TRAVANCORE STATE MANUAL Volume One
V. NAGAM AIYA
Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - Section C: Modern History - RAMA VARMA (Swati Tirunal)
RAMA VARMA (Swati Tirunal) 1004-1022 M.E / 1829 - 1847 A.D
Rama Varma, the young and strong-willed Maharajah, formally assumed the reins of Government in his sixteenth year and was installed on the musnud on the 10th Medam 1004 M.E (1829 A.D.).
This Prince was born under very peculiar circumstances. With the death of Bala Rama Varma all prospects of having a king in the near future were cut off, and it was even feared that the country would be annexed by the British Government. Daily prayers were offered to Sri Padmanabhaswamy, the tutelary deity of the Royal House, and various other religious rites were performed to invoke divine blessing on the Maharani Lakshmi Bayi. The Rani herself observed all kinds of fasts and devoted a good portion of her time to religious and devotional purposes. Offerings were made to every big temple in the State and costly danoms (gifts) were given to holy and learned Brahmins. As the result of all these meritorious acts, so the orthodox firmly believe, a prince was born to Lakshmi Bayi in 988 M.E (1813 A.D.), under the star of Swati. The news of the birth of an heir to the throne was hailed with joy throughout the country; special offerings were made in all the temples and thousands of poor were fed and clothed.
As Shungoonny Menon puts it, “this sovereign was really the King of Travancore from the very day of his birth”, for from the very day of conception, he was looked forward to as the future King and won the title therefore of Garbhasriman. So great was the general satisfaction that even Colonel Munro, it is said, contributed to the offering of a silver umbrella set with emerald pendants to Sri Padmanabhaswamy.
His Highness possessed great natural intelligence and sagacity and had an excellent training under his distinguished father Raja Raja Varma Koil Tampuran, and his English tutor Subba Row who subsequently became Dewan. He possessed a strong will and showed great aptitude for business. His scholastic attainments were of a high order. He was a good scholar in Sanskrit and English and had mastered the vernaculars such as Persian, Hindustani, Marathi and Telugu, in most of which he had composed several poems and songs.
He is the author of several Sanskrit works, one of which viz., Bhaktimanjari has recently been published by the Government. This work, which may be taken as the type of the Maharajah’s later compositions, is “remarkable for the expressiveness and sweetness of the language generally used, the flowing nature of the style employed, and the ease and naturalness of the figures of speech found throughout, which are quite in keeping with the sense of devotion with which the work is replete.”*
NOTEs: * Bhaktimanjari - Introduction. Edited by Pandit T. Ganapati Sastrial, Principal of the Trivandrum Sanskrit College
His other works are — Padmanabha Sataka, Syanandurapura Varnana Prababhandha, Ajamilopakhyana, Kuchelopakhyana, Sangita Kirtana (in Sanskrit, Telugu and other languages), and Utsava Varanan Prabandha (in a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam). He was an accomplished musical composer and some of his compositions show great knowledge of the art of native dance, known as Bharata Nattyam. His higher musical works, Varnams and Kirtanams are considered masterpieces for the profuse introduction of Swaraksharam in them. He invited to his service and patronised many distinguished musicians from Tanjore, Mysore, Malabar and Tinnevelly. As already stated in this history, his musical compositions are sung to this day by men and women in the remote Telugu villages lying on the banks of the Krishna and the Godavari.
In addition to these personal qualifications, the Maharajah had valuable advisers in the persons of his enlightened father, a meritorious Dewan (Vencata Row), and a capable Resident (Colonel Morrison). Besides, the country was in a prosperous condition and its finance thriving — a result due to the wise and judicious administration of the country by the two Ranis before him.
The new Dewan
The Maharajah wanted to promote his tutor Subba Row to the Dewanship, but Her Highness the Rani (late Regent) and Colonel Morrison opposed the measure. Colonel Morrison being recalled, Dewan Vencata Row tendered his resignation. On his retirement, the British Government appointed him to the Mysore Commission and Lord William Bentinck conferred on him the title of “Rai Raya Rai,” an honorific prefix which only one other native of South India obtained after him.*
NOTEs: * Thande Narasinga Rao, who was Head Sheristadar of the Madras Board of Revenue and retired during Sir C. Trevelyan's Governorship (1860 A.D.), was the other native who was similarly honoured.
His Highness was now free in making his own choice. He appointed his tutor Subba Row as Dewan in 1005 M.E (1880 A.D), and Cochusankara Pillai, Judge of the Huzur Court, was appointed in Subba Row’s place as Dewan Peishcar. The Huzur Cutchery and other public offices were removed from Quilon to Trivandrum and were located in the vicinity of the Palace within the Fort.
Subba Row’s administration
Subba Row began his administration well. He introduced several reforms and improvements in the various departments of administration and enforced good discipline throughout. Bribery and corruption were considered grave crimes and were visited with Royal displeasure. In 1833 A.D., there was a disturbance raised by the Shanars of South Travancore, but the riot was easily put down without military aid. The officers of the various Taluqs were specifically instructed to do their best to promote the welfare of the ryots. The result was that agriculture greatly flourished and peace and plenty prevailed everywhere.
His Highness set apart a few hours every day for the transaction of State business and particular days were fixed for the personal reports of the Dewan, Judges of the Appeal Court and the other chief officers of the State This enabled the Maharajah to familiarise himself with the details of the working and progress of the various departments. Men of real worth and talent were sought out and encouraged, and within two years of His Highness’ accession, the administration was brought to a high standard of efficiency.
Reduction of the Subsidiary Force
About 1829 A.D., the Madras Government on the suggestion of the Court of Directors proposed to the Maharajah the idea of withdrawing the subsidiary force and the Residency staff maintained in Travancore. The Maharajah assented to the reduction of the subsidiary force to one regiment of native infantry; but desired for various reasons the retention of the Resident and his staff at least for some time to come. This on being communicated to the Supreme Government in Bengal was duly sanctioned, and instruction to that effect were immediately transmitted to the Madras Government.
Accordingly in December 1830, the Company’s troops stationed at Aramboly and Bhutapandi were recalled and the subsidiary force in Travancore was reduced to one regiment of native infantry, a detachment of which was stationed at Nagercoil to protect the country from enemies on that side. In September 1832, Lieut-Colonel E. Cadogan, Acting Resident, wrote regarding the step taken thus —
“The recall of the subsidiary force in December 1830 affords the best proof that the maintenance of a considerable body of troops in Travancore was no longer deemed a measure of expediency, and without entering minutely late into a subject that has already been under the consideration of Government, I trust I shall be able to show in a few words, that the force might have been withdrawn at a much earlier period with perfect safety to both Sircars.
“Immediately after the war of 1809, the State of Travancore was deprived of its arms, ordnance and military stores, and the inhabitants so completely disarmed as to be, from a military point of view, utterly annihilated No man has since been permitted to hold fire-arms of any description that are not stamped, registered and accompanied by a certificate or permit from the Dewan and as this regulation prevents the importation of arms to any extent, it affords the best security against serious internal disturbance or resumption of designs hostile to the British authority. Moreover the habits and character of these people have undergone a complete change within the last twenty years. That warlike, refractory and turbulent temper for which the Nairs of Travancore were once so remarkable has totally disappeared, and they must now be regarded as a population of pacific habits placing the most implicit confidence in our protection and well convinced that their safety entirely depends on the stability, support and friendship of the British Government.
“The ostensible reason, by treaty, for maintaining a force in Travancore was to protect the territories of His Highness against all enemies by sea and land. But when it is considered that Travancore is bounded on three sides by the Company’s territories and on the fourth by the sea, the policy of shutting up a large body of troops in the heart of the country to shield it from foreign aggression needs no comment. The well-known fact that Travancore furnishes no carriage for equipping the smallest force for the field renders it highly improbable that any European enemy will ever attack us through this part of the coast and should a landing be effected in ignorance of this want of means, an advance of five miles from the beach would be perfectly impracticable.
“The native regiment now in Travancore is retained for the purpose of affording protection to the unarmed inhabitants in the frontiers, who are subject to frequent attacks by formidable gangs of robbers from the provinces of Tinnevelly, Coimbatore and South Malabar. It has also to guard the Company’s treasuries at Quilon, Ernakulam and Cochin and it appears to me fully adequate to all these duties.
“By the foregoing observations I have endeavoured to show, first, that, as the Travancore State is unprovided with arms, ordnance and military stores, it is quite incapable of disturbing the authority of the British Government for a moment; secondly that there can be no well-founded apprehension of its ever supporting a foreign enemy because its own preservation depends entirely upon our stability, and it is not probable that it would act in direct opposition to its own interest; thirdly no power can invade the Travancore territory without passing through the Company’s country by land, and it cannot be assailed by sea with any hope of advantage, and fourthly, the troops now in Travancore are quite sufficient for the purpose intended and I see no reason for any increase whatever.”
The first Gubernatorial visit to Travancore
On the subject of the appointment of the new Dewan, the British Resident, Colonel Morrison, had reported unfavourably to the Madras Government, and Mr. Lushington, the Governor of Madras, visited Travancore in 1005 M.E ( 1830 A.D)., with the special object of inspecting the State and forming his own opinion about Travancore affairs and the capabilities of the reigning Prince. His Highness met His Excellency at Quilon and had a long interview with him. The conversation was carried on in English, a thing which the Governor had not expected, and His Excellency was extremely pleased with the thoughts and aspirations of the young Maharajah. The commanding appearance of the Prince and his knowledge of the politics and administrations of other countries contributed in no small measure to the excellent impression formed of him by the Governor. He was fully satisfied of the Prince’s ability to rule the land and left Travancore highly delighted with all he saw. But all the same, a prejudice was created and kept up against the Maharajah in the minds of the Court of Directors, for in their Extract Political letter to Bengal, dated 18th December 1882, they wrote —
“Our relations with the state of Travancore therefore appear to us, as they existed at the date of your most recent communications, to have been in a state by no means satisfactory. Upon authority indeed, which Col. Morrison seems confidently to rely on, it would seem that the country, which on the accession of the Rajah was in a most flourishing condition, was hastening to decline. Its affairs we trust have received in the meantime your watchful attention.
“We confide in your judgment and care for discovering and executing whatever the exigencies of the case may require and for that purpose we desire that you will consider the management of Travancore affairs as specially entrusted to you.”
We read much the same discordant note sounded in a private letter of Macaulay’s to his sisters in July 1832, where speaking of his pressure of work he writes —
“My dear sisters, I am, I think, a better correspondent than you two put together. I will venture to say that I have written more letters, by a good many, than I have received, and this with India and Edinburgh Review on my hands; the life of Mirabeau to be criticised; the Rajah of Travancore to be kept in order, &c.”
This prejudice worked against the Maharajah throughout his reign.
The visit of His Excellency the Governor gave the Maharajah an opportunity to see the British forces in full parade. He was struck with their dress and drill and made arrangements for the improvement of his own forces after the British model. New accoutrements wore ordered and the commanding officer was asked to train the sepoys after the model of the British troops. The dress of the mounted troopers was improved and fresh horses were got down; and the appellation of the “Nayar Brigade” was first given to the Travancore forces. The Tovala stables were removed to Trivandrum and improved. On the advice of the Court of Directors, the European officers of the Nayar Brigade were relieved from attendance at the Hindu religious ceremonies.
In 1007 M. E., Munsiffs’ Courts were established for the disposal of petty civil and police cases. In 1008 M.E, the Huzur Court at the capital was abolished and a Zillah Court was opened instead.
The First Code of Regulations (1010 M.E)
At the suggestion of Mr. Casamajor who succeeded Colonel Morrison as Resident, one Itterarichan Cundappan, generally known as Cunden Menon, an intelligent Tahsildar of Malabar, was appointed Huzur Dewan Peishcar in 1010 M.E (1835 A.D.). By his tact and ability he soon gained the confidence of the Maharajah and the approbation of the people. The details of the administration were placed in his hands and the Dewan was asked to consult him on all important matters. He was asked to frame a code of laws, both criminal and civil, founded upon the British enactments.
A committee was formed of the experienced officers of the State. Within a few months the proposed code was drafted and passed into law with effect from 1011 M.E (1836 A.D). This was the first Code of Regulations of Travancore and it was printed at the Kottayam Mission Press, as the Government Press was not then established.
The Code consisted of eight Regulations. The first five treated of the Civil Procedure and the constitution of the Munsiff, Zillah and Appeal Courts, the sixth Regulation vested the Tahsildars with Police authority and the Zillah Courts with criminal powers, while the seventh and eighth authorised Judges of the Appeal Court to perform the functions of Sessions Courts. These Regulations though considerably modified in later years still form the groundwork of our present judicial administration. To carry out the provisions of the new Code, one Bhagavanta Row, a Munsiff of the Malabar District, was made the first Judge of the Appeal Court in Trivandrum. He reorganised the criminal and civil departments while Cunden Menon, who now became virtually the Head Magistrate, reformed the police and magistracy. Thus within a short time the judicial department was thoroughly reformed and placed on a satisfactory footing.
Cunden Menon’s next reform was the commencement of a garden survey, which was completed in 1012 M.E (1837 A.D.). These reforms secured for him the confidence of the sovereign, the people and the Resident. But the Dewan viewed his popularity with jealousy. He found that his powers were day by day usurped by the Peishcar until he became a mere signing machine. With the help of Dewan Peishcar Kochusankara Pillai, he devised plans for the overthrow of Cunden Menon, but failed. But Cunden Menon fell suddenly ill and died after a short time. The people were not slow to attribute his death to the machinations of the Dewan, for they said “the Peishcar has fallen a victim to the arts of witchcraft practised against him”. In Cunden Menon, His Highness lost a very valuable officer, from whom he had expected much benefit to the State.
ABOLITION OF MINOR DUTIES. In 1011 M.E, the abolished the duty on 165 articles of different kinds and thus gave stimulus to trade. This act of his was much appreciated by the Resident, who wrote to the Dewan on the 4th July 1836, that the Governor in Council was of opinion that the adoption of this measure “reflects great credit on the Travancore Court.”
CENSUS OF 1836. In 1836 A.D., the Resident wrote to the Dewan to order the Tahsildars of the State to take a detailed Census of the respective Taluqs under their charge, and accordingly a general Census was taken, which gave a total population of 12,80,668 for Travancore.
THE OPENING OF AN ENGLISH SCHOOL. In 1009 M. E, (1834 A.D.), an English School was opened at Trivandrum and placed under Mr. J. Roberts, who had been keeping a private school at Nagercoil, and a monthly grant of Rs. 100 was given him. In 1012 M.E. (1836 A.D.) it was converted into the Sircar Free School, and Mr. Roberts was given a monthly salary of Rs. 300. General Fraser who became the Resident in 1011 M.E, took great interest in the progress of the institution and at his instance a few District Schools were started as feeders of this central school. This was the foundation of English education in Travancore. In 1842, the Committee of Europeans appointed to examine and report on the progress of the pupils of the school, certified to their excellent attainments and proposed a distribution of prizes and suggested to His Highness, “the holding out of some prospects of future employment in the public service to those boys who may distinguish themselves by their progress, especially to the Sudras who form so large a portion of the population of His Highness’ country”.
THE TRIVANDRUM OBSERVATORY. The Maharajah had a good knowledge of the science of Astronomy. While on a tour to Alleppey in 1011 M.E (1836 A.D.), he happened to see some of the astronomical instruments of Mr. Cadelecott, the Commercial Agent. The Maharajah took great interest in these instruments and with Mr. Cadelecott’s advice an Observatory was opened at Trivandrum in 1012 M.E. (1836 A.D), and operations were commenced in the following year. Mr. Caldecott was appointed the first Government Astronomer. Mr. J. A. Broun F.R.S, his successor, to whose astronomical labours Travancore owes not a little of her present fame’ in scientific circles, thus refers to His Highness the Maharajah —
“His Highness was celebrated throughout India for his love of learning, for a cultivated mind, great practical powers and a thorough knowledge of many languages. His Highness is well known also for his decision of character and took the whole subject at once under his special protection”.*
NOTEs: * Report on the Travancore Observatories published in 1857
For the use of the Observatory, lithography was introduced, and this in course of time gave place to a small printing establishment which was subsequently enlarged. Printing presses were got down from England and a department for printing was opened. The first Government publication was the Anglo-Vernacular Calendar of Travancore for 1015 M.E (1839—1840 A.D.).
THE CHARITY HOSPITAL
The appointment of a doctor to the Royal family gave an opportunity to His Highness to test the virtues of European medicine and to realise the benefits of European treatment. Soon after, a Charity Hospital was opened at Trivandrum for the benefit of His Highness’ subjects. It may be mentioned here that so early as 1814 a Vaccination Department had been organised on a small scale and a European Physician attached to the Royal household under the designation of Durbar Physician.
THE ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT. For the purpose of introducing the art of European Engineering in this country, an experimental Engineering Department was opened and Lieut. Horsley was appointed ‘Visiting Engineer’. The Karamana stone-bridge was one of the first works of European engineering skill. An Irrigation Maramut Department with a Superintendent and a few companies of pioneers was also established at Nanjanad and was placed under the supervision of the Visiting Engineer. The Maramut Department for the repair and construction of palaces, temples &c., was also reorganised and an experienced Superintendent appointed.
OTHER REFORMS. His Highness took an early opportunity to abolish the custom of disgracing female criminals by shaving their heads and afterwards banishing them from Travancore. The Suchindram ghee-ordeal resorted to by the Nambudiri Brahmins in cases of suspected adultery was also abolished. A revenue law was introduced, remitting one-fourth of the tax on cocoanut and other trees planted and reared by the ryots. On the advice of the Resident, Col. J. D. Eraser, the Maharajah gave up all interference with trials in courts of justice, except in cases involving capital punishment or imprisonment for more than fourteen years.
Resigntion of Dewan Subba Row
Subba Row’s popularity waned and his administration did not please the people. Several petitions were sent to the Maharajah making serious allegations against him, his assistant Kochusankara Pillai, and the Judge Narayanan Kesavan.
A commission was appointed to inquire into the charges against them, but no malpractices on their part were proved. But their conduct had caused dissatisfaction and the Maharajah was not willing to continue them in their respective offices. Kochusankara Pillai and Narayanan Kesavan were dismissed and the Dewan was asked to resign, and his resignation was accepted on the 25th February 1837. When this fact was intimated to the Resident, he wrote to the retired Dewan as follows —
“I regret that tiny circumstance should have deprived the Sirkar of the further advantage of your services and recognised ability and I deem it due to you to state that I have been entirely satisfied with your general conduct as Dewan, the judgement with which you directed public affairs, the integrity of your administration and the friendly, candid and honourable disposition, with which you have invariably manifested in all your personal communication with myself.”
Ex-Dewan Vencata Row
Dewan Peishcar Runga Row, father of Raja Sir T. Madava Row, was appointed to temporarily carry on the work of administration. But in 1013 M.E (1838 A.D.), the ex-Dewan, Rai Raya Rai Vencata Row, was invited from Kumbakonam where he had retired after his resignation, and was appointed Dewan again. But within a year of his appointment he fell out with the Acting Resident, Captain Douglas. He therefore resigned his office in disgust in 1014 M.E (1839 A.D.), and retired to Kumbakonam again.
Ex-Dewan Subba Row again. The retired Dewan Subba Row was re-appointed in 1014 M.E. The Resident, Captain Douglas, officially wrote (13th April 1839 A.D.) to His Highness regarding this appointment thus —
“In reporting this occurrence for the information of the Right Honourable the Governor in Council, it will afford me the greatest pleasure to submit at the same time my opinion that this selection of an individual of known abilities, long tried fidelity in your service and attachment to your person, conjoined with a degree of local knowledge and experience possessed by few, affords the best guarantee of Your Highness’ anxiety to administer the duties of your exalted station for the well-being and protection of your subjects and consequently to the advancement of the honour and dignity of the Raj”
The powers of the Dewan and his staff were strengthened and the Maharajah issued a Royal writ in 1015 M.E. (1840 A.D.), prohibiting the officers in charge of the different departments from carrying on direct correspondence with the Palace, the Dewan alone being allowed that privilege.
During the second administration of Subba Row, the Puthanmalika and Rangavilasam palaces were constructed.
The Maharajah and General Cullen
Lieut-General W. Cullen was appointed Resident in September 1840. The new Resident did not study His Highness’ wishes and the Maharajah’s relations with him may be said to have never been cordial and as the Maharajah had already gained ten years’ experience on the throne, he did not perhaps care to befriend the Resident as a young Prince would have done. This made their relations unpleasant and soured the Maharajah’s temperament, and accounts to some extent for his strange behaviour in making appointments and unmaking them, in dismissing Dewans and other high officers of State on slight pretexts and inviting them again to high offices in his service.
The Resident had brought with him a Brahmin of Masulipatam named Krishna Row, whom the Maharajah out of deference to the Resident appointed as a Huzur Deputy Peishcar for the management of the Devaswam, Oottupurah and other departments. But as he was a man of ambition, he aspired to the Dewan’s place and therefore concerted plans for the overthrow of Dewan Subba Row. This greatly annoyed the Maharajah.
General Cullen was a little hard of hearing and His Highness therefore avoided frequent interviews with him as they caused him trouble and physical pain, and he was really unfit to bear the strain of a long continued loud talk with a deaf man.* This was the sole ground of the Rajah’s dislike to confer with the Resident as often as his interests required. But the Resident’s favourite, Krishna Row, took advantage of this untoward circumstance and did his best to widen the breach between him and the Maharajah. He misrepresented matters to the Resident and told him that the Dewan had poisoned His Highness’ mind against the Resident and that His Highness had no regard whatever for the British representative.
NOTEs: * General Cullen was stone-deaf when the present writer saw him for the first time as a school boy, twenty years later (1860 A.D.).
This naturally irritated General Cullen who began a course of retaliation. Every act of His Highness’ and the Dewan’s was misconstrued and the Resident took upon himself the task of opposing tooth and nail every measure of the Government. By his attitude he encouraged petitions from parties in civil and criminal cases, called for reports and records without end both from the courts and the Huzur Cutchery and criticised them in a cavilling spirit. This interference of the Resident became so frequent and so great that it seriously affected the administration and the people lost all confidence in their Judges, so much so that the Chief Justice Srinivasa Row was so incensed that he officially reported to Government that their work was hampered and the administration of justice seriously suffered on account of the unnecessary explanations which had to be submitted to the Resident and which wholly occupied the time of his Court, leaving him practically little time for his legitimate work. No State appointments could be made without the sanction of the Resident. The Dewan became altogether powerless and could not even give small increases to his own office staff without the Resident’s permission.
Day by day this interference increased and passed all legitimate bounds. It became the tyranny of the Resident in the place of what would have been in the olden days the tyranny of the Native monarch and his ministers, with this difference, however, that while the monarch’s interests were indissolubly bound up with those of his State, for they stand or fall together, the British representative stood on a vantage ground with practically no interest of his own or his Government’s at stake.
Any control or check over such Residential tyranny was in those days nearly non est, as the appellate authority at Fort St. George was faraway and, in the absence of the railway and the telegraph, practically in- accessible.
It struck Sir William Denison (Governor) as a curious anomaly that Native Princes should be so cabinned and cribbed as they were. He wrote of a neighbouring Prince thus— “The Rajah may be likened to a tenant, who, although he pays his rent regularly, is compelled to cultivate his farm according to the will of his landlord”.
The position of the Maharajah became humiliating, and he naturally felt much annoyed and the misunderstanding between the two became irreconcilable. To add to this, the Resident misrepresented matters to the Madras Government who passed several strictures and recorded unfavourable remarks on the Travancore administration. The Maharajah’s remonstrance was of no avail and even the Court of Directors endorsed the opinion of the Madras Government. At this critical state of affairs, Dewan Subba Row resigned in disgust and retired on a pension of Rs. 500 per mensem in June 1842 A.D. His Highness very reluctantly promoted the Resident’s protégé Krishna Row to the post of Head Dewan Peishcar, and put him in charge of the administration as the only way to avoid further trouble.
When the interference of the Resident became miserable, the Maharajah prepared a long and spirited memorandum to the Supreme Government at Calcutta, in which he pointed out the great injustice done to him and his country, and the humiliating condition to which his relations with the British Government had brought him. His Highness concluded the memo by stating that at this rate he was ready to abdicate his throne and hand over the kingdom to the Resident and his protégé Krishna Row. The draft memo was of course shown to his brother the Elaya Rajah and his aunt the Queen Regent, and it is enough for present purposes to say that wiser counsels prevailed at last, and the strongly worded protest was not sent to the Supreme Government.
Reddy Row Dewan again
The proceedings of Krishna Row as Acting Dewan did not give satisfaction to the Maharajah, though they had elicited the appreciation of the Resident and the Madras Government. His Highness therefore wrote to the Madras Government that Krishna Row could not be confirmed in the office of Dewan. It was offered to the retired Dewan Reddy Row who was then at Kumbakonam, and he at once accepted it. The appointment was of course approved by the Madras Government, but the Resident in communicating their approval wrote to Reddy Row thus (4th February 1843)—
“The Government have noticed that in your several addresses to the Residents Col. McDowal and Newall, requesting permission to resign the office of Dewan, you at that period assigned as a reason your advanced years, infirm state of health and the laborious duties of the office — and they observe that they apprehend after the long interval of twenty years, you can still be equal to its fatigue, but that they are aware of the aid ‘which Reddy Row will receive from Krishna Row, the Dewan Peishcar, who during the time he had been in charge of the office of Dewan, is reported by the Resident to have reduced the arrears of business and instilled a vigour into the administration highly creditable to himself and advantageous to his country.
“And I shall equally feel it my duty to give you every possible support by which means, I think, every satisfaction will be afforded to His Highness the Rajah as well as to the Madras Government. As I am opposed to the system which has occasionally obtained of filling a Cutcherry with friends and dependents, I shall expect that you will bring with you no persons with that view and that you will limit the persons who may accompany you to such number only of your family as may be reasonable and indispensable to your personal comfort.”
The meaning of this letter was clear; the Resident was decidedly opposed to Reddy Row’s appointment, his own Krishna Row being superseded. It was most galling to General Cullen’s vanity. In spite of this letter, the old Reddy Row brought with him a good number of his relations and employed two of his sons in his office.
The ex-Dewan Peishcars Kesave Pillai and Kochusankara Pillai were re-entertained and appointed as the Huzur Dewan Peishcar and Palace Peishcar respectively. Later on, the Head Dewan Peishcar Krishna Row incurred His Highness’ serious displeasure and was so much disliked that he was made to resign his office and leave Trivandrum immediately.
Krishna Row was General Cullens man and his resignation was brought about at the personal influence of His Highness. The letter of His Highness the Maharajah, dated 1843, to the Marquis of Tweedale, Governor of Madras, clearly explains his relations with General Cullen—
“With due deference I beg to lay the following statement before Your Lordship, and hope you will kindly excuse the intrusion on your precious time, because my painful struggles against an unprecedented interference of the Resident at my Court in the affairs of my Government having harassed my mind to a degree inexpressible, have at last driven me to the necessity of thus seeking Your Lordship’s protection and support in the time of need.
“I beg to inform Your Lordship, that soon after the present Resident arrived here, he began to exercise a want of confidence in my Dewan Soobrow. Here I think a few words necessary concerning this individual against whom the Resident seemed prejudiced. Soobrow is an old and devoted servant of mine, having served me more than twenty-two years, in the capacity of my tutor first, and in that of Diwan afterwards; he by his conduct not only gained my esteem and confidence, but the highest good opinion of several Residents at my Court. It is against this old and respected servant of mine, that General Cullen began to show marks of his dislike and aversion, at the instigation and ill-persuasion, from self-interested motives apparently, of a person named Krishna Row, a young Geutoo Brahmin about thirty years of age who accompanied him from Madras.
“The Dewan Soobrow, although a man of advanced age, found no difficulty in carrying on the public business with benefit to the State, when duly supported as usual by the Resident but in consequence of the total withdrawal of this support, and knowing that without it no possible exertions of his would give satisfaction, he frequently besought me to relieve him from his fruitless fatigues in the public affairs but fully aware as I was that the public interest would suffer by his retirement, I did not accede to his solicitations.
“The Resident at this time recommended to me and to the Dewan, his own servant Krishna Row, to be employed as a Deputy Peishcar. The Dewan actuated by a wish to gain the good-will of the Resident by a compliance with his request spoke to me on the subject; but I first decidedly objected to the appointment of Krishna Row from an apprehension that the measure would soon produce a spirit of insubordination and affect the power of the Dewan, as was experienced here before on similar occasions, but at last however, hoping that my compliance with the wish of the Resident might dispose him to entertain a better feeling towards my Dewan, I consented to appoint Kristna Row as a third or extra Deputy Peishcar, there being already two others employed.
“As soon however as he was appointed, that I had anticipated came to pass, Kristna Row getting a party of intriguing persons both in the Sircar’s employ and otherwise, began to undermine the Dewan’s authority by encouraging false complaints &c. and were I to mention here all the anxieties and troubles which the Dewan suffered from Kristna Row’s machination and the latter’s influence with the Resident, it would be a detail too long for a letter, suffice it, therefore, to say that the Dewan’s authority was completely usurped and set at defiance by various devices made use of by the party against him. At this crisis the Resident addressed me a memo in official form, but without signature, containing some frivolous and unfounded charges against the Dewan and urged me to relieve him from the office but while I was about to send my reply to it in refutation of every unfounded allegation it contained, I received a letter from General Cullen stating that I need not take the trouble of answering it, as it was merely intended for my private information.
“The two-fold object of these two communications may now be easily perceived, viz., first, if the Resident had received my reply in an official form, he must then have been obliged to communicate it to the Madras Government, which I have great reason to believe, is not at all General Cullen’s policy but that he endeavours to keep the Government perfectly ignorant of what passes here. Secondly, by sending to the Government a copy of the memo he had the facility of intimating that my silence arose merely from my inability to confute his accusations. Thus under a mark of solicitude for my convenience, the deep design of gradually subverting and assuming my power is to me quite manifest.
“This explanation of the finesse of the Resident did not occur to my mind at that time, or notwithstanding his second letter, I would have forwarded my reply to the said memo and requested him to bring the same to the notice of the Government. From a perusal of a copy of the Minutes of Consultation of the Madras Government which the Resident subsequently sent me, I learnt to my great astonishment, that he had informed the Government that I was determined to relieve the Dewan, both on account of his old age and inefficiency. Here, My Lord, I most positively assert that neither did such an idea enter into my head, nor in any conference with General Cullen, have I ever spoken anything ambiguous so as to have led him to construe my meaning to that effect. On the contrary I have repeatedly expressed my satisfaction at the Dewan’s conduct but unluckily either my voice is too feeble to convey my sentiments, on account of his badness of hearing, to the Resident, or he thinks proper to misrepresent them to the Government.
‘It is natural that the Government knowing only from the ex parte statements of the Resident, should furnish him with an extract of the Minutes of consultation to the effect that the Government concurs with me in my determination of relieving the Dewan on account of infirmity and inefficiency. The Resident in forwarding a copy of this document for my information strongly urged me to relieve the Dewan from his office. When I saw the said extract the truth at once flashed upon my mind, that the Government was perfectly misinformed as to the state of my affairs, and I resolved immediately to address the Government on the subject. But the Dewan, dejected and weighed down by his ill-treatment, dissuaded me from doing so, stating as a reason that no aggravation of mutual bad feeling between me and the Resident should take place on his account. He then again urged me to accept his resignation of office, which I at last did on the 14th June last granting him a suitable pension for his long and faithful services.
‘I then at his suggestion put Kristna Row in charge of the public affairs, as a temporary measure, and for reasons easily guessed, by way of trial to see whether he would prove to be adequate to this task but his subsequent behaviour has shown him to be totally unfit for any high responsible office. Even after the retirement of the late Dewan, the infliction of a fresh hardship upon him seemed to be premeditated, because another extract from the Minutes of Council was furnished both to him and myself by the Resident, to the purport that he ’should leave Travancore as his predecessors have done on similar occasions.’
‘The ex-Dewan in order not to exasperate the Resident by refusal, was already thinking of going from this country, entirely against his will and at the risk of his and his family’s health, and to their great inconvenience and loss but I positively prevented him from doing so, and wrote officially to the Resident on the subject on the 29th July last to the following effect that in the first place there is no parallel between this minister and his two immediate predecessors who have left the country immediately after their removal, at their own option, inasmuch as this Dewan has been my tutor which they were not, a distinction and relationship which I highly venerate. That the two former Dewans never thought of settling in this country, which they might have done had it suited their convenience, whereas this Dewan’s case is quite different from theirs, because upon my promise of protecting him and his family, he had not only disposed of his house at Tanjore but also built a large and costly one and purchased gardens at Trivandrum, for the express purpose of settling himself and spending the remainder of his days near me, moreover I even pledged myself that Soobrow would never interfere public business.
‘Thus having written, I requested the Resident to communicate the contents of my letter to the Government but I am still ignorant whether he has done so or not. I think however he has not, because his expressions in person to me on this subject are equivocal and evasive. I trust however, My Lord, that Your Lordship will never permit any such injustice towards my old teacher and late Dewan, or any such infringement of my privilege and authority to be perpetuated.
“About a month after I had thus permitted Kristna Row temporarily to preside over the public affairs, the Resident importuned me to nominate him Head Dewan Peishcar, on a salary of Rs. 800 a month, with this also I complied with a view to a conciliation but the evil consequences of this measure were soon apparent. Kristna Row elated by his success, began to consider me with the most marked and public disrespect; and by his dissolute conduct, low vulgar manners and arbitrary’ disposition has made himself universally detested and to be considered a scourge to the country.
“The result is that petitions are frequently presented to me by many praying for redress from his unjust and oppressive acts, under an impression of uselessness of addressing the Resident whose blind partiality to him is well-known.
“I take this opportunity to state to Your Lordship that I consider the observations of the Madras Government, and the Honourable Court of Directors, regarding the state of the finances of the Sirkar to be most judicious and that I shall not fail to take proper steps in this matter, as soon as the agitations of my mind caused by the present untoward circumstances shall have subsided.
“Having now laid the statement of my grievance before Your Lordship, I to assure Your Lordship that as I consider I owe my country, honour, dignity all privileges and earthly enjoyments, solely to the justice and protection of the British Government, I am fully aware of the great utility of being guided in all important matters by the advice of the Resident; and have always been so by that of all former Residents, but in the present case, as the interference of General Collen amounts to an absolute annihilation of my authority, I beg Your Lordship to bestow a favourable attention to my case, and relieve me from my present state of anxiety, either by means of direct correspondence, or if practical by sending to me one of your confidential officers, to whom I will personally disclose many other particulars relative to the present posture of affairs, and propose to him such arrangements as I think conducive to the good Government of my country, so that he may by his explanation enable Your Lordship to form your judgment upon it, and to guide me by your judicious counsel.”
This communication elicited a tremendous minute from the Madras Government taking the Resident to task and intimating that His Highness was at liberty to dispense with the services of Krishna Row just as he deemed fit.
General Cullen was much vexed at the treatment offered to his man which he took as one offered indirectly to himself, and waited for an opportunity to hit in return at one of His Highness’ own men. The old retired Dewan Subba Row was the chosen victim, for he was the chief instrument in bringing about Krishna Row’s retirement. The Resident wrote to the Madras Government recommending the removal of Subba Row from Trivandrum, as his stay there was specially injurious to the interests of the State. The Madras Government approved of his suggestion and Subba Row was compelled to leave Trivandrum for Tanjore. It should be remembered here that General Cullen’s hostile attitude towards the Maharajah and the State remained unaltered until his protégé Krishna Row was brought back and restored to favour by the Maharajah just before his reign closed.
The Maharajah leads a religious life
These unpleasant relations with the Resident and the extremely humiliating treatment accorded him by the British Government sorely affected His Highness. He therefore became indifferent to the administration of the State and devoted most of his time to religious observances. His Highness observed almost all the Vritams (fasts) and vows connected with Sri Padmanabhaswamy’s temple and offered large sums of money as Kanikkai (or offering to the God). On one occasion the offering so made amounted to one lac of rupees. Shungoonny Menon thus describes this great Kanikkai —
“On one occasion, the amount was one lakh of Surat rupees which was heaped in front of the idol of Sree Padmanabha Swamy and the Maharajah took the numerous bags containing the rupees, and poured the contents into the silver vessels which were kept there for the purpose. This work engaged His Highness about an hour, and he had the determination of mind to go through the labour even in his delicate state of health.”
In addition to these money offerings, many precious jewels and silks, velvets &c., were purchased and offered to Sri Padmanabhaswamy.
His Highness became a recluse and as a rule did not give audience to his visitors. The interview with the Resident was entirely stopped and the hatred towards him was extended to other Europeans as well, to whom also audience was refused. When Lord Hay, son of the Marquis of Tweedale, visited Travancore, it was with much difficulty that His Highness was prevailed upon to receive him. On one occasion when His Highness toured to South Travancore in 1019 M.E (1844 A.D.), for performing semi-religious ceremonies in the celebrated temple of Suchindram, the people of Nanjanad who had enjoyed special rights and privileges from the Royal House and to whom audience could not be refused under any circumstance, sought permission to pay their respects to His Highness. But the Maharajah declined to see them, as he feared that they might refer to the interference of the Resident.
Whenever His Highness alluded to the Resident, he used to call him Vella or Sveta. Such was his hatred that his servants dared not even to mention the Resident’s name in his hearing. But General Cullen was a very different Resident in the next reign. With the amiable Maharajah Martanda Varma on the throne and his own protege Krishna Row as Dewan, General Cullen became the ideal British representative that Travancore could ever wish for. “He became”, to use the words applied to another Political Agent of our own times in a first class Native State, “the man for the place.”
“Ever willing to help in every possible way the ruler and the administration to which he was accredited, he has always refrained from needless interference and unnecessary advice and it says much for the consistency of his policy that there has not been a single serious ‘rub’ between the ruler and the Resident during all these years. Nay he went further. He upheld the administration and the officers responsible for it with all their sins and short-comings against all possible critics.”
Reddy Row resigns
In 1020 M.E. (1845 A.D.), the two sons of the Dewan Reddy Row were dismissed from service on the advice of the Madras Government. In the same year serious charges were brought against the Dewan who had fallen into evil ways and resorted to questionable means of enriching himself. His conduct in a certain boundary dispute was suspicious. While on circuit to the northern districts he halted at Quilon to hold an inquiry into the conduct of the Parur Tahsildar regarding certain charges brought against him, in which he is stated to have connived at his own subordinates taking bribes and was himself guilty of other irregularities which led to miscarriage of justice. On another occasion he accepted an invitation from Anantarama Iyer, son of the late Cochin Dewan Nunjappiah, and took from him many presents for himself and his followers. The Maharajah when he came to know of these proceedings insisted on his immediate resignation on pain of public inquiry into his conduct and Reddy Row accordingly resigned his office.
On the retirement of Reddy Row, Srinivasa Row the First Judge of the Appeal Court was appointed Head Dewan Peishcar and put in charge of the administration but he was not able to cope with the work as the country was then in a disturbed state. On one side there was the unsympathetic Resident unnecessarily interfering in every detail of administration, and on the other a sovereign who had become indifferent to State affairs and who had given himself up solely to religious and devotional occupations. The district officers who firmly believed in the return of Krishna Row to power were inactive and the collection of the revenue fell into arrears. The treasury was empty and the pay of the different establishments was overdue. Although Srinivasa Row succeeded in bringing the finance of the State to a satisfactory level, His Highness entertained serious doubts regarding his fitness, especially when he had the terrible opposition of the Resident against him.
Krishna Row re-appointed
So the Maharajah soon after his return from Quilon whither he had gone for a change of air, resolved to recall Krishna Row and appoint him Dewan Peishcar. Accordingly Krishna Row was summoned to the Royal presence (10th December 1846).
“Not knowing for what purpose he was so suddenly called to the palace, Krishna Row was frightened, but no sooner was he ushered into the presence of the Maharajah, than His Highness in a very unusual way smiled and said, ‘here, Krishna Row (giving the ‘Neet’ or commission of appointment), accept your reappointment into my service. I forgive and forget all what is past from this day you are my man and not General Cullen’s. Go, work honestly for the advancement of my country and render every possible assistance to Srinivasa Row.’
Krishna Row became speechless, shed tears copiously, and all that he could say in his own Telugu tongue was, ‘ Maharaj ! Maharaj ! I am your Highness’ slave and waiting boy, protect me, protect me.”*
NOTEs: * Shungoonny Menon's History of Travancore. Page 437
This was the last appointment made by His Highness.
On the 2nd Minam 1007 M.E (1832 A.D.), Rugmini Bayi gave birth to Prince Rama Varma (Ayilliam Tirunal) and on the 12th Tulam 1011 M.E (1835 A.D.) Ravi Varma (Uttradam Tirunal) was born. On the 8th Edavam 1012 M.E (1837 A.D.) another Prince, Visakham Tiriunal, was born. Rugmini Bayi died towards the close of 1012 M.E, and the Maharajah’s father died in Dhanu 1020 M.E. (1845 A.D).
Europeans and Eurasians
A great number of Europeans and East Indians were employed in the State and this formed a subject of correspondence between the Resident and the Dewan. The Court of Directors finally addressed the Travancore Government “not to increase their number without the most urgent necessity”. It was also decided that the acquisition of land by them could be made only after a regular report to the Huzur.
In 1837, in accordance with the Resident’s memorandum dated 13th July, the Europeans residing in the State were informed “that it has been established as a rule by the British Government that Europeans residing in the territory of Travancore or any other Native State, not being servants of the British Government, must be held to be in all respects and in all cases civil and criminal subject to the laws of the country in which they reside”. But as we shall see later on, the British Government have refused to recognise this right of the Travancore Government.
Demise of the Maharajah
Day by day His Highness’ health declined and on the morning of the 12th Dhanu 1022 M.E (25th December 1846), His Highness was unable to move out of his bed and go through his daily routine. At noon, the heir-apparent and His Highness’ aunt found him very weak, and after taking a light supper at about 10 o’clock in the night he retired to bed but never to wake again. Towards the small hours of the morning of that gloomy day, the Maharajah was found dead in his favourite chamber.
The Maharajah was a staunch Hindu, a thorough disciplinarian and a man of very high character. He was a god-fearing ruler. He went through all the religious ceremonies prescribed for a Hindu king with scrupulous regard and attention. The Tulapurushadanam was performed in 1004 M.E, and Hiranyagarbham in 1009 M.E He possessed a cultured mind and a strong will. It is said of him that he knew mesmerism and was an occultist. He was regarded by the people as an incarnation of Narasimha himself. He was known as Saktan Rajak (powerful king) in common parlance. He was a patron of literature.
Many learned men from all parts of India flocked to his Court for the proud display of their learning. Many famous musicians from Tanjore, Mysore, Malabar, Tinnevelly and other places took service under him. Of the several distinguished medical men that visited His Highness from abroad, some were entertained in the palace as personal attendants. The Maharajah was fond of vocal music and possessed, as already stated, a critical knowledge of the native dance known as Bharata Nattyam, He had in his Court distinguished acrobats, magicians, athletes and a set of ‘Hyderabad Pailwans’ well skilled in wonderful feats. He had a great admiration for the Chinese nation. There were in his Court two Chinese jugglers and their mode of eating gave His Highness special amusement. In addition to these, the Maharajah had in his Court representatives of all nationalities such as Arabs, Negroes, Turks, Malays, Japanese and Nepaulese.
The Maharajah got a golden car built for his ceremonial processions and introduced several other fineries prevailing in other Native Courts, such as Tanjore and Mysore, to bring up his State to the level of oriental magnificence as recorded in the ancient Puranas.
The Rev. Mr. Abbs writes of the Maharajah in the following terms —
“His character was that of a man of mild disposition, secluding himself after the custom of the Eastern monarchs, living in state and barbaric luxury, in ill-health, and devoting himself with bigoted attention to the rites, traditions and requirements of Hindooism,” *
NOTEs: * Twenty-two Years' Missionary Experiences in Travancore. Page 87
The missionary himself states that he was not acquainted with the Maharajah whom he had thus described. There is always an element of unconscious misstatement in such writings. The accounts about Native sovereigns or for that matter even of high-caste Hindus as a rule, reach European missionaries through distorted media. It is not their fault so much as the fault of their surroundings. It is impossible for such people to get at correct information they are so much out of touch with the persons and institutions they wish to describe, and the channels of information available for them are generally tainted. For instance in this case, the Maharajah was not a mild Hindu who took things easily but a ruler of stern disposition and iron will. He observed the strictest honesty in all his dealings and insisted on the highest rectitude in his officials.
The so-called seclusion of which Mr. Abbs speaks was the result of a bitter misunderstanding between him and the Political Agent which caused him much pain and chagrin and the sourness of temperament already noticed in the preceding pages of this history resulted from his repeated attempts to seek redress at the hands of the Supreme Government having failed. That the Maharajah paid scrupulous attention to the performance of all his religious duties as became an orthodox Hindu Prince goes without saying but that does not mean bigotry or superstition in any sense. Even Lord Roberts with his forty-one years intimate knowledge of the Indian races made the common mistake of believing that the late enlightened Maharajah of Travancore (Visakham Tirunal) was steeped in superstition and Brahminical ceremonies. This is what he writes —
“The late Maharaja of Travancore was an unusually enlightened Native. He spoke and wrote English fluently; his appearance distinguished and his manners those of a well-bred courteous English gentleman of the old school. HIs speech on proposing the Queen’s health was a model of fine feeling and fine expression, and yet this man was steeped in superstition. His highness sat slightly retired from the table, between my wife and myself while dinner was going on; he partook of no food or wine, but his close contact with us (he led my wife in to dinner and took her out on his arm) necessitated his undergoing a severe course of purification at the hands of the Brahmins as soon as the entertainment was over; he dared do nothing without the sanction of the priests, and he spent enormous sums in propitiating them”*
NOTEs: * Forty-one Years in India. Vol. II. Page 388.
From close personal acquaintance the present writer can say that the reference to the late Maharajah “as a man was steeped in superstition” is wholly wrong.
Even Sir William Denison, a former Governor of Madras, whose opportunities of knowing the people and their institutions would be infinitely better, falls into a similar mistake. In his Varieties of Vice-Regal Life, he writes on 14th October 1662 —
“Last year a Rajah came down as a pilgrim, went to bathe at the end of the island (Ramesvaswaram), and was beset, on coming out of the water, by a herd of Brahmins, who got Rs. 5,000 out of him in exchange for a few rings made of grass.”
These is very little excuse for the Governor of an Indian Province to fall into so egregious a blunder as to believe that the Brahmins got Rs. 5000 from, a Rajah in exchange for a few rings made of grass (Darbha); for he forgets that the Rajah must himself as a high-caste Hindu have had a deep-seated desire to make Danoms and Dakshinas to Brahmins on the occasion of a holy pilgrimage to Ramesvaswaram. Mr Abbs’ error is thus under the circumstances excusable.
As the eminent historian Mountstuart Elphinstone said—
“Englishmen in India have less’ opportunity than might he expected of forming opinions of the Native character. Even in England few knew much of the people beyond their own class and what they do know they learn from news papers and publications of a description which does not exist in India. In that country also, religions and manners put bars to our intimacy with native and limit the number of transactions as well as the free communication of opinions. We know nothing of the interior of families but by report, and have no share in those numerous occurrences of life in which the amiable part’s of character are most exhibited. Missionaries of a different religion, Judges, Police Magistrates, officers of Revenue or Customs, and even diplomatists, do not see the most virtuous portion of a nation.”
Another European missionary of fair experience in the country told me some years ago that it was a well-understood thing in Travancore that as-soon-as a-Maharajah weighed himself against gold, the Brahmana got rid of him, meaning, of course, by foul means, that owing to this circumstance the penultimate Maharajah (Ayilliam Tirunal) put off weighing himself against gold to the latest possible date, which by implication meant that, when he did agree to the weighing against gold, he himself willingly acquiesced in being disposed of in the manner alleged.
I told him that this was a story that beats Andersons’ Fairy’ Tales and that it was impossible for me to believe how the learned European missionaries could swallow such rubbish. He assured me that I was quite mistaken in my opinion and that he had satisfied himself thoroughly of the accuracy of his information by careful and patient enquiry. The love of the marvellous, thought, must urgently account for such beliefs. In the first place that Maharaja lived full ten years after weighing himself against gold. But he did not wish to perform so costly a ceremony until the public finances had reached a state of stable equilibrium. The Dewan Sir Madava Row explained the circumstance thus —
“The second ceremony was the Thoolabharam, which also partakes largely the character of a religious rite, and is a sort of coronation performed once a reign. It is in the course of this ceremony that the Maha Rajah for the time being, distributes among some thirty thousand Brahmins, a quantity-of gold equal to his own weight. The rite ought, according to ancient custom, to have been performed much earlier; but His Highness the Maha Rajah had postponed it from considerations of economy. It was undertaken in the period under report in reference to the healthy state of the finance, calculated to bear the strain of the additional expenditure without impeding the course of general improvement”.*
NOTEs: * Report on the Administration of Travancore for 1045 M.E (1869-70 A.D.).
And in the second place, the Maharajah performed two years later another ceremony: called Padmagarbham, in which also a large quantity of gold was distributed amongst Brahmins. According to the Puranas, some kings have weighed themselves against gems which were likewise distributed among the learned and pious Brahmins. Anyway the longer a Maharajah lived, the better it was for the State and the Brahmins. I fear there must be a great many more stories of the kind created and circulated in the land. It is needless to add that Mr. Abbs’ estimate of the next sovereign was equally faulty in some respects.
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