TRAVANCORE STATE MANUAL Volume One
V. NAGAM AIYA
Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - Section C: Modern History - Gouri Parvathi Bayi
Gouri Parvathi Bayi 990-1004 M.E / 1815-1829 A.D.
When Her Highness Lakshmi Bayi died, leaving a daughter and two infant sons the elder of whom was only eighteen months old, her sister Parvathi Bayi was installed as Regent. Never did she dream of being called upon to assume the reins of government at so early an age as thirteen. The greatest fears were naturally entertained by the people as to her capacity, to be soon enough followed only by the greatest enthusiasm and admiration at the young Rani’s successful debut into public affairs. Her natural intelligence, mild and kindly disposition added to the good training she had received under the care of her brother-in-law, Raja Raja Varma, enabled her to discharge her high duties with ability and tact so much so that the regency of Parvathi Bayi is still considered one of the brightest epochs in the history of Travancore. The Resident Col. Munro, although relieved of his duties as Dewan, continued to be her chief adviser, which circumstance contributed not a little to the success of her rule.
The first act of the new Rani was the appointment of a Dewan. Since the death of Devan Padmanabhan, the administration was carried on by the Dewan Peishcar Bappu Row. Her Highness appointed Subbien Sankaranarayana lyen, commonly known as ‘Sanku Annavi’ as her Dewan in 1815 A.D. But as he was found unfit for the place, his services were dispensed with after a short period of ten months, and with the advice of the Resident one Raman Menon, a Judge of the Huzur Court, was appointed in his stead.
The new Dewan directed his attention to improve the efficiency of the service. At the suggestion of the Resident one Captain Gordon of the Bombay Engineers, who had already acted as Superintendent of the Travancore Forests, was appointed Commercial Agent at Alleppey. This officer possessed special qualifications for the post, but his proceedings were marked by haste and arbitrariness. The Dewan had to criticise him severely for his conduct, and this led to a misunderstanding between the Dewan and the Resident.
Dewan Peishcar Reddy Row, one of Colonel Munro’s dependents, took advantage of the opportunity and planned to oust Raman Menon and get the Dewanship for himself. In this he was completely successful and Raman Menon was thereupon appointed Fouzdar — an inferior office specially created for him in the palace. Raman Menon was given less pay and power but it is said that he never entered upon his new duties but preferred retirement from the service altogether. In Nanoo Pillay’s Sketch we find the following: —
“Raman Menou was an able, energetic and intelligent minister but he incurred the displeasure of the Resident Col. Munro by the slipshod manner in which he handled certain charges which engaged his attention against a respectable European officer of the State. This unfortunate event resulted in his degradation to the office of Fouzadar in the Palace whose duty it was simply to sign death warrants on behalf of the sovereign, when criminals were sentenced to suffer the extreme penalties of law. This transpired in the middle of the year 992 (1817).”
Dewan Peishcar Reddy Row was appointed Dewan in Kanni 993 M.E (September 1817 A.D.). Having attained the object of his ambition, he with the help of his master Col. Munro tried to distinguish himself in his new office. Several enactments were passed in the form of Royal Proclamations relieving the people from obnoxious imposts and restrictions. Chief among them were: —
1. The Christian ryots were relieved from their Oozhiyam service of all descriptions connected with the Hindu religious ceremonies. They were also exempted from attending to public work on Sundays.
2. Stamped cadjams were introduced for documents.
3. The restriction put on the Sudras and others regarding the wearing of gold and silver ornaments was removed.
4. The Chetty and other castes were relieved of their poll-tax when they were Devaswam ryots.
5. Coffee cultivation was introduced.
6. The judicial officers were prohibited from holding any kind of private conference with the parties.
7. The system of vaccination introduced towards the close of the last reign was further given effect to and a good number of vaccinations were entertained and the boon was widely diffused.
In the middle of the year 994 M.E (1819 A.D.), Colonel Munro retired. He has left an imperishable name in the hearts of the Travancore population for justice and probity. The most ignorant peasant or cooly in Travancore knows the name and fame of Manrole Sahib*.
NOTEs: * The common folk speaks of Munro as 'Monrole' in the vernacular.
Everything good is attributed to his administration — not that they know it — but they believe it must be so. He worked with a single-hearted devotion to the interests of the State. He knew the country and admired its conservative institutions. He understood the genius of the people. He was Dewan for three years and refused to take any kind of remuneration for his services during the period. The Rani offered it to him and asked the Madras Government to permit his accepting the same, but Munro refused to take anything. He was British Resident for ten years and these ten years were years of great activity and progress.
He gave warm support to the Christian missions and entertained a large number of Christians in the State service for the first time. In token of gratitude for his help the Church Mission Society called their Kallada property ‘Munro Island’. Colonel Munro lived to a good old age and died on the 26th January 1858 in his Scotch home. When the sad news reached India, the Travancore Government desired to perpetuate his memory in some useful way and consulting the wishes of his daughter put up lights in all the lakes and backwaters of the State for the use of the travellers and called them ‘Munro Lights’. This was done by Maharajah Martanda Varma of 1036 M.E (1860 A.D.)”*
NOTEs: * Since the time of Parvathi Bayi, the Maharajahs are referred to in common parlance by the years of their demise.
Munro was succeeded by Col. McDowall, who arrived in Trivandrum early in 1819 A.D., accompanied by a Mahratta Brahmin protégé, Vencata Row by name. It may be remarked here that every big Anglo-Indian of those days had one or two Mahratta Brahmin dependents hanging about him. They were the most advanced among the South Indian Brahmins in educational qualifications and were besides a race of pushing people characterised by great natural sagacity and a ready capacity to adapt themselves to new political surroundings. But the levelling effect of University education so general and so widespread in recent years has deprived them of their vantage ground which they enjoyed in the earlier years of British rule bringing up the other classes of Brahmins to their rank and oftentimes overtopping them.
This Vencata Row knew English and he was appointed as interpreter and agent of the Resident. As such he was able to cultivate an acquaintance at the Rani’s court. By his ability and tact he soon won promotions in the State service and was made a Dewan Peishcar under the direct orders of the Dewan. He ingratiated himself into the good graces of the Rani and her officers. With this object in view he repaired the buildings connected with the Trivandrum pagoda, improved the Agrasala, made a golden kavacham in the shape of a coat for the idol of Sri Padmanabhaswamy, added other pretty accessories such as a silver howdah, plated sticks or chobdars to the royal processions, &c., and improved the kit of the sepoys and the troops after the Mysore fashion, and thus soon became a favourite at court. This Vencata Kow, it may be added, was the paternal uncle of Rajah Sir Madava Row of later history.
Dewan Reddy Row who was waning fast in popularity viewed these proceedings of the Peishcar Vencata Row with alarm. He therefore invited the Cochin Dewan Nunjappiah to Trivandrum with the object of strengthening his own position through him. In this he completely succeeded and he soon regained the favour of both the Rani and the Resident. The Rani, being much pleased with Nunjappiah’s services in some important negotiations in which she was specifically interested, bestowed on him on the 17th Karkadagam 995 M.E., a tract of land in Parur to the extent of six or seven hundred acres worth about Rs. 20,000.
Princess Rugmini Bayi having attained the age of ten, preparations were made on a grand scale for the celebrations of her marriage (Talikettu). As she was then the only Princess in the Royal family, the marriage festivities were celebrated with all oriental pomp and grandeur, and were continued for fourteen days — instead of the usual four. Prince Kerala Varma was born to her on the 18th Mithunam 1001 M. E. (1827 A.D.).
In recognition of the satisfactory arrangements he made for the Royal wedding and for efficient services rendered in general as Dewan, Reddy Row obtained from the Rani a jaghir of two villages in the Shencottah viz. Sambur and Vadakara.
In 995 M. E (1820 A.D) McDowall died and Col. Newall succeeded him as Resident. Dewan Pelshear Venkata Row who was only waiting for an opportunity to overthrow the minister, took advantage of this gift of a jaghir and with the help of Raman Menon worked for the Dewan’s fall. The Dewan’s acceptance of the Jaghir was pointed out to the new Resident as improper and unbecoming in the responsible adviser to the sovereign. The Resident was off course of the same view and after a careful investigation called upon the Diwan to surrender the Jaghir. Dewan Reddy Row resigned in disgust.
Vencata Row becomes Dewan. In 997 M.E (1821 A.D.), Dewan Peishcar Venkata Row was appointed Dewan. An admirer of Col. Munro, he adopted the mode of administration chalked out by him. He had an intimate knowledge of the workings of the different departments of the State and this considerably helped him to render his administration both vigorous and popular. His first act was the granting of a general remission of arrears of tax, which won for him the good will of the people. He established his headquarters (Huzur Cutchery) at Quilon. In 999 M. E (1824 A.D.), the Rani sanctioned the construction of two canals, one from Trivandrum to the backwater of Kadinangulam and the other to connect the Quilon and the Paravur backwaters, which had already been projected by Colonel Munro.
The work was commenced in 1825 A.D., and completed within three years. Several other useful works connected with irrigation were also undertaken and duly carried out. In all this Dewan Vencata Row took part and personally worked. The people still remember how he spent months on the banks of the line of canals which he cut, living under thatched huts put up temporarily for him. He gave a free hearing to the grievances of all classes of people and a particular time was appointed every day when he would hear petitioners on any matter and dispose of their grievances accordingly. By such acts he grew very popular and rose very high in the estimation of the sovereign and the people who looked upon him as their friend.
It was in the regency of this enlightened Rani that the English Missions received substantial help. The London Mission at Nagercoil was permanently established in 991 M.E. (1816 A.D.), a nucleus of which having been formed in Myladi some ten years earlier by the Danish missionary M. Ringletaube. Her Highness the Rani permitted a few missionary gentlemen to live permanently in her State and gave them liberal support. To carry on the regular mission labours a sum of Rs. 5,000 and a large bangalow at Nagercoil were granted. Rev. C. Mead, one of the missionaries, was also appointed Judge of the Zillah Court at Nagercoil. In 991 M.E. (1861 A.D.), sanction was given for the erection of a Protestant Church at Alleppey. The timber required for this building was granted free of all charges and Rev. T. Norton, its Chaplain, was permitted to stay at Alleppey. Permission was also given to the Church Mission Society at Kottayam to commence its operations for bettering the condition of the Syrians who were the oldest Christian subjects of the Rani, and the Society began their work conjointly with the Syrian Metran.
A College was opened and the Rani made a generous grant of Rs. 20,000 to purchase gardens and paddy fields for its maintenance. Col. Munro who took a special interest in the progress of this Mission thus referred to the event in addressing the Madras Government on the state of Christianity in Travancore —
“The temporal situation of the Syrians has also been materially improved. I have frequently taken occasion to bring them to the notice of Her Highness the Ranee of Travancore and her intelligent, liberal and ingenious mind has always appeared to feel a deep interest in their history, misfortunes and character. She is aware of the attention excited to their situation in Europe and her anxiety to manifest the sincerity of her attachment to the British nation has formed, I believe, an additional motive for the kindness and generosity she has uniformly displayed towards the Syrians. She has appointed a considerable number of them to public offices and lately presented the sum of Bs. 20,000 to the College at Kottayam, as an endowment for its support. The Syrians are most grateful for her goodness, and cherish in no ordinary degree the sentiments of affection and respect towards her person, that are entertained by every class of her subjects.”
Raja Raja Varma, Valia Koil Tampuran and guardian, took great interest in the education of the Princes. They were taught Malayalam, Sanskrit and English. Their English was placed in the hands of one T. Subba Row, familiarly known in the country as ‘English Suhba Row.’ He was a native of Tanjore and was selected by Col. Munro just before his departure in 1819 A.D. Within a couple of years Prince Rama Varma and his only brother Martanda Varma made considerable progress in their English studies. In addition to this they were taught Hindustani, Persian, Telugu, Canarese and Marathi. Regarding the education of these Princes Col. Welsh observes —
“Being on a tour of inspection during the month of May (1825), and stopping to pass a few days at the Residency, with Colonel Newall, I had the opportunity of witnessing the studies of the young Rajahs in private, and forming an estimate of their progressive acquirements and abilities. On the morning of the 16th, at 10 o’clock, I accompanied the Colonel in his gig, without attendants, to the fort, where we were immediately conducted to a room in the palace, and found them, with their father, their sister, her husband, and their school master, ready to receive us. The elder boy, now thirteen, seemed greatly improved in mind, though rather diminutive in person. He read a chapter of Malcolm’s Central India; the Governor General’s Persian letter on the capture of Rangoon; a passage in Sanscrit; another in Malayalum, and seemed equally clever at each.
“He then took up a book of mathematics, and selecting the 47th proposition of Euclid, sketched the figure on a country slate but what astonished me most, was his telling us in English, that Geometry was derived from the Sanscrit, which was Jaw meter to measure the earth, and that many of our mathematical terms, were also derived from the same source, such as hexagon, heptagon, octagon, decagon, duo-decaogon, &c. His remarks were generally apposite but their language inelegant, and ungrammatical. This is much to be lamented, because, with so many studies on hand, he can never read enough of English, to correct his idiom and the master a very clever Tanjore Brahmin*, could not speak it much better than himself. His Persian was pure and elegant; but of the other languages**, I am too ignorant to offer an opinion. This promising boy is now, I conclude, sovereign of the finest country in India for he was to succeed to the Musnnd, the moment he had attained his sixteenth year. The younger brother gave us various specimens of his acquirements somewhat inferior of course, to those of the rising sum of the country, but still very fair.”
NOTEs: * Subba Row who subsequently became Dewan is the Prince's tutor referred to here.
** ** In these vernacular languages especially Telugu, Canarese, and Marathi, the young Maharajah displayed wonderful facility and could compose in them, his musical compositions being renowned throughout India. A Telugu songster who visited Travancore some years ago assured me that the Maharajah's musical compositions were sung in every village of the Telugu Districts. The Colonel's 'promising boy' came to be subsequently recognised as the veriest genius in the Travancore Royal family.
The good-humoured Colonel’s diary goes on to say —
“The Princess, at whose wedding I was present in 1819, was grown both fat and coarse. Their father, a very handsome man, about the middle age is their joint guardian, with the Ranee and Resident but has no other power or authority, whatever. The Princess’s husband looks very much like her younger brother; indeed, apart, I should not know the one from the other. At noon we took our leave, much gratified with this domestic scene.
“I have not made any mention of the present Dewaun, an uncommonly handsome, fair, and elegant Carnatic Brahmin.* His name is Venketa Row and he is one of the most intelligent, well educated men, I have met with in India, and writes an excellent English letter. As far as I could learn, he was most attentive and unremitting in his exertions for the improvement of the country, and the good of the state. Such a man to educate the young Princes would have been worth his weight in gold.”**
NOTEs: + The Dewan referred to here is Rai Raya Rai Vencata Row, a Mahratta Brahmin, not a Carnatic Brahmin. Col. Welsh evidently did not understand the shade of difference that exists between these two sects of Brahmins.
** Military Reminiscences Vol II Pages 236
After the insurrection of 1809 the whole military force of Travancore was disbanded with the exception of about 700 men of the first Nayar battalion and a few mounted troops, who were retained for purposes of state and ceremony. In 1817 the Rani represented to the Resident Col. Munro her desire to increase the strength and efficiency of the army and to have it commanded by a European officer, as the existing force was of little use being undisciplined and un-provided with arms. On the strong recommendation of the Resident, the proposal was duly sanctioned by the Madras Government in 1818, and the Rani was given permission to increase her force by 1,200 men. Captain McLeod of the 9th Regiment M. N. I., who was at the time employed as Killadar of the Trivandrum Fort, was appointed Commandant of the Nayar troops and was entrusted with the reorganisation. The Rani accordingly issued the following neet to the Dewan under date the 29th Kumbham 993 M.E (1818 A.D):—
“As the present strength of the Nayar Brigade has been found insufficient to furnish the required guards for watching the Trivandrum Pagoda, Palace, Fort, Treasury and other places, and detachments for different outstations’ to keep watch at those places and escorts to accompany Us in Our occasional tours to the north and south-east and additional guards to the Palace &c., on the last mentioned occasions, and as inconvenience is experienced in consequence of the said deficiency, it is Our pleasure to entertain 1,200 sepoys or twelve companies of 100 sepoys per company and the required number of Subadars, Jamadars, Havildars, Naicks, Pillamars &c., so as to complete two battalions.
“As captain McLeod who had been appointed to organise the present Nayar Brigade on the same footing as other well-armed and trained military bodies, has accordingly continued to discharge such duty, We have spoken to that officer about Our desire to increase the strength of the Brigade so as to complete two battalions, in consequence of the inconvenience resulting from the present deficiency. You are hereby directed to address the necessary communication to Capt. McLeod with a view to collect the required number of recruits to make 1,200 sepoys for twelve companies of 100 per company, inclusive of the men already on the list as well as the usual number of Subadars, Jamadars, Havildars, Naicks, Pillamar &c., so as to complete two battalions. You are at the same time authorised to make arrangements for defraying the additional expense attendant on the above increase of force as a permanent expenditure.”
Captain McLeod proceeded with his work and was soon able to raise a second battalion of troops and formed a detachment of artillery. The reorganisation was completed in 1819 and the Travancore army then consisted of 2,100 men armed with rifles and bayonets and a troop of 50 cavalry, under the command of English officers. Two six-pounders and two nine-pounders were also added for firing salutes, which had been discontinued since the rebellion. Thus was organised the present Nayar Brigade, though the designation itself was given to it only in 1830 A.D.
With the education of the Princes who completed their studies towards the close of this reign, the influence of Subba Row became very great in the palace, and he expected to become the principle adviser and leader of the Court when his pupil Rama Varma assumed the reins of Government. This was greatly feared by Dewan Vencata Row who saw signs of his being overthrown and supplanted by Subba Row. This would actually have taken place had not the Rani interfered for Dewan Vencata Row who had rendered valuable services to the State by the introduction of several salutary reforms. The following extracts of letters to and from the Madras Government bear ample testimony to the very able manner in which Dewan Veneata Row discharged the duties of his high office.
Letter from Mr. Newall,* British Resident, to the Government of Madras, dated 16th November 1824 —
“Her Highness at all times expresses the most anxious desire for the improvement of the condition of the inhabitants; these beneficent intentions of Her Highness the Ranee are fully executed by the exertions of Vencata Row, the Dewan, whose zeal and ability in conducting the important affairs committed to his charge are very conspicuous and I can with confidence affirm that the inhabitants of Travancore of every class and description at present enjoy a protection, tranquillity and happiness long unknown to them .”
NOTEs: * Col. Welsh writes of Newall in his Military Reminiscences: - "He was a kind-hearted liberal man, and a particular favourite of Sir Thomas Munro, than whom no man ever possessed a cleaner judgement" (Page 97. Vol II)
Again on the 2nd December 1825, the Resident wrote—
“Vencata Row, the Dewan, by his zeal, ability, integrity and unwearied exertions for the interests of the Sircar and the welfare of the inhabitants, has fully gained my confidence I consider him a public servant of the first order’
The Madras Government on the 30th December 1825 remarked —
“I am in conclusion directed to state that the Honourable the Governor in Council regards with sentiments of the highest approbation, the vigorous and judicious manner in which the affairs of the Travancore country continue to be conducted and also that the very exemplary conduct of the Dewan Vencata Row is observed with much satisfaction.”
Lastly in his letter dated 1st May 1827, the Resident wrote to the Dewan —
“I cannot leave Travancore without expressing to you the high sense which I entertain of your merits as a public servant of the Travancore Government. The high office of Dewan which you have filled with great credit to yourself and advantage to the interests of Travancore for the last five years is an office of the greatest delicacy, trust and confidence the duties of this important station have been conducted by you with exemplary zeal, ability and unremitting activity, and the whole tenor of your conduct has afforded me entire satisfaction.”
This distinguished Dewan was, as already stated, the uncle of the illustrious Rajah Sir Madava Row of our own times, who as Dewan of Travancore earned the reputation of being the first Native Statesman in India.
In 1818 Travancore entered into a commercial treaty with Ceylon for the supply of Jaffna tobacco on certain terms at stated prices. In 1823 Tangasseri was leased out to the Travancore Government for a period of twenty-four years. Tangasseri and Anjengo are two little British possessions enclaved in Travancore territory and though many attempts have been made to include their jurisdiction in the Native State with which they are so entirely homogeneous, somehow all such attempts have failed resulting in no small administrative inconvenience to Travancore as well as to British India in more ways than one.
“Tangacherry is an ancient settlement with an interesting history, and bears evidence of a historic past in the ruins of an old fort and a pretty and moss-grown cemetery. A lighthouse was recently erected at Tangacherry, and in the event of Quilon developing into a harbour, Tangacherry would become a most valuable possession. Anjengo is an equally interesting survival of past days and is much better known, for the old laterite fort is still in a fair state of preservation, while the names of Sterne’s Eliza (Mrs. Draper) and Orme, the historian, will ever be associated with this relic of power once exercised by the H. E. I. Company.”*
NOTEs: * The Madras Mail - February 14, 1905.
In June 1825 the Dutch factory at Cape Comorin was handed over to the English in accordance with the treaty concluded between Their Majesties the King of the Netherlands and the King of Great Britain and Ireland. In the same year the jurisdiction over the petty State of Edappalli was transferred to Travancore.
In 1004 M.E. (1829 A.D.), Prince Rama Varma attained his sixteenth year and the illustrious Rani, his aunt, who so successfully administered the kingdom in his behalf, cheerfully handed it over to him and retired to a peaceful private life with all the honours due to a reigning sovereign. Rama Varma was crowned King amidst the great rejoicings of his people on the 10th Medam 1004 M.E. (1829 A.D.). Both Rama Varma and his brother Martanda Varma deferred to the Queen-mother’s opinions on all matters of importance affecting themselves or their people.
The Rani-Regent was an enlightened and thoughtful ruler who illumined her reign by many humane acts of good government, the memory of which gladdened her last days, and she used to beguile her leisure moments with narrating her exploits as Queen to the little Brahmin boys, sons of servants and favourites, that surrounded her Court in old age. One such boy, now nearly three score years and ten, tells me that she used to refer with pride and satisfaction to her various acts of administration for the amelioration of her people, one of which he remembers was a concession to her own sex of relieving females from the burden of bearing torches during Royal processions. She used to tell my informant that many such acts of redress of public wrongs, for which so much credit was taken in later days, had been either carried out or inaugurated in her time.
This was no small achievement for a Travancore Queen to be proud of in the twenties of the last century, when we remember that, in the early years of the late Queen-Empress’ reign, the condition of women in England was far worse. Mr. Justin McCarthy M.P writes —
“In some of the coal mines women were literally employed as beasts of burden. Where the seam of coal was too narrow to allow them to stand upright, they had to crawl and go forward to allow them to stand upright, they had to crawl and go forward on all fours for fourteen or sixteen hours a day, dragging the trucks laden with coals. The tracks were generally fastened to a chain which passed between the legs of the unfortunate women and was then connected with a belt which was strapped round their naked waists. Their only clothing often consisted of an old pair of trousers made of sacking: and they were uncovered from the waist up — uncovered, that is to say, except for the grime and filth that collected and clotted around them. All manner of hideous diseases were generated in these unsexed bodies. Un-sexed almost literally some of them became; for their chests were often hard and flat as those of men; and not a few of them lost all reproductive power; a happy condition truly under the circumstances, where women who bore children only went up to the higher air for a week during their confinement, and were then back at their work again. It would be superfluous to say that the immorality engendered by such a state of things was in exact keeping with the other evils which it brought about. Lord Ashley had the happiness and the honour of putting a stop to this infamous sort of labour for ever by the Act of 1843, which declared that, after a certain limited period, no woman or girl whatever should be employed in mines and collieries.”*
NOTEs: * History of Our Own Times, Vol. 1, Page 304.
Lord Ashley’s Act was passed some twenty years later than Rani Parvathi Bayi’s humane reform referred to above but the evil that Lord Ashley had to contend against was of a more serious nature and such as could only exist in a state of high material civilisation engaged in the eager pursuit of wealth. Such a civilisation never perhaps existed in any part of India within historical memory. All the old Indian civilisations were in a sense less worldly and had a touch of the philosophical and abstruse in them, caring less for the good things of this world and more tor what would be called a vague and indefinite ‘hereafter.’
Lieut Horsley wrote of the good Queen thus—
“The short reign of Letchmee Ranee terminated in 1814. This Princess left issue, but they being minors at the period of her death, she was quietly succeeded by her sister, who, as Regent, conducted the Government of the country with the same successful policy till the year 1829, at which period the present Rajah* having attained his majority was formally installed and placed on the musnud by the British Resident Col. Morrison.”**
NOTEs: * Rama Varma Kulasekhara Perumal.
** Memoir of Travancore - Page 7.
3. Rama Varma