TRAVANCORE STATE MANUAL Volume One
V. NAGAM AIYA
Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - Section C: Modern History - MARTANDA VARMA (Uttram Tirunal)
MARTANDA VARMA (UTTRAM TIRUNAL) 1022-1036 M.E / 1847-1860 A.D
Martanda Varma was only thirty-two when he was called upon to succeed his talented brother whose premature demise plunged the whole country into deep mourning. His Highness was installed on the throne in Public Durbar by General Cullen on the 16th Kumbham 1022 M.E (26th February 1847), two full months after Swati Tirunal’s demise, there having been some unusual delay in the communication of sanction from the Madras Government for the installation.
Early education and attainments
As already stated, this Maharajah and his late brother both received their English education under Subba Row. He had thus attained proficiency in English, Sanskrit, Hindustani, Marathi, Malayalam and Tamil before he came to the throne. Though he was not a gifted Prince like his brother, yet in the social amenities of life and knowledge of current politics, he was much his superior. The Residency surgeon Doctor Broun, with whom His Highness moved on very intimate terms, improved his English pronunciation and gave him lessons in general science and anatomy. The Prince took a great liking to scientific studies so that even after the surgeon left India he continued them with zeal and diligence.
Mr. Caldecott, the Commercial Agent, gave him some help in these studies, especially in chemistry. A laboratory was got up with the necessary apparatus and chemicals. His Highness applied himself to the science of medicine and surgery also. He had a small dispensary of his own stocked with the latest medicines of all kinds, which he dispensed with a liberal hand to all who came within the sphere of his influence, irrespective of position or status. He soon became a clever physician himself and was able to treat several cases successfully. His Highness was the sole medical attendant on his brother the late Maharajah, when once he suffered from a severe attack of diarrhoea and he got him through.
He also became a skilled surgeon and performed surgical operations himself. He studied the art of vaccination and conferred the boon first on his own personal attendants. His Highness’ natural sweetness of temper, kindliness of disposition and warmth of heart, and equal consideration to all, made him the idol of the people’s affections whether as sovereign or master or friend, he endeared himself to all. The present writer has only faint recollection of His Highness’ happy face as seen forty-five years ago, but during this long interval he has never heard an ill word spoken of the Maharajah by any person in the country.
The happiest period of his life was as Elaya Rajah or heir-apparent, of which Rev. Abbs writes —
“Martanda Varma, while Elliah Rajah or heir apparent, succeeded in gaining the affections of the common people, and forming friendships with several Europeans. His appearance at a distance, as he entered your bangalow with bare feet, or advanced towards you in a gaudy long tunic from the farther part of his palace, was not prepossessing. As he drew near sufficiently to cast his eagle eye upon you, and display his dark, shining, intelligent countenance, you felt that you stood in the presence of royalty and when, after placing his hands on his forehead, he held it out and addressed you in English, you were instantly charmed by his benignant gracefulness. He was an intelligent man, well acquainted both with language and science while many pious persons who have visited him have thought that, if not a secret disciple, he was not far from the kingdom of God.”*
NOTEs: * Twenty-two Years' Missionary Experience in Travancore Page 88
Martanda Varma was more at home with Europeans than his illustrious brother who was proud and reserved and naturally of a shy temperament. He was frank and genial in his intercourse with them. He went into their feelings and sympathised with their aims and objects more readily.
He was better educated in English and his manner was extremely agreeable to all, friends or strangers. Every inch of him, he was a Prince. There was a ring of unaffected simplicity and frankness about him which delighted all who came to know him. Lord Harris himself (Governor of Madras) whose visit will be referred to later on, was quite taken up with the Maharajah when he went on board the steamer in which His Excellency came and inspected it to study its construction and working. My informant tells me that His Highness then threw off all reserve, put his turban away and called for his chew and engaged himself in a pleasant chat with Lord Harris, chewing and talking in a quite-at-home fashion all the time. It was this quite-at-homeness, if I may use the expression, my informant believes, that charmed Lord Harris so much and produced a deep impression on his mind. I may also point out here that Mr. Abbs has quite misunderstood the Maharajah’s religious proclivities. He was no ‘secret disciple’ at all. On the other hand he was a devout Hindu and most orthodox in his ways, though less showy than his Royal brother and more tolerant to the beliefs and tenets of others. It was entirely a mistake of Mr. Abbs’ that he should have judged of the Maharajah from a Christian stand-point.
Srlnivasa Row’s administration
The financial condition of the country was far from being prosperous, and various causes contributed to the falling off in the revenue. Dewan Peishcar Srinivasa Row who was in charge of the administration was too weak to cope with the difficulties and was besides in disfavour with General Cullen the British Resident. The Resident in a letter, dated 30th November 1845 addressed him —
“After the long interval of one and a half years that the Peishcar was in charge of the affairs, instead of there having been the slightest improvement, he has to observe with regret that the deterioration of the finances and, imperfect management of the administration has never been at any time more conspicuous and that after six years he has been in Travancore, it is with pain that he feels himself compelled to make such a declaration.”
The meaning of this was very clear. Srinivasa Row’s, acting administration was declared worthless in order to pave the way for the appointment of the Resident’s protégé, Krishna Row, who was waiting for the Dewan’s place. The Maharajah himself echoed these sentiments in his letter on the state of Travancore affairs to the Marquis of Tweedale, Governor of Madras, where he observed that “he was deeply impressed with the embarrassed state of the finances and the irregularities which existed in all the departments of the State, as well as the laborious task of correcting those evils”. It should be remembered that the Maharajah and the Resident were on terms of the closest friendship, His Highness addressing General Cullen as ammanvan or Uncle whenever he referred to him in conversation. His Highness’ illustrious brother had among other things advised him on his death-bed that he was on no account to quarrel with the ‘White man’ (Resident), as he himself had done, that he was no match for him and that it was safest therefore for him to appoint the ‘White man’s’ protégé, Krishna Row, at once as Dewan. This advice Martanda Varma sacredly followed.
The new Dewan
Immediately after his accession, the Maharajah on the advice of the British Resident relegated Dewan Peishcar Srinivasa Row to his original post of Chief Judge of the Appeal Court and appointed Peishcar Krishna Row as Acting Dewan. In communicating the sanction of the Madras Government, the Resident observed —
“The Most Noble the Governor in Council is fully aware of the embarrassment of the Sirkar, as well as the disorganised state of the Cutcherry, and desires it may be strongly impressed on your mind, that in entering on duties of your high office, your best energies and constant application to business shall be required to surmount the difficulties which surround you.”
The new Dewan set himself to work heart and soul for the improvement of the administration in all its branches. Officers of ability and experience were placed at the head of the various departments and the general service was strengthened and rendered efficient for the satisfactory discharge of the work of administration. The Dewan submitted to His Highness a detailed report on the financial condition of the kingdom. In the Huzur Treasury there was a balance of only Rs. 99,000, while the large sum of nearly six lacs of rupees was due as arrears of salary to the different departments of the State and on account of the purchase of tobacco, salt &c., as also on account of Devaswam and Palace expenses and the arrears of revenue yet to be collected amounted to a like sum or even more.
The Dewan exerted his utmost to improve the finances, and in his endeavours in that direction he was heartily supported by the Maharajah and the Resident, with the result that the financial statement for 1022 M.E. (1846-1847 A.D.) was very satisfactory. In his letter to the Resident dated 14th February 1848, the Dewan wrote: —
“The particulars of the receipts under the various heads are given in my report No. 238 under this date, and I beg to afford the following explanation rejecting the considerable reductions in the several branches of the expenditure which I have happily been enabled to effect by the most gracious encouragement and support of His Highness the Rajah, but for which, indeed, my exertions, great and unremitting, they may have been, would have been unavailing. Here I may be permitted to state that most of the retrenchments that have taken place in some of the principal departments since I assumed charge of the administration in March 1847, are such as were proposed by me on my reappointment as Dewan Peishcar in 1846 when I was placed over those departments.
“You will perceive from the comparative statement marked B that a saving of Rs. 17,513 has been effected in the Devaswam Department and a decrease of Rs. 51,086 in the department of public works and I beg leave to state that the reductions in the above-mentioned departments have been made with due care and circumspection so that even the smallest item of a really necessary charge has not been lost sight of. It will also be observed that a sum of Rs. 463,831 in 1021 M.E. (1845-1846 A. D) has been reduced in 1022, a result of the strict personal economy which I feel really gratified to inform you has been introduced in the palace expenditure by His Highness, who has been pleased to give the most positive orders for its reduction as much as possible, and it is satisfactory to know that the expenses under this head have not stood upon so small a scale for the last ten years.”
The Madras Government in their Minutes of Consultation, on the Financial Statement for 1022 M.E observed —
“The Governor in Council has noticed with great satisfaction the example of economy which His Highness has set in his own person and which cannot but be attended with the very best effects. The Government have also noticed the Dewan’s own exertions to improve the efficiency of the administration.”
Krishna Row was confirmed in his appointment on the 8th March 1948. In the same year the Maharajah was pleased to issue a Proclamation remitting all the accumulated arrears and other dues to the Sirker by the ryots This munificent act was a great relief to the poor ryots at the time.
Madava Row appointed tutor
The Maharajah took great interest in the education of his nephews, four in all, and entrusted them to the care of the late Dewan Subba Row. But subsequently one Sankara Menon, a native of Travancore trained in the earlier days of the Kottayam College, was appointed tutor. The Princes made satisfactory progress under his tuition but “English education had made such strides since his school days that he had become too antiquated for practical purposes”. His Highness therefore, with a view to place the education of the Princes on a sounder footing, appointed T. Madava Row, son of the late Acting Dewan Runga Row, and the first of that distinguished batch of Proficients from the Madras High School, as their tutor in August 1849 A.D. Madava Row continued to discharge his duties for four years and a half i.e., till April 1853, when he was appointed to a responsible office in the general administration of the State.
Amelioration of slaves
In 1843 the Government of India passed an Act declaring that no public officer should enforce any decree or demand of rent or revenue by the sale of slaves, that slaves could acquire and possess property and were not to be dispossessed of such on the plea that they were slaves, and that acts considered penal offences to a free man should be applicable in the case of slaves also.
Encouraged by this Act, the several Mission Societies in Travancore presented in March 1847 an address to the Maharajah through the Resident, proposing the entire and immediate emancipation of all slaves in Travancore. The Dewan on behalf of the Maharajah replied—
“I am directed to request you will be so good as to intimate to these gentlemen that His Highness fully appreciates the feelings which prompted that address; that His Highness cannot but feel deeply interested in the welfare of every class of his subjects, however low may be their condition, and that His Highness will ever be disposed to ameliorate as far as may be practicable the condition of the class referred to by the Reverend Gentlemen by the introduction from time to time of improved regulations for their treatment. Emancipation His Highness considers to be too important a question to be considered at present, especially as no such measure has yet been introduced even in the Honourable Company’s territories, but the amelioration of the condition of the unfortunate class of the population, is a subject which will never fail to engage His Highness’ consideration.”
On the question having again been agitated by the missionaries, the Resident in his memorandum, dated 12th March 1849, urged on the Dewan the improvement of the condition of the slaves as far as it could be done without affecting the interests of private proprietors of slaves. He proposed,
1. that Government should publicly disconnect itself with the perpetuation of slavery.
2. that Government should take measures for the future emancipation of slaves by declaring that all children born of Sirkar slaves should be free, and that while the Sirkar should receive no slaves on their own account they should exact a like stipulation as to the emancipation of all children of slaves whom the Sirkar might restore to claimants as distant heirs along with their escheated estates, and
3. that more stringent regulations should be established with regard to the treatment of slaves they should be given food, clothing and wages on a tolerably good scale.
These suggestions were generally approved of by the Maharajah and the Madras Government, but it was only about September 1853 that a Royal Proclamation was issued declaring that all future children of Government slaves should be free, and making provision for the improvement of the other slaves. The measure was gladly received by the Resident and the Madras Government.
The former wrote, “I beg to offer His Highness the Rajah my warmest congratulation on a measure which I feel satisfied will afford infinite gratification to the British Government, while it cannot fail to add to His Highness’ reputation for beneficence and liberal policy.”
This beneficent policy was soon followed by the total abolition of slavery in Travancore by the Royal Proclamation of 24th June 1855.
The London Exhibition of 1851
In the year 1849, a communication was received from the Madras Government with regard to the holding of the London Exhibition of 1851, requesting the aid of His Highness’ Government in contributing to the grand show by sending local articles of skilful workmanship and rare excellence. Arrangements were accordingly made for collecting all the rare products and manufactures of Travancore. The Maharajah suggested that the ivory throne (chair) then under construction for his own use might be sent to the exhibition as a fit specimen of Travancore ivory carving. The Resident and the Madras Government having approved of the idea, the chair along with the other collections was despatched to England with an autograph letter of His Highness to Her Majesty Queen Victoria. The chair occupied a very prominent position amongst the wonderful works of art collected for the exhibition, and the workmanship of the native artizans of Travancore received its due commendation from a vast multitude of spectators. This chair along with some other valuable works of art comprising the Jubilee presents of Queen Victoria recently adorned the World’s Fair at Lousiana, America. The following description of the chair appeared in a recent issue of the Scientific American: —
“Among the priceless treasures comprising the Jubilee presents of Queen Victoria, which have been sent to America by King Edward of England for exhibition at the world’s fair is a wonderful ivory chair and foot-stool. These were presented to the late Queen by the Maharajah of Travancore. The carving on the chair and foot-stool is a revelation of possibilities of art. The feet are in the form of lions’ paws, and the arms terminate in lions’ heads. The back is in the form of a shell, supported by elephants rampant. The seat is of alabaster, and the chair has a gold and silver tissue draper around the underside of the frame, finished with tassels and richly chased ormolu ornaments. The cushions are of green velvet embroidered in gold and silver thread. Every outside path of the chair is covered with delicately carved figures of men and animals.”
About the close of 1851 A.D., a reply was received by the British Resident through the Madras Government from Queen Victoria under Her Sign Manual, acknowledging the ivory chair of State sent for the exhibition. To mark the occasion with due importance, a grand Durbar was held. The letter was carried by the Assistant Resident, Major Drury, mounted on a richly caparisoned elephant and read publicly by Dewan Krishna Row. The usual salutes were fired and the band played the National Anthem. Mr. Lewis, the great European artist, who had come to India about this time and was specially invited by the Maharajah to his capital, prepared a sketch of the Durbar, which was subsequently enlarged and painted by him and taken to England where, he had it engraved and printed. This painting now adorns the walls of the Library attached to the local Museum.
Tinnevelly— Travancore boundary
In December 1851, the boundary between Tinnevelly and Travancore on the Shencottah side was clearly defined as proposed by General Cullen so early as 1846, and the adjustment of the boundary was agreed to by the Maharajah and finally sanctioned by the Madras Government. General Cullen’s suggestions were briefly these —
1. The existing line from the Shanar Ghaut to Shencottah should be maintained.
2. From Shencottah the line should go straight across the south-east angle of the Sivanallur Maniam and then continuing along the boundary of the Maniam and by Achanputur to the Peak.
3. Pumblipatam, Puliyara and all other lands possessed by the Company within or west of the above lines to be ceded to Travancore and the Klangad and Saberwareen Kara Maniams ceded to the Company, thus giving to Travancore a compact district completely protecting and covering all the approaches to the passes into Travancore.
4. Malayankulam and the lands east of the Travancore lines south of Panagudi, being of no particular value to Travancore, to be ceded to the Company on an equivalent reduction in the annual subsidy.
Financial strain— Demise of Parvathi Bayi
While Travancore affairs were getting on thus satisfactorily, certain unforeseen calamities befell the country. In 1028 M.E (1852 A.D.), the whole country suffered by the total failure of crops caused by the floods in the northern Taluqs and drought in the southern. The ryots were so completely ruined that they had not the wherewithal to begin cultivation for the next year. The Sirkar was consequently put to the necessity of remitting the tax on lands which had entirely failed and of suspending its collection on those which partially suffered. As paddy and provisions were sold at famine rates, the Government had to purchase large quantities of paddy and rice from foreign markets to relive the existing pressure. This naturally affected the State finances rather seriously. Just about this time the British Government abolished their monopoly on tobacco, in consequence of which large quantities of the article were imported to British Cochin and thence smuggled under cover of night into Travancore in exchange for pepper and other monopoly articles similarly conveyed hence to that place. Thus a double system of contraband trade was in operation and a twofold loss resulted to the Travancore Government.
These financial embarrassments taxed Dewan Krishna Row to the utmost, and while he tried to set matters right, the good Rani Parvathi Bayi suddenly passed away after a short illness. This unexpected and melancholy event plunged the country and the Royal family into mourning. The Maharajah felt the loss most keenly as she was to him more than a mother, his own mother having died within three months of his birth. It also caused additional expenditure which admitted of no delay. The Dewan however surmounted all difficulties and managed everything to His Highness’ satisfaction.
To relieve the Dewan somewhat from pressure of heavy work, the Resident on the 25th August 1855 suggested the appointment of two Division Peishcar’s, one to have supervision over most of the districts to the north from Parur to Ampalapuzha and Changanachery, and the other over all the districts south of Neyyattinkara together with the superintendence of the salt department, the Dewan as heretofore having charge of the intervening districts.
This proposal was sanctioned by the Maharajah in the early part of 1856. The Peishcars were given sole charge of the districts under them and were vested with more definite control in matters relating to the Revenue and Police within their respective jurisdictions. Peishcar Raman Menon was appointed to the northern districts comprising the Taluqs of Parur, Alangad, Kunnatnad, Todupuzha, Muvattupazha, Minachil, Changanachery, Kottayam, Yettumanur, Vaikam and Shertallay, and T. Madava Row, who had by this time won golden opinions at the Palace as Tutor and in the Huzur Cutchery as Deputy Peishcar, was appointed to the southern districts comprising the Taluqs of Tovala, Agastisvaram, Eraniel, Kalkulam and Vilavankod, together with the superintendence of irrigation works and salt manufacture.
Attacks on the Administration
Meanwhile Krishna Row had incurred the displeasure of the missionaries and other Europeans in the State to whom he paid little or no attention. A series of articles appeared in the Madras Athenœum, then the leading English newspaper of the Presidency, against him and the British Resident, alleging that the two colluded together and connived at several acts of oppression and torture. The Dewan, it would appear, exercised his authority like a Munro or a Velu Tampi using the whip and rattan against petty officers of Government for the correction of evils, forgetting that the times had completely changed since then. The Maharajah warned the Dewan to be careful not to give room for such complaints and the Dewan thereupon instituted searching and rigorous inquiries into acts of oppression and dealt to the miscreants exemplary punishments. This, however, instead of quieting matters only increased the storm and more articles began to appear in the Athenaeum. They were strong and sometimes vehement, but were all written by well-informed critics and were solely intended for the public good. There was no personal animosity or scurrility about them. The peculiarity about them was that they attacked the Dewan and the Resident together in the same virulent fashion, a state of things unknown to later history, though newspapers have multiplied to an unexampled extent and have given themselves the utmost license without measure or moderation.
While public attention was thus directed to Travancore and the abuses in its administration by Newspaper articles, the London Missionaries in the State joined together and presented in July 1855 several memorials to the Madras Government on behalf of the Native Christian converts who, they said, had of late suffered heavily having entirely failed to get any redress to their grievances. They also set forth in bold terms that corruption, oppression and extortion were openly practised by the Government officials with the connivance of the Resident General Cullen, and that inefficiency and maladministration were the order of the day. The police were said to be a tremendous engine for iniquity and oppression. Prisoners were confined for indefinite terms without investigation, and regulations were systematically set aside.
The most barbarous treatment in prison prevailed; torture was practised and robbery was rampant. The character of high officials was disgraceful. Convicted criminals and notoriously incompetent men were appointed to high offices. The pay of the Sirkar officers was long left in arrears. The Appeal Court was packed and the whole channel of justice was corrupt. The forced labour system existed to a great extent. Immeasurable evils arose from the pepper, salt and other monopolies which impoverished the people without increasing the revenue and demoralised the inhabitants. The memorialists concluded with a request for the appointment of a commission of well-qualified Europeans to enquire into the whole affairs of Travancore.
Matters could not be presented in a worse light, and the Madras Government immediately called upon General Cullen to fully investigate and report on the various allegations set forth in the memorials. He thereupon submitted an elaborate report disproving all of them and supporting the Dewan and his administration. The Government of Madras were not satisfied, and on the Missionaries again pressing their case upon them desired further explanations from the Resident. While matters stood thus, the Madras Government received numerous petitions from the native inhabitants also, corroborating the grave charges already brought against the administration.
They therefore wished to investigate the charges by means of a Commission and accordingly wrote to the Government of India recommending the same. But the Governor-General Lord Dalhousie disapproved of the proposal for an enquiry as being opposed to the tenor of the Treaty of 1805 and instructed the Government of Madras under the ninth article of the Treaty to give to the Rajah “a formal and forcible expression of the sentiments of the British Government on the abuses which appeared to prevail with suitable advice and warning”.
A letter of warning was accordingly issued by Lord Harris on the 21st November 1855, calling the serious attention of His Highness to the manifold abuses then prevalent in Travancore and advising him to avert the impending calamity by an enlightened policy and timely and judicious reforms. His Excellency’s letter to His Highness the Maharajah said —
“1. It is with deep concern that I feel myself compelled to address Your Highness upon the present state of Travancore Territory’.
“2. From the repeated complaints, which have for a considerable time past, been forwarded to Government by various parties of Your Highness’ subjects or residing within your territory from the diaries and reports of my Resident at your Court, and information derived from other sources, I have been forced to the conclusion that grave abuses prevail in Your Highness’ administration and pervade nearly every branch of it.
“3. Those abuses have of late formed the subject of much correspondence between the Government and the Resident, and the Resident has no doubt made known to you through the Dewan, the views of Government. There is too much reason to fear that your Police is inefficient and corrupt, that notorious offenders escape apprehension and punishment, while others on the mere suspicion of crime are arrested and confined for months without being brought to trial.
“4. It is stated that your Tribunals, civil and criminal, are venal and in no degree enjoy or deserve the confidence of the people and that no endeavour is made to raise the character of the country by the appointment of men of integrity and reputation.
“5. Reports which have been made to my Government show that the Sircar servants, Revenue, Police and Judicial, throughout Travancore, are not punctually paid their salaries and it is to be feared that in consequence of this irregularity they are per force driven to prey upon the people.
“6. Grave complaints have been preferred to this Government on the part of the Native Christians, who, it is represented, are maltreated by their masters and others in consequence of their performing the duties of their religion, although complete toleration was guaranteed by Your Highness’ proclamation. Their applications to the Courts and Police authorities are stated to be disregarded and wholly to fail in obtaining redress.
“7. The Revenue system followed by Your Highness is in a large degree made up of monopolies; the chief of these are the Tobacco monopoly, the Pepper monopoly and the monopoly of cardamoms. These sources of revenue appear to be productive of much oppression and crime. The price of the Pepper is allowed in many cases to remain for a length of time unpaid. In many cases it is understood that it is not paid in money, but in Tobacco of the worst kind. Hence the ryots are irresistibly tempted and in a manner compelled to dispose of their produce clandestinely. Grave affrays ensue between the Sircar officers and the ryots attempting to secrete their produce or smuggle it by land or sea out of the country. The public peace is endangered and the people demoralised.
“8. The Public Works throughout Travancore are neglected. The amount spent on this head, as the Government have had frequently to notice in their reviews of the Reports on the outturn of your Revenue, yearly laid before them by the Resident, is insignificant compared with that lavished on expensive spectacles or ceremonies and even of the amount professedly devoted to Public Works, but a small part is applied to those which properly deserve that character. Roads, bridges, canals, are the works befitting an enlightened Government and benefiting alike the State and its subjects, and these are little known in Travancore.
“9. The complaints of the misgovernment that prevails in Your Highness’ State, have not been preferred to myself only; they have also reached the ear of the Most Noble the Governor-General during his late residence on the Neilgherries. I have also felt it incumbent on me to bring the existing state of things to his notice.
“10. Lord Dalhousie has remarked that, under Article IX of the Treaty, the Rajah has promised to pay at all times the utmost attention to such advice as the English Government shall occasionally judge it necessary to offer to him with a view to the economy of his finances, the better collection of his revenues, the administration of justice, the extension of commerce, the encouragement of trade, agriculture and industry, or any other objects connected with the advancement of His Highness’ interests, the happiness of his people, and the mutual welfare of both states. His Lordship the Governor-General has therefore requested that a formal and forcible expression of the sentiments of the British Government, on the abuses which there is reason to believe prevail in Travancore with suitable advice and warning may, under the provision of the Treaty above cited, be addressed to Your Highness by the Government of Madras.
“11. It has therefore become my duty in the most earnest manner to call your attention to the abuses which prevail in your dominions, whether in the administration of the Revenue, the dispensation of Civil or Criminal justice, the Police or in the other department of your Government, and strongly to urge upon you in concert with the Resident prompt and effective measures of improvement. I would point out to Your Highness that the present state of your country is critical, and such as should lead you to serious reflection. It is not to be supposed that the Honourable the Court of Directors to whom all these proceedings will have to be reported will permit their continuance. For some years past your revenue has barely met your expenditure and in some it has fallen short of it. The receipts from the Tobacco Monopoly, which at present constitutes so large a portion in your resources, have declined and may be expected eventually to fail altogether and no attempt has yet been made by Your Highness by the adoption of an enlightened policy to meet the unavoidable deficiency. The Resident has already brought under the consideration of the Government the declining state of your revenue and suggested a temporary reduction of your Pashcush to which this Government has been unable to accede, and it is much to be feared that the contingency against which article 5th of the Treaty is directed is not far distant unless averted by timely and judicious reforms. The Government is aware that the Resident has been endeavouring to impress upon you one great improvement in the fiscal management of Travancore by the substitution of an export duty for your Pepper monopoly; that officer will be no less ready and anxious to assist you in all other needful reforms in the several departments of your administration, and I sincerely hope that you will profit by his advice and by the counsel, which in accordance with the wishes of the Most Noble the Governor-General and my own anxious desire for your welfare, I have to offer to you.”
This thunderbolt from the blue filled the Maharajah and his advisers with dismay. The Maharajah at once took steps to mend the administration thoroughly. His Highness called upon the Dewan for a detailed report on the various points referred to in the above severe warning tendered by the Madras Government. The Dewan accordingly submitted a report in February 1856, on the basis of which and after along and careful consideration of the whole subject in consultation with the First Prince, the Dewan and other responsible officers of the State, His Highness despatched a reply to Lord Harris on the 21st April.
His Highness began by admitting that there were some just grounds of complaint against the administration but that they were much exaggerated. He urged unforeseen failure in the grain crops as the reason of the undischarged pepper arrears and referred to the loan of five lacs of rupees recently taken from the temple funds to meet the dues to the ryots for their pepper and the arrears to the public establishments. He admitted the expenses in connection with religious ceremonies the proper performance of which custom had rendered compulsory; acknowledged the evils of this monopolies but explained the impossibility of their sudden abolition; declared that the ryots had never been paid in tobacco for their pepper, and referred to the institution of a revenue survey, the issuing of orders to the Judges of the Appeal Court and the Dewan for the better management of the judicial and revenue departments of the State, and to the deputation of two of the high officers of the Cutchery to dispose of business, both revenue and police, in the provinces.
The letter further stated that a report of all the Sirkar establishments had been made out with a view to the curtailment of the expenditure, that the complaints of the Native Christians had caused him much uneasiness and that the missionaries had some causes of complaint, but that the increase in their number and their dispersion all over the country had led to disputes which had tended in some degree to impair the control exercised by the Government on its Hindu subjects. It concluded by observing that the British Resident had always been consulted of all subjects of importance connected with the administration and thanking the Government for their advice and warning. A more sensible or earnestly worded reply could not have been conceived.
This reply was however allowed to lie over owing to Lord Dalhousie’s departure from India and to the troubles of the mutiny as soon as Lord Canning took charge. Meanwhile the Government of India received despatches from the Court of Directors directing that a Commission should be appointed to investigate and report on the condition of the Travancore State. The death of Dewan Krishna Row at this juncture was very opportune to the State as it paved the way for the easy introduction of improvements which soon followed.
In November 1853 a communication was received from the Madras Government conveying the gratifying information that the Government of England had resolved that “Travancore and Cochin shall be treated in every respect in regard to its trade on the same terms as are applicable to British India”.
In 1851, a Census was taken which showed a total of 1,262,647 inhabitants for the whole State.
Towards the close of 1856 the treasury became empty and there remained unpaid the arrears of salary of the various establishments for several months and the dues to the several contractors who supplied pepper salt and other articles to the Sirkar. To meet these charges, a loan of five lacs of rupees was taken from the Padmanabhaswamy Pagoda and the Maharajah stipulated to replace the sum plus 50 per cent in the way of lump interest, in equal monthly instalments, in the course of five years.
In 1857 the Circuit Sessions for criminal trials which were introduced in 1835 were abolished and a new Regulation was passed appointing Sessions Judges on the system prevailing in British India.
When the Sepoy Mutiny broke out in 1857, the Maharajah gave instructions to render every assistance to the British Government and liberally contributed to the aid of the families that suffered from the mutiny. We stood firm and faithful allies to the British Government at that dark hour of trial. The present writer distinctly remembers the tremor that passed through the whole country at the time even at this extreme south of the Peninsula.
The Maharajah was a warm patron of education and literature and the progress of the Free School at Trivandrum engaged his earnest attention. Successful students in the school examinations were liberally encouraged by prizes and by the offer of good appointments in the Sirkar service.
Tribute to the Nawab
Ever since the treaty of alliance with the Nawab of the Carnatic in 1766 A.D., the Travancore Government had been paying an annual Peishcush of Rs. 6,000 and a quinquennial tribute of five elephants. Subsequent to the overthrow of the Nawab’s dynasty the British Government had taken to themselves four-fifths of the tribute leaving to the Nawab only the remaining one-fifth part. In April 1857 it was resolved that “the Peishcush hitherto in part allotted to the Sirkar will now be carried in full to the credit of the Honourable Company. The tribute of elephants will be similarly sent to Government with any necessary modification of the latter accompanying them”. The Travancore Government now pay to the British Indian Government a sum of Rs. 13,319-8-0, being the equivalent of the Peishcush and Nazarana above referred to, exclusive of the eight lacs agreed upon by the Treaty of 1805. The Maharajah’s letter to the Nawab soon after his accession to the throne may be given here as a very interesting relic of past history showing the relations between Travancore and the Carnatic in the pre-British days.
The letter (in Persian runs * —
NOTEs: * Huzur Records of Trivandrum.
“In consequence of the demise of my older brother, the Honourable British Government, which recognises the legal rights and privileges of all the Indian States, having been pleased to permit me by Your Highness’ favour to ascend the throne of my Ancestors, and assume the Government of this State on the 26th February 1847, corresponding with the 10th day of Rabuluval of the Hejira year 1263, it is my ardent desire that the friendship and allegiance that has happily subsisted between Your Highness’ Government and my Ancestors may continue firm and uninterrupted, for happy are those who seek for your support and friendship, and as it is characteristic of the great and noble-hearted to extend their friendship and protection to their allies and dependents, I would fain hope that you will kindly extend towards me and my family as one of the most faithful allies and dependents of Your Highness, the same support that my Ancestors had experienced from your Noble Government.
“ In conclusion I beg have to entertain the hope that Your Highness will be pleased to consider me worth of your friendship, like my Ancestors, and kindly do me the favour of continuing your valuable correspondence with me, and I pray to God to grant Your Highness and your illustrious family long life and happiness. What more?”
The Pepper monopoly
The country was at this time subject to several vexatious taxes and restrictions to free commercial intercourse on account of the oppressive monopolies, the chief of which was that on Pepper. The Sirkar bought up the whole pepper grown in the country; the ryots who cultivated it took it to the Sirkar depots where they were paid at a uniform rate, of course far below the market value. As there were several objections to this system in that it pressed heavily on the ryots and encouraged smuggling into the British tracts, without much benefiting the public revenue, General Cullen recommended, on the 20th of Aug 1st 1855, the expediency of abolishing the Pepper monopoly altogether and substituting an export duty in its place. Referring to the objection to the system of monopoly, he wrote —
“Even when the ryots were paid immediately for their pepper, they never I believed, received the full value, the Sirkar do not even pay what was considered a few years ago as a fair price, i.e, ten fanams per Thulam. This price was, it is true, reduced with my concurrence, but at the moment when the Sirkar were in difficulty and when the sale at Alleppey hardly covered the Sirkar charges, but for the last two or three years the selling price at Alleppey has nearly doubled, yet neither has the originally fixed price to the ryots been restored, nor have the arrears of past seasons been made good to them. It is to these that is to be attributed the extensive smuggling into the British port of Cochin.”
On the 14th December 1855 the Government of India wrote to the Government of Madras about the several impediments that existed to the free commercial intercourse between Travancore and other countries on account of the Pepper regulations, “expressing a hope that the Government of Madras would persuade the Rajah to remove the restrictions by adopting a policy based on sound principles.”
They however added: —
“The Government has no power to compel the Rajah of Travancore to adopt a particular commercial policy, nor is it desirous of exercising an unnecessary interference with the Rajah in the internal administration of his State, but it has every right to advise and to urge that advice with authority. I am accordingly directed by His Lordship in Council to request that the Right Honourable the Governor in Council will be pleased to instruct the Resident at Travancore to induce the Rajah to adopt a more rational and politic system of commerce than that of which merchants justly complain, and which it is to be presumed must be more injurious to his own subjects and consequently to his own revenues than they can be to the merchants of any other place.”
The above having been communicated to the Maharajah and the Dewan, the latter replied on the 8th March 1856 —
“I would say that the present system connected with the Pepper monopoly has obtained for upwards of a century without any well-grounded or material complaint on the part of the inhabitants, who, I would venture to assert from the recorded opinions of my predecessors and my own observations, would much rather deliver to the Sirkar at even the lower rate of valuation i.e. 8 fanams per Thulam, than sell it at very uncertain and fluctuating prices to merchants who from motives of profit would even seek to depreciate the value of the article.”
He therefore proposed that in the interests of the Sirkar and the inhabitants, “Sirkar revert to the former rate of price payable to the cultivators, viz., 10 fanams per Thulam, and as all arrears for past years are with all other existing liabilities now being discharged in full, the enhanced rate of price will henceforth be punctually paid in advance so that there would be no inducement to smuggle out the pepper”. But the Government of India accepted this proposal only as a temporary measure and distinctly expressed themselves that they would be satisfied “with nothing less than the abolition of the monopolies and the adoption of a less objectionable system which might certainly be introduced without difficulty and with equal advantage to the agriculture, commerce and revenues of the State of Travancore”.
Finally after a good deal of correspondence on the subject, the Resident Mr. Maltby discussed with the Maharajah on several occasions and on his recommendation the following order was passed by the Madras Government on the 26th March 1860: —
“The Government fully approve of the plan proposed by the Resident for the abolition of the Pepper monopoly and for the substitution of an export duty of Rs. 15 per candy or 20 per cent ad valorem on a valuation of Rs. 75 per candy on all pepper exported from the Sirkar territories by sea or land. To make this plan effectual, it will, however, as shown by Mr. Maltby, be necessary to extend the levy of duty at the same rate on behalf of the Sirkar to all pepper exported from the British port of Cochin.”
The measure which in the words of the Resident “will be an act of benevolence to his subjects, which will substitute a sound and enlightened system of finance and will be gratifying to the Government of and Her Majesty’s Home Government, “was sanctioned by the Maharajah. But it was not till November 1860 i. e., at the beginning, of the next reign that the Travancore Government issued a Proclamation abolishing the Pepper monopoly and substituting an export duty.
On the 22nd Kanni 1033 M.E (October 1857 A.D.), Her Highness Rani Lakshmi Bayi, the only surviving female member of the Royal family, died at the early age of twenty-eight, a few days after having given birth to her second son (His Highness the present Maharajah). This unexpected death of the Rani, the only hope of the Royal family, cast a gloom over the whole State and the policy of annexation so vigorously carried out by Lord Dalhousie made the Maharajah extremely anxious about the future of his kingdom. The Maharajah determined upon having - recourse to adoption. Regarding the necessity for the step proposed to be taken and the importance of the presence of female members in the Royal family, His Highness wrote to General Cullen: —
“You are well aware, I believe, of the peculiar importance of the position held by the Ranees in our family and indeed in the whole policy of the country, religious as well as social. Their presence is absolutely and indispensably necessary to the performance of all religious ceremonies both in our family and in the principal Pagodas. In that female line is vested also, as is further well-known to you, the right of inheritance and succession in our own family as- well as in the great bulk of our subjects.
“In 923 M. E (1747 A.D.), and again in 964 M.E (1788 A.D.), in the absence of direct female issue proceeding from the Ranees, female members from among our near relations at Kartigapally and Mavelikaray (in the former instance four and in the latter two females at a time) were respectively selected as successors to the Ranees and duly installed in the Sree Padam Palace the residence exclusively assigned to the female members of the family. Of one of these Ranees (no female issue having survived the other), myself and my predecessor on the musnud, have been the direct offspring.
“I deem it proper now to apprise you that in strict conformity with the same usage and precedents, I now propose to bring in two, the most eligible female members from among our relations before mentioned, as Senior and Junior Ranees. As the present is a matter of the deepest concern to me, in every point of view, involving as it does the interests of my family, religion and country, and I may add my own peace of mind, the measure cannot be delayed, more especially as some important religious rites are fast approaching, which can neither be postponed, nor performed without the presence of female members in our family.”
The adoption was duly sanctioned by the Madras Government on the 7th November 1857, and two Princesses of eight and six of age respectively were adopted from the allied Mavelikara family on the 27th December following. “Lord Dalhousie had shown in many instances of strikingly unwise regard of the principle of adoption” which the historian of our own times (Mr. Justin McCarthy) believes, caused much discontent and ultimately led to the mutiny of 1857. It was a time of great anxiety, therefore, with the Maharajah and he scrupulously fulfilled many vows which he had undertaken to his tutelary deity, when he got the much coveted sanction of the Government for the adoption in his family. The Maharajah felt unbounded gratification at the Government having so readily and courteously met His Highness’, wishes in a matter so deeply affecting the interests equally of His Highness and his family and of the whole population of Travancore, and he expressed his grateful feelings in warm terms to General Cullen in these words: —
“Your name is associated in our memory with many important and interesting events, the most conspicuous of which is the permission made through your powerful intercession for the continuance of the line of succession to the mushud of Travancore, an event which nothing can erase from the memory of myself, family and the whole country, and for which we cannot adequately feel grateful.”
It is however the painful duty of the historian to record that this adoption so devoutly wished for was wholly barren of results, leaving no issue either male or female to continue the Royal line, at the time this narrative is being written, though one of the Ranis so adopted lived to the age of fifty-three, and the other Rani her younger sister who predeceased her, had brought forth several children.
Death of Dewan Krishna Row
About the close of 1857, the Murajapam ceremony came off for which the Dewan was able to set apart a large sum, besides paying off the salaries of Sirkar servants then several months in arrears, moneys due to contractors and part of the loan taken from Padmanabha’s temple fund. Soon after, he fell ill and died in December 1857. Patrick McGuire, the biographer of His Highness the late Maharajah (Visakham Tirunal) thus refers to the death of Dewan Krishna Row —
“General Cullen had been a thorough supporter of his protégé Krishna Row and shielded him against all comers, newspaper correspondents, missionaries, petitioners, sober wellwishers of the State, and even the Madras Government itself. But things had gone on under that effeto minister to the very climax of maladministration and financial insolvency, till at last the eyes of the Government of Lord Dalhousie were opened and under the inspiration of that great Proconsul, Lord Harris, then Governor of Madras, addressed a serious and emphatic warning to the Maharajah. Krishna Row survived this for two years but had allowed matters to reach the last stage of deterioration, and General Cullen supported him the more. The minister’s death was therefore opportune and fortunate to the State.”
The above picture is of course overdrawn. The present writer himself must have seen Dewan Krishna Row though he can claim only a very faint recollection of the genial and good-natured man, burly and big, who through good and evil report managed the troublesome affairs of the State for nearly twelve years faithfully and loyally to his sovereign and to the best of his lights. But there are scores of people in Trivandrum still living, who moved closely with him and knew him intimately, and who could therefore speak of him in his pubic and private capacities with authority. Their unanimous testimony goes to show that Dewan Krishn Row was a plain, good-natured, siraightforward man, an intelligent and energetic officer who worked with zeal and devotion to the country’s interests and who dealt with his official colleagues with sincerity and frankness, and was besides most devoted to his sovereign and to the welfare of his people. As a private gentleman he dispensed hospitality and charity with a lavish hand to those who sought his help. Whole families lived upon his bounty.
He did not know what stint meant. That he was honest will be admitted by all who know the fact that when he died after twelve years’ Dewanship carrying a salary of Rs. 2,000 a month, he left property worth only Rs. 43,000 (about £. 2,700) to be divided among six brothers. His widow who lived to a good old age in Trivandrum owned a house and enjoyed a small pension from the State which kept her just above want — for she too lived beyond her means being like her husband a most liberal-hearted and charitably disposed lady. Every Saturday about two thousand people breakfasted with Krishna Row at Padma vilasam*; and to his needy relatives and dependents who came to seek his aid from his native district (Northern Circars), he gave largesses with a liberal hand. The Maharajah, his Royal master, visited him on his deathbed, when Krishna Row begged of him to overlook all his faults of commission and omission during a life-long service under His Highness’ Government in several capacities.
NOTEs: * This is the Dewan's official residence within the Trivandrum Fort. An additional official residence known as Bhaktivilasam has been recently provided outside the Fort
His Highness said there was nothing to overlook, that he was quite satisfied with Krishna Row’s fidelity and zeal to the State and to the Royal house, and added that he was under obligation to him for the earnestness with which he had worked and brought about the adoption of the two Princesses into his family. This Royal assurance gave peace and satisfaction to the dying man and in a few minutes after the Maharajah left, Dewan Krishna Row expired, surrounded by a host of relatives, friends and dependents all devotedly attached to him.
He continued in harness to the day of his death. Krishna Row was a most popular official.His directness of dealing and simplicity of character endeared him to all who came in contact with him, and if we judge of him by the standard which according to our late Viceroy (Lord Curzon) is the only standard viz. that “the aim and ambition of native administration is to fit them to rule native populations successfully”, then Krishna Row’s administration may undoubtedly be said to be a successful one.
Madava Row appointed Dewan (1858-1872 A.D)
When Krishna Row died, the Maharajah was in a dilemma as to who should be appointed to succeed him. There was Raman Menon, the Senior Dewan Peishcar, a man of considerable revenue experience and energy, and there was T. Madava Row, a young officer of character and ability and possessed of high educational qualifications, who had already established his name by the successful administration of the Southern Division. In the words of the late John Bruce Norton,
“Within the short space of a year, Madava Row has called forth order out of disorder; has distributed justice between man and man without fear or favour; has expelled dacoits; has raised the revenues; and his minutes and State papers show the liberality, the soundness and the statesmanship of his views and principles. He has received the thanks of his Sovereign; he has obtained the voluntary admiring testimony of some of the very missionaries who memorialised to the excellence of his administration. Now, here is a man raised up, as it were, amid the anarchy and confusion of his country, to save it from destruction. Annexation, looming in the not far distant future, would be banished into the shades of night if such an administration as he has introduced into two of the districts were given to the whole kingdom, by his advancement to the post of Prime Minister. He is indeed a splendid example of what education may do for the Native.
The Maharajah in consultation with his nephew, Prince Ayilliam Tirunal, decided to appoint Madava Row in succession to Krishna Row. He was first appointed Acting Dewan on the 2nd Makaram 1033 M.E (January 1858). Madava Row was only thirty when he was appointed to this high office. The Resident Lieut-General Cullen reporting his appointment to the Madras Government wrote thus on the 25th January 1858: —
“I have the honour to report that immediately on the death of the late Dewan of Travancore, His Highness the Rajah proposed to me to send for the Dewan Peishcar Madava Row who was then in the Southern Districts and close at hand for the purpose of taking temporary charge of the Cutcherry. He was the junior of the two Dewan Peishcars, but the Senior one Raman Menoven was in the north of Travancore and being a Soodra could not have conducted the great religious festival then celebrating at Trivandrum.
“His Highness has since proposed to me that Madava Row should for the present be placed in chair of the administration as Acting Dewan — an arrangement in which I have expressed my concurrence and which I hope may be approved of by His Lordship in Council. Madava Row’s correct principles, his character for intelligence and energy, his perfect knowledge of English, and the considerable experience he has already acquired in the administration of the laws of Travancore together with a well-grounded knowledge of the Company’s Regulations, all point him out for the office. The other Dewan Peishcar Raman Menoven, formerly Sheristadar in Malabar, is a very old Company’s servant and of great experience and energy; but he does not understand English and there are other objections to his nomination; he was unwilling to serve under one so much his junior; and has been allowed by His Highness to resign on a moderate pension.”
Dewan Madava Row first directed his attention, to the improvement of the internal affairs of the country. At the same time he strengthened the relations of Travancore with the Madras Government. The first few years of his administration were devoted to fiscal reforms. He represented to the authorities and to the leading men of Southern India the true state of affairs in Travancore and disabused their minds, of .the grossly wrong impressions formed of oppression and misrule here. The Madras Government were satisfied with the new turn the administration had taken since his assumption of office.
Visit of Lord Harris
In September 1858, the Maharajah of Travancore invited Lord Harris, Governor of Madras, to honour him with a visit. The request was at once complied with. Grand preparations were made to give the Governor and his suite a fitting reception. The Eastern Fort gate at the capital which was rebuilding was completed expeditiously and fort walls on either side of the gate were newly constructed. The southern side of the old Darbar Hall was converted into a spacious maidan and the streets were all improved. Similar repairs were effected at Quilon and Alleppey. His Lordship and party arrived at Bolghatty on the 24th November and were received by General Cullen, the Dewan of Cochin and a representative of the Travancore Maharaja. Madava Row who was already confirmed as Dewan, welcomed the gubernatorial party at Quilon and took them to Trivandrum, which they reached early on the morning of the 30th November.
There were the usual State Visits, the Levee, the Durbar and a State Banquet concluding with an effective illumination and display of fire-works. On the morning of the 4th December, His Excellency and party left Trivandrum and embarked on board the Steamer (Feroze) at the Valiatora port (Trivandrum). The Maharajah and the Princes bade farewell to His Excellency at the beach. At 1 p. m., His Highness and the Princes started on visit to the steamer which was to take the Governor’s party, and were heartily received by His Excellency amidst a salute of guns. The Maharajah inspected the several parts of the steamer leisurely and with great interest and in order that he might witness the working of the engine-the vessel was made to go a few miles northward and come back to the anchorage. His Highness and party took leave of His Excellency and returned quite pleased.
This visit to Trivandrum left a very favourable impression on Lord Harris’ mind regarding the Maharajah and the administration of the State under the new Dewan. In his minute drawn up soon after his return from Travancore, His Excellency observed —
“I have been rejoiced to find that considerable improvement has taken place in the management of the finances of the Travancore State, under Madava Row, the Dewan. Salaries are now regularly paid, instead of being, as formerly, many months in arrears and there appears to be generally much greater contentment and satisfaction than formerly.”
The Madras Government also informed the Court of Directors, “Since the appointment of Madava Row, petitions from Travancore have much abated both in number and tone, affording good grounds to hope that the administration is by his exertions being placed on an improved footing.”
Shanar converts and Hindus— Disturbances in South Travancore
Reference has already been made to the establishment of the London Mission Society in South Travancore and the great toleration afforded to the Christian Missions by the Travancore Government that led to the rapid spread of Christianity in Nanjanad. The result was that the Shanar converts (it may be observed here that the Mission work of conversion was mostly if not exclusively confined to the Shanars, Pariahs and other low-caste people), who were looked down upon by the high-caste Hindus, relying on the support of the missionaries, caused great annoyance to them.
The casus belli in this case arose from the Shanar Christian females assuming the costume of high-caste women. By long-standing custom, the inferior classes of the population were forbidden to wear an upper cloth of the kind used by the higher classes. During the administration of Col. Munro, a Circular order was issued permitting the women referred to, to cover their bodies with jackets (kuppayam) like the women of Syrian Christians, Moplas, and such others, but the Native Christian females would not have anything less than the apparel of the highest castes. So they took the liberty of appearing in public not only with the kuppayam already sanctioned, but with an additional cloth or scarf over the shoulders as worn by the women of the higher castes.
These pretensions of the Shanar convert women were resented by the high-caste Nayars and other Sudras who took the law into their own hands and used violence to those who infringed long-standing custom and caste distinctions. Both the rival factions took their stand upon the Queen’s gracious Proclamation of November 1858.
As the Calcutta Reviewer on the career of Sir Madava Row in Travancore wrote —
“Certain castes were restricted to certain modes of wearing their clothes; and deviations from the prescribed modes were jealously watched and opposed by other castes. The women of the Shanars or toddy-drawers who abound in South Travancore and from among whom the Protestant Missionaries have for the last sixty years reaped the richest harvest, had been prevented from covering the upper part of their person. Acting upon the advice of Col. Morrison, then Resident, the Rani Regent had so far modified this restriction as to permit the wearing by Christian Shanar women of the Kuppayam (a sort of shirt).
The mutual jealousies between the Shanars and the Sudras were dormant for some time, but the Queen’s Proclamation of November 1858 on the assumption of the direct Government of India renovated these feelings. The Shanars imagined that it permitted them to infringe existing rules while the Sudras equally considered it as sanctioning their taking the law into their own hands to repress what they took as an aggression into their caste domains. Serious affrays ensued, and these were aggravated by the gratuitous interference of petty Sirkar officials whose general standard of capacity and moral worth we have already alluded to. Public peace was imperilled.”*
NOTEs: * The Calcutta Review for October 1872 - "A Native Statesman"
Serious breaches of the peace occurred in the Taluqs of Vilavankod, Kalkulam, Eraniel, Agastisvaram and Tovala, and the Sirkar was forced to interfere and legislate on the matter. The Proclamation of 1829 clearly permitted the female Shanar converts to cover their bosoms with a jacket as decency required but strictly prohibited their adopting high-caste costume. But the Shanars still persisted in setting at defiance the high-caste Hindus and made themselves odious to them. In this they were encouraged by the missionaries who represented that complaints against the Shanar converts to the Resident were ‘partial, unprincipled and corrupt,’ and people outside Travancore were made to believe that the low castes here were being persecuted by the higher castes and by Government. In December 1858 A.D., the two communities had assumed hostile positions against each other and troubles of a serious nature broke out. The Sudras openly attacked the Shanar women who dared to appear in public in high-caste costume and the Shanars duly retaliated.
Dewan Madava Row grappled with the situation with his characteristic energy and thoroughness, and in this he was cordially aided by Deputy Peishcar Shungoony Menon, an officer of considerable experience and capacity then in charge of the Southern Division. The military were called out and a large auxiliary police force was entertained. But the Christians were not satisfied with the cautions and careful action the Dewan adopted, and therefore viewed his proceedings with distrust. The Dewan personally inspected the disaffected parts of the country and impressed on all the necessity for implicit obedience to the authority of the State and conformity to the existing law. To quote his own words,
“The Deputy Peishcar in charge of the Southern Division too thought it desirable that some kind of public warning was necessary. It is obvious that as long as the Proclamation of 1829 is in force, the Shanars, both Hindu and Christian, are bound to conform to its provisions that no section of the subjects can be permitted to infringe a law affecting the great majority of the people, on the ground, that in their opinion, the law ought to be changed; that the only legitimate course open to them is to continue to submit to it and formally to apply to the Sirkar for a change with such facts and arguments as they may have to urge in their favour. On these considerations a public warning was given on the 27th December last to the effect that existing rules and usages should be respected; that if any class of people desired a change, they should represent the case to the Sirkar and await its decision; that on the other hand, on no account should breaches of the peace be caused.”
This of course did not satisfy the missionaries who considered the Dewan’s action as a proof of his ‘gross and unconcealed partiality’ to the high-caste Hindus. They then petitioned first the Maharajah, and then the Government of Madras, to cancel this and the previous Proclamation and substitute a more decidedly favourable and liberal one.
By this time Lord Harris had been succeeded by Sir Charles Trevelyan, as Governor of Madras. His Excellency from the very moment he took up the subject seems to have been prejudiced and wrote to the Resident in these strong terms —
“I have seldom met with a case, in which not only truth and justice, but every feeling of our common humanity are so entirely on one side. The whole civilised world would cry shame upon us, if we did not make a firm stand on such an occasion. If any thing could make this line of conduct more incumbent on us, it would be the extraordinary fact that persecution of a singularly personal and delicate kind is attempted to be justified by a Royal Proclamation, the special object of which was to assure to Her Majesty’s Indian subjects, liberty of thought and action, so long as they did not interfere with the just rights of others. I should fail in respect to Her Majesty, if I attempted to describe the feelings with which she must regard the use made against her own sex, of the promises of protection so graciously accorded by her. It will be your duty to impress these views on His Highness the Rajah, and to point out to him that such prohibitions as those conveyed in the Circular Order of May 1814 or in the Proclamation of the 3rd February 1829, are unsuited to the present age and unworthy of an enlightened Prince.”
This powerful minute was evidently written under the impression that the privilege of covering the bosom had been entirely denied to the Shanar convert females. Such however was not the case. The demands of decency had already been met, but the disturbance arose from the attempt of Shanar women, Hindu as well as convert, to assume the costume of the women of the higher castes.
This became the inflammable material connected with religion and caste which nearly caused a general conflagration in Travancore. The mischief was however arrested by the thoughtful action promptly taken by Dewan Madava Row, the correctness of which action was upheld by the Madras Government and by the Secretary of State later on. Mr. Madava Row sent up a report on the 12th February 1859, in which he gave a clear and concise account of the origin, development and suppression of the disturbances. He stated the case between the rival factions in the fairest and most dispassionate terms.
The letter itself is eloquent besides being weighty and statesmanlike, and appears to the historian of to-day a masterpiece of patient enquiry, thought and judgment, containing an exposition of general administrative principles which hold good for all time. Every line in it bears the impress of a master mind. And in the light of the fact that it was written half a century ago by a young and untried official barely thirty years old, in defence of custom and conservative institutions which are always at a discount in a democratic age and by the side of a more prosaic though powerful civilisation, where cheap fame could be earned by a denunciation of ancient usages and cherished privileges in order to satisfy a morbid craving for change and new forms, however opposed they may be to the genius of the nation or the needs of the times, the document may take rank among the first class State papers on record, and as such will be reproduced here, in most part, to better elucidate the subsequent event that led to Travancore being recognised as ‘the Model Native State “ of India.
The letter runs —
“I have the honour to submit to you a concise report of the origin, progress, and suppression of the recent disturbances in South Travancore, adding a few observations, which the subject suggests.
“You are aware that in the Malabar year 1004, corresponding with 1829 Christian Era, Her Highness the Ranee, with the concurrence of the British Resident, issued a Proclamation permitting the use of a jacket called Coopayam on the part of Christian Shanar women and prohibiting the use of the upper cloth on the part of Hindu Shanar females. In contravention of the provisions of the Proclamation, the Shanar women, particularly those of converts to Christianity had, it appears, begun, though not prominently, to wear a dress similar to that worn by Soodra and Brahmin females, and this you are aware, occasionally gave rise to troubles ere this.
“About the time of the appearance of Her Majesty’s Proclamation, either the practice became more general and conspicuous or the Soodras felt more encouraged to resist it, or what was perhaps more likely both the causes operated together. Both parties became equally determined. The Shanars, probably influenced in a measure by the recent events in the contiguous District of Tinnevelly, would by all means bring the upper cloth into use.
“The Christian Shanars appear to have taken the lead, though they had less cause for complaint, the Proclamation in question permitting their women to use jackets, which have been on all hands acknowledged as a more decent covering than the upper doth. But they probably desired a total abolition of all restrictions as to dress, and calculated upon the sympathies and support of the European Missionaries residing among them. The Soodras forming the majority of the population under the influence of caste feelings, which you know have least relaxed in force in Travancore, and feeling that they had the Proclamation of the Sirkar on their side, and probably interpreting Her Majesty’s Proclamation too much in their favour, equally resolved to put down the innovations attempted by the Shanars. From this state of feeling the steps to open disturbances were not many.
“As the Shanars took it upon themselves to infringe the Proclamation of 1004 M.E., so the Soodras took it upon themselves to punish such infringement. The Shanar women were attacked when they openly appeared with what was considered the high caste costume. The Shanars on the other hand did not confine themselves to a bare defence. They too retaliated the outrages on Soodra women. Hostile feelings gathered strength. A chapel had been burnt down in Maycode on the 27th December last; an affray occurred in the Kotar bazaar on the 30th idem.
“A more serious one, assuming the dimensions of a riot, also followed at the great market of Erneel on the 10th ultimo. The panic, it seems, was great, and men on both sides were said to have been severely ill-treated, and some wounded, though only a few appeared before the Cutcherry with formal complaints, the others having probably been deterred by the consciousness of misconduct. On the same night, another chapel and the Residency Bungalow at Nagercoil were destroyed by fire evidently at the hands of incendiaries.
“Between the 11th and 16th two more chapels at different places shared the same fate; two mission schools were similarly destroyed; a mob of Soodras assaulted a Shanar and his wife at Thittoovellay and his house and twenty-seven houses adjoining it were burnt down. Other houses and chapels were said to have been openly threatened. It was reported that the Shanars of the Agasteeswarom district were raising men and money, and proposed combined and systematic resistance to Sirkar authority, and the plunder of the villages of towns. It was also clear that they had solicited the cooperation of the Shanars residing in the district of Tinnevelly in the vicinity of our frontier.
“The first intimation I had of the existence of unsatisfactory feelings was when I happened to be at Padmanabhapooram about the end of December last. Numbers of Shanars, and Soodras with Lubbays waited on me and complained against each other, on the subject of the upper cloth. The Police officer of Erneel also wrote to me on the subject. The Deputy Peishcar in charge of the Southern Division, too, thought it desirable that some kind of public warning was necessary. It is obvious that as long as the Proclamation of 1829 is in force, the Shanars, both Hindu and Christian, are bound to conform to its provisions that no section of subjects can be permitted to infringe a law affecting the great majority of the people, on the ground, that in their opinion, the law ought to be changed; that the only legitimate course open to them is, to continue to submit to it and formally to apply to the Sirkar for a change with such facts and arguments as they may have to urge in their favour.
“On these considerations a public warning was given on the 27th December last, to the effect that existing rules and usages should be respected; that if any class of people desired a change, they should represent the case to the Sirkar and await its decision; that on the other hand, on no account should breaches of the peace be caused. For a short while there was an appearance of quiet. But soon after the Peishcar in the South reported the Kotar affray and suggested that the Police should be strengthened, and that a detachment of sepoys should be sent down to overawe.
“Orders were forthwith given accordingly and a detachment of the Nair Brigade consisting of 100 rank and file with the usual complement of commissioned and noncommissioned officers were sent at once. Some numbers of the London Mission residing in the South arrived at Trivandrum and personally represented to yourself and to me the state of matters then. I had the permission of His Highness and yourself to go to the scene of disturbances.
“The troops were moved where mischief was apprehended. The Police further strengthened in different places. Auxiliary Police officers were appointed to keep the peace, and speedily enquire into and dispose of Police cases which were of course expected to be numerous at the time. Some minor Sirkar officials who appeared to have acted improperly were suspended from employment. Some of the leaders of both parties concerned in these disturbances were apprehended. Other measures too were taken with a view to preserve order. The determination of the Sirkar to exact implicit obedience to its authority from all classes of its subjects soon became known. And I am happy to add that without the necessity of resorting to extreme measures having arisen, tranquillity has been restored. I have the pleasure to acknowledge here the zealous exertion of the Deputy Peishcar Shunoonny Menon on this occasion
“Though matters had assumed a very serious aspect, I am glad to be able to state that the mischief already done is far from being very considerable.................... No loss of life or limb has occurred anywhere. The authority of the Sirkar having been vindicated, it may perhaps be desirable to take an early opportunity to consider what modifications should be made in the Proclamation of 1004, so as to suit the requirements of altered times and circumstances and satisfy all parties as far as it may be possible to do so.”
The Madras Government observed in their Minutes of Consultation dated 12th March 1859, “The Dewan’s Report appears to Government to be a temperate and a fair statement, and they hope that no further disturbances or breaches of the peace need now be apprehended.” They also added —
“The Government will hope to learn, at an early date, what arrangement has been made by the Dewan. The principle on which it should proceed has already been laid down by Government in the last para of Extract Minutes of Consultation. 27th January 1859. General Cullen will inform Government what communication he has held with His Highness the Rajah in furtherance of the instructions then convoyed to him. The decree of interference which for many years past has been exercised by the representative of the British Government in the Affairs greatly rests with the British Government and it has thereby become their duty to insist upon the observance of a system of toleration, in a more decided manner, than they would be at liberty to adopt, if they had merely to bring their influence to bear on an independent State.”
The whole correspondence having been laid before His Highness the Maharajah, the Dewan again wrote to the Resident on the 17th May 1859 thus —
“The whole subject has had careful consideration. His Highness certainly feels that the provisions of the Proclamation of 1004 M. E., on the subject of the dress of the inferior castes require to be greatly modified. His Highness now proposes to abolish all rules prohibiting the covering of the upper parts of the persons of Shanar women and to grant them perfect liberty to meet the requirements of decency any way they may deem proper, with the simple restriction that they do not imitate the same mode of dress that appertains to the higher castes.
“His Highness desires to observe that anxious as he is to meet the wishes of the Government, to the utmost of his power, and to give free scope for the improvement of the moral and social condition of his subjects of all classes. His Highness would not have made even this small reservation, were it not for the fear, that the sudden and total abolition of all distinctions of dress, which have from time immemorial distinguished one caste from another, may produce most undesirable impressions on the minds of the larger portion of his subjects and cause their serious discontent. Still, I am to observe that by the present concession, the demands of decency have been fully answered, without needlessly offending the feelings peculiar to the other castes.
“It is of course needless to remind you of those many circumstances, which would make the introduction of decisive reforms, especially in matters of caste and religion, much more difficult in Travancore, than in Her Majesty’s territories. While therefore the progress of education among the people in general may be expected to pave the way for much greater changes, His Highness hopes that the arrangement now proposed, the only one which seems to be calculated to answer the object in view without the probability of disturbing the peace of the country, would meet with your approval and that of the Madras Government.”
A Royal Proclamation was accordingly issued on the 26th July 1859 abolishing all restrictions in the matter of the covering of the upper parts of Shanar women and granting them perfect liberty to meet the requirements of decency any way they might deem proper with the simple reservation, however, that they should not imitate the dress of the women of high castes. The Secretary of State for India approved of this action of the Travancore Sirkar in his despatch to the Madras Government, dated 19th August 1859, thus—
“It is unnecessary to recapitulate the circumstances attending the outbreak occasioned by the assumption on the part of certain Shanar women of the garment known as the “Upper Cloth’. Public tranquillity has now been restored and it is hoped that the measures adopted by the Travancore State will prevent the recurrence of these painful disputes and embarrassing disturbances.
“From the enclosures to your letter of the 7th June, I learn that the Rajah proposes to abolish all rules prohibiting the covering of the upper parts of the persons of Shanar women and to grant them perfect liberty to meet the requirements of decency in any way they may deem proper with the simple restriction that they do not imitate the same mode of dress that appertains to the higher castes. With this concession, though it falls short of what you originally contemplated, you deem it expedient, under the circumstances stated, to be satisfied, and am of opinion that you are right in accepting the proposed concession and earnestly hope that it will have the desired effect. “
Retirement and death of General Cullen
General Cullen who had been Resident at the Court of Travancore for over twenty years retired in the early part of 1860, greatly to the regret of the whole country. “To His Highness, General Cullen was the kindest of friends, to the officials he was a benevolent patron, and to the inhabitants he was an affectionate and judicious protector”. He wrote a warm eulogium on to Dewan as well as on the Native Government just before his retirement (31st December 1859):—
“I cannot allow my residence at the Court of His Highness the Rajab of Travancore to close without expressing to yourself and to all the high officers of Government in its several branches, the sense I entertain of their valuable services.
“Yourself originally selected for your conspicuous talents and acquirements for the confidential post of Tutor to the Young Princes of His Highness the Rajah’s family, you have since gradually attained to the high and important office of Dewan, a promotion justified by your previous services in the subordinate grades and the character which you have uniformly continued to maintain for high principles and ability. I have no doubt that your administration which is already affording indications of substantial improvement, will be ultimately attended with the most satisfactory results Ardently desiring the increasing prosperity of this beautiful country and lengthened rule of its present enlightened and benevolent Sovereign, I have the honour, &c.”
And yet this same Resident who called Martanda Varma “an enlightened and benevolent Sovereign” broke the heart of his talented brother the late Maharajah, by his unsympathetic, nay hostile, attitude towards him when twenty years earlier he was himself new to the State which he now realised to be “a beautiful country” and for which he so ardently desired “increasing prosperity.”
General Cullen died at Alleppey in 1862. His long residence in the Indian climate had unfitted him to return to his old country. Travancore he therefore made his home. He had lived there for more than twenty years as Resident. He was on terms of the closest friendship with the Maharajah, the Dewan and the chief officials, most of whom owed their appointments to him. To the people he was a friend and benefactor. His private munificence had made him the idol of their affections. He gave out of his pocket without stint or measure. He was a rich man himself by long and distinguished service under the East India Company and had inherited a big legacy from his own people. He was not a married man and had no cares of family. He lived in a princely style. At dinner, covers were always laid for six to twelve guests though no visitor was expected or had been invited. Stories are still current of his munificent gifts.
A Racket-court was to be opened in a neighbouring military station and a subscription list was brought to him. He asked what it would cost. Somebody present told him it might cost Rs. 3,000, and he thereupon wrote his name and put down Rs. 3,000 against it. The chief clerk of his office wanted a loan of Rs. 1,500, to build a house and promised to pay back the debt in regular instalments. General Cullen only cared to note whether the clerk was true and kept his word. If he paid back the instalments as promised, he watched him closely to see whether the keeping of the promise was a drain on the poor clerk’s resources and whether it did not put him and his family on half rations. When he had been paid back a half or a third of the whole debt and felt satisfied of the clerk’s honesty, he excused the repayment of the remainder.
To the school-boys he was a true friend and patron. He gave them their school fees and their school books most liberally. He was a grand-looking good old man, and in his later years he was universally loved and respected by the native population. The local Europeans, however, looked upon him with very different feelings. The Madras Government just endured him on account of his brilliant military services to the old Company. The Calcutta Reviewer, already referred to, observed —
“Any Governor would have taken serious notice of these but Sir C. Trevelyan was one whose spirit soon burst all bonds of patience. It was also about this time that the Government of India replied to the several references from the Madras Government, recommending an enquiry by Commission into the affairs of Travancore, which had not received attention during the mutiny.
“They objected to a commission but advised the suspension of the Resident and the appointment of an Officiating Resident. The Madras Government while conscious of their power to take this step did not see sufficient grounds to do so and said that one of the main objects of the proposed commission was to ascertain the necessity for so doing. Thus there was an ellipsis of argument, the Government of India deeming the suspension of the Resident a necessary preliminary to all enquiry and the Madras Government considering that an enquiry alone could show whether suspension was necessary. Sir G. Trevelyan was convinced of the unfitness of General Cullen and the Indian Government had pointed to the necessity of appointing in his stead ‘a person of tried and known sound judgment, and one who may be expected to obtain the confidence of all parties’. To effect this Sir Charles thought it best to use moral persuasion He wrote to the Resident on the 16th May
— ‘It is my earnest desire to support the just authority of the Maharajah in his ancient dominions and I know what is due to yourself as an old and deserving officer of this Government but the case now before me is one on which the claims of public duty are of the most imperative kind, and I must therefore desire that you will, without further delay, yield obedience to the repeated orders which have been conveyed to you, and report in detail what you have done in consequence of the resolution of this Government communicated to you on the 27th January and on the 14th March last, and what the Maharajah bas done in consequence.’”
The difficulty was solved by General Cullen’s immediate retirement. Revd. Abbs writing of him says: —
“As both the Rajah (or sovereign) of that time, and the heir apparent were peaceable men, partially enlightened, and favourable to Europeans, I do not suppose we should have found difficulty, had not both been guided in their public movements by a Dewan or native Prime Minister, and a British Resident, or political representative of England.
“Both of these were hostile to Christianity, the former as a bigoted heathen, the latter as a worldly statesman, and both for want of acquaintance with its nature. We soon discovered that the agent of our Christian land, although a Scotchman attached as he said to the Church of England and her services, was much opposed to missionary effort, and more fearful than were the Brahmins respecting the effects of evangelical religion............... He was a General in the Artillery, and must have left home at a very early age, as, although not a very old man, he had served nearly forty years in the Indian army. To say that he was profoundly ignorant of spiritual religion would be only saying that he was like most of the East India officers of that time, although it is probable that not having seen much of missionary operations, and having been (as I was afterwards) more associated with what he called ‘native friends’ than with European society, his ideas concerning our character and intentions were more alarming, absurd and exaggerated, than were those of others who had come into contact with our institutions.” *
NOTEs: * Twenty-two Years' Missionary Experience in Travancore. Page 82.
General Cullen had visited every nook and corner of Travancore and Cochin. He knew the coast most thoroughly. No native knew it anything so well. The late Maharajah (Visakham Tirunal) and Dewan Sir Madava Row may be said to have emulated his example to some extent in the study of the agricultural and economic conditions of the country, but his scientific tastes gave him an additional zest for travel. General Cullen had completely identified himself with the interests of the people and the State. The Maharajah instituted a scholarship in his name known as the Cullen’s Scholarship in the Madras High School in recognition of the General distinguished services to Travancore. This scholarship has since been converted into a ‘Cullen’s Prize’ when the Trivandrum High School was raised to a First Grade College.
Mr. Maltby Resident
Mr. Maltby succeeded General Cullen as Resident. He was a very capable officer and heartily took upon himself the task of improving the country in co-operation with Dewan Madava Row.
“The new year brought with it a new Resident. The Madras Presidency affords little or no field for the development of diplomatic talents and its services both civil and military have seldom been adorned by men of distinction in this line. But this general void only made Mr. Francis Maltby shine all the more.
“He was every way fit to represent the British Government in a Native Court. His great official experience, his eminent talents, his excellent literary powers, his warm and generous heart, his humane sympathies, his keen sense of humour, his love of truth and justice, his abhorrence of all that was mean and morally sinuous, and his polished and persuasive manners, formed a happy combination rarely seen. A deep and self-humiliating, but unobtrusive, religious faith ran through every vein of his moral frame. His commanding person, his noble mien, his rare but mild and sincere smile, his well-weighed and self-flowing speech, and the deep bass voice, were externals which immensely added to the dignity and effect of the whole character. It was on him that Sir Charles Trevelyan’s choice worthily fell.”*
NOTEs: * The Calcutta Review for October 1872 - 'A Native Statesman'.
In their united endeavours they were supported by Prince Visakham Tirunal who proved to them an able adviser and friendly critic. There used to appear in almost every issue of the Indian Statesman, then edited by John Bruce Norton of Madras, stirring letters entitled “Topics for Mr. F. N. Maltby” under the non de plume of Brutes. These letters created a sensation at the time and were gladly welcomed by the Resident himself.
The presents graciously promised by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in return for His Highness’ contribution for the London Exhibition reached the British Resident towards the end of April 1860. A Public Durbar was accordingly arranged to receive them. The Resident delivered a letter from Sir Charles Wood, Secretary of State for India, along with a beautiful case containing the presents. These consisted of an ornamental belt with gold embroidery and a buckle set with brilliants, the centre of the belt containing a gold watch with the monogram of the Queen on the one side and that of the Maharajah on the other. The Resident girdled the Maharajah with the new belt, and the Durbar was concluded with the usual military honours.
In commemoration of this important event, a Public Works Department was organised with Mr. Collins, Civil Engineer, at its head. The excavation of a new canal from the South as far as Trivandrum was also sanctioned and the work was commenced in May 1860. It was designated “Ananta Victoria Martandan Canal”.
The construction of a lighthouse at Alleppey was commenced about 1860, and in order to reimburse the Sirkar for the heavy outlay, a Regulation was passed for the levying of fees and port dues.
The Senior Rani the elder of the adopted Princesses, was married in April 1859 to a young Koil Tampuran of Changanachery, a grand-nephew of the Maharajah’s father.
In the middle of 1859, two more administrative divisions were established thus making four in all viz. Padmanabhapuram, Trivandrum, Quilon and Shertallay. About this time a free school for girls was also opened.
Demise of the Maharajah
His Highness visited the South to commence the work of the A. V. M. Canal, when he fell ill and at once returned to the capital. Under the treatment of the Durbar Physician he soon recovered, but after a time had a relapse followed by a bowel complaint. This continued to affect His Highness’ otherwise strong constitution. About the middle of July, he grew worse and all on a sudden dangerous symptoms set in. His Highness’ recovery was now regarded as hopeless by the Durbar Physician. On the morning of the 18th August, His Highness himself knew that his end was nearing. The next day was his birthday. After the usual danoms and ceremonies, he called in his favourite nephews and other members of the Royal family, the Dewan and all the high officers of the State, and cheered them all with kind words of encouragement and consolation. One and all of his servants and dependents were ushered into the Royal presence and to every one of them he spoke a few kind words. That same day the Maharajah passed away quietly without struggle or agony. He was conscious to the last; a few minutes before he expired, he enquired of his Native physician whether Chinnan had not set in, (a technical word for the last phase of breathing). The Native Physician stood silent wondering how accurately the Maharajah was able to diagnose his own condition of health in that weak state.
Mr. Broun in his preface to the Trevandrum Magnetical Observations thus refers to the Maharajah —
“His Highness Martanda Varma to whom I owed my appointment died in 1860. His Highness was a warm-hearted gentleman whose death was regretted by all who knew him. His knowledge of science though greatest in chemistry gave him personal interest in the Observatory, and he was ever prepared to accept any proposition likely to aid the work done to it. I shall never cease to entertain with the liveliest feelings His Highness’ memory.”
The Resident, F. N. Maltby, in his Preface to a Selection of Travancore Records which he got published, referred to His Highness in these terms —
“Allusion having been made to the Sovereign lately deceased, it is not inappropriate here to mention that Martanda Vurmah reigned in Travancore for thirteen years (1847-60). The Act above referred to for the abolition of Slavery, the encouragement given to Education, many liberal acts for the benefit of his people and above all the example set by His Highness in favour of Female Education in the persons of the Princesses of his family, entitle his memory to public respect His amiable character will be remembered with esteem by those who know him personally.’’
We have already referred to the many excellences of the Maharajah. His Highness was regular in his habits and strictly business-like though he kept late hours for a sovereign, which caused much public inconvenience. His breakfast never came before 1 P. M., and his supper never before midnight. His devotion and piety are well illustrated in his own composition, a drama called Simhadhwaja Charitam, himself being the hero of the work, as Disraeli was in his Vivian Grey. He was earnest in his daily religious observances and prayers. He was high-minded, generous and sympathetic. He was extremely kind, almost to a fault, to people about him but this did not warp his sense of justice. His personal attendants were always importunate in asking for favours which at first he refused in a mild way, but when persisted in he put down with a strong hand.
One of them, an old dependent, asked His Highness for a high Palace appointment. He refused the request telling him that he did not deserve so high a place. The attendant repeated his prayer twice and it was twice refused. On the third occasion being again importunately solicited, His Highness asked him to present a petition praying for the appointment, upon which he said he would pass orders. So he did pass orders, in which the attendant was officially informed that he could not be appointed to the post as his qualifications did not entitle him to the same.
Another anecdote exists of a poor Brahmin who received a danom (gift) worth four or five rupees from His Highness’ hands, and when he rose and left he asked His Highness for being permitted to retain the whole of it to himself. This quite puzzled the Maharajah, not knowing how the Brahmin could have doubted that what he received from his own hands should belong to any one but himself (Brahmin). The Maharajah forgot that about Courts, as in all high places, there are hangers-on like parasites on valuable trees, who corrupt and distort the pure channels of charity and justice, or as Sir Sashiah Sastri so well put it, “It is impossible all the world over to prevent abuses creeping round charity institutions, whether they be in the nature of Lazarettos, Hospitals or Poor houses, or Chuttroms.”
What the Brahmin meant was that no portion of the danom should be allowed to be taken away by palace servants at whose instance he was introduced; the Maharajah was much pained and it is said that he did not go to his breakfast until the matter was inquired into and the corrupters of the fountain of charity were duly punished.
But this was the austere side of His Highness’ character, which was seldom seen in the milk of human kindness which perennially flowed from him and which shed such a genial sunshine and warmth on all who came near him.
3. Rama Varma