and taxes in getting the affairs of the country on principles of justice and humanity and I restored the management of the State to a native dewan, delivered from its burdens, with a greatly augmented revenue and in a situation of complete internal tranquillity.”
For the office of Dewan vacated by Col. Munro, Devan Padmanaban, Judge, Appeal Court, was appointed. In his letter dated 4th December 1811 to the Madras Government, Colonel Munro thus speaks of the man —
“I have employed for some time past endeavours to discover a person fitted for the situation of Dewan and I believe that I am justified in stating an opinion that Devan Pulpanabhen lately Valia Sarvathy Cariakar of the Northern Division of Travancore and at present President of the supreme court of justice is well qualified for that office. This man was appointed a Valia Sarvathy Cariakar by Oomminy Thumby and is one of the few men amongst those nominated to office by Oomminy Thumby, in whose conduct I have been able to place confidence. Devan Pulpanabhen is a man of plain sound understanding; of much application to business of acknowledged integrity and of a moderate, sober and unassuming temper of mind. A confidence in his capacity and principles induced me with the concurrence of the Ranee to select him to preside over the judicial establishment recently formed; and his conduct since his arrival here has justified my expectations. His nomination to the office of Dewan would be acceptable to the Banue and the people; and I am accordingly induced to recommend that arrangement to the sanction of the Government.’
Though the sanction of the Madras Government was obtained then, he was not actually appointed to the office until three years later i.e, till 1814. Evidently there was much conflict of feeling in Col. Mnnro’s mind. Devan Padmanabhan’s conduct and judgment which were particularly admired were really not as good as they at first appeared to Col. Munro. In the discussion of a suit Devan Padmanabhan who was the presiding Judge, so far forgot himself as to kick a Pandit in court who would not agree to his view of the case. This outrageous conduct disappointed Col. Munro in the extreme, but he was nevertheless appointed Dewan. To quote Col. Munro again:—
“Devan Pulpanabhen’s conduct in discharging the duties of Valia Survathycariakar of the Northern Division of Travancore obtained my entire approbation. He collected the revenue with regularity; he obeyed orders with zeal and promptitude and reported the state of his district with clearness and precision, he enjoyed a character of integrity uncommon, indeed I may say, unexampled in Travancore, where that virtue seems to be more rare any in any other country.
“Devan Padmanabhan’s early proceedings at the head of the superior court strengthened the opinion which I entertained of him, for, he seemed to execute his duty with an honest zeal, and with extreme diligence. It appeared to me that I was justified in recommending the person to the Government, but I considered it to be my duty to watch his behaviour with the utmost care, and I regretted to remark in his conduct a want of temper and of judgment which seemed to disqualify him for an office which peculiarly required both these qualities. A few days after I wrote in his favour to the Government, he lost his temper in the discussion of a suit so far as to kick one of the Pundits in the Cutcherry and he excused this outrage by saying that the Pundit had persisted in giving a wrong opinion and deserved punishment.”
Colonel Munro continues —
“I consulted Devan Pulpanabhon on a variety of topics related to the management of the revenues, the administration of justice, and the selection of proper men for office, and although he continually manifested the utmost readiness of zeal to second the arrangements of the Government, yet his opinion on these points betrayed a great want of discrimination and showed that he depended much more on the judgment of other persons than on his own.
This part of his character impressed me with a strong apprehension of his being misled in the event of his appointment to the office of Dewan, by the artful and unprincipled men who around in Travancore.”
The difficulty was however solved by the Dewan’s dying in five months after appointment from an attack of small-pox. In the place of the deceased Devan Padmanabhan, Bappu Row who was then Dewan Peishkar was temporarily placed in charge of the administration. This Bappu Row was one of the two Mahratta Brahmin proteges who accompanied Col. Munro to Travancore, the other being Reddy Row alias Venkata Row.
Travancore being a hilly country, the inhabitants near the hills were exposed to the inroads of wild animals — tigers, elephants, &c. The destruction of these formed part of the duties of the military department, but on the abolition of the regular militia after the insurrection of 1809 A.D., the people were left helpless. The good Rani introduced a system of liberal rewards to people who destroyed these animals. To keep up with the times, she also introduced some wholesome changes in the orthodox customs of the palace. The female members of the Royal family were till her time gosha. She broke through this custom and received the Resident and other Europeans and spoke publicly on State affairs. It was considered objectionable to receive Europeans within the fort and these were therefore received by the Maharajahs or Princes either in a building on the sea-beach or in the Singara Tope palace, outside the Fort. This practice also was discontinued and the Rani was the first to receive Europeans in her own palace in the Fort and hold public Durbars there.
This good and noble queen, one of the best of Travancore sovereigns, and the beautiful mother of a race of noble and talented kings, died in Kanni 990 M.E (1814 A.D.). Before her death she called her Consort Raja Raja Varma to her bed-side and committed to him the care of her younger sister Parvathi Bayi and her three children (one daughter and two infant sons). She was dearly loved by all her subjects.
Rani Lakshmi Bayi’s reign was one of the most prosperous periods in Travancore history. She evinced the deepest solicitude for the welfare of her subjects and though she had the advantage of the wise guidance and counsel of so able and trustworthy an officer like Colonel Munro in the management of her affairs, she did not forget her own position and responsibility as the ruler of a conservative Hindu population, for she took an early opportunity of telling him that she expected him to administer her kingdom in orthodox ways, to maintain her religious and charitable institutions intact according to mamool, even reminding him among other important concerns of the need for immediate payment of remuneration to the Brahmins who had gone to Ramesvaram for Setusnanam in honour of the late Maharajah’s memory.
She was a naturally sagacious, firm-minded and clear-headed woman. Her Installation speech was a model of fine feeling and womanly grace, trustfulness, forethought, capacity and practical wisdom. She knew she had succeeded to a troublesome heritage encumbered by debts and honeycombed by official mismanagement, political revolt and popular discontent. But she lived to overcome all these troubles and make her reign a blessing to her people and a credit to herself — reaching a stage of administrative excellence yet unattained by any of her predecessors. Lieut. Horsley, Engineer, recorded his testimony of her rule in the following terms — “The reign of this Princess, undisturbed by those disorders which a series of weak sovereigns and corrupt ministers had so long inflicted, is happily connected with the improvement of the country and amelioration of the condition of the people.”*
NOTEs: * Horsley's statement that the Princess succeeded 'a series of weak sovereigns' is incorrect, for only her immediate predecessor, Bala Rama Varma, was a weak sovereign; but her great uncles, Rama Varma and Marthanda Varma, were pre-emiently successful rulers as the foregoing pages would have shown.
3. Rama Varma