TRAVANCORE STATE MANUAL Volume One
V. NAGAM AIYA
Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - Section C: Modern History - RAMA VARMA (Ayilliam Tirunal)
RAMA VARMA (Ayilliam Tirunal) 1036-1055 M.E / 1860-1880 A.D
Rama Varma Maharajah, one of the most successful sovereigns that graced the throne of Travancore, ascended the masnud on the 24th Chingam 1036 (7th September 1860), in the twenty-ninth year of his age. Of the seven children that Rani Rugmini Bayi gave birth to, there remained only four, of whom the first and the third were imbeciles, the second and the fourth being Ayilliam Tirunal the subject of this sketch, and Visakham Tirunal, his younger brother and successor. His Highness was formally installed on the throne in Public Durbar on the 19th October 1860
His Highness was a scholar and had received a liberal education in English under Mr.Madava Row who now had the honour of serving him as Dewan, The Maharajah could write and talk English with ease and accuracy. In Sanskrit he was a regular Pandit; in Malayalam, Tamil, Tclugu, Marathi and Hindustani, his attainments were of a high order. He was gifted with extraordinary intelligence and memory and keen insight. As observed by a Dewan since his time, himself a very clever man, “he could see through a wall”. He was a great vocal musician and liberally patronised music and the other Fine Arts. His musical accomplishments are to this day remembered with pleasure and admiration.
To quote Mr. Patrick McGuire, “The new Maharajah was extraordinarily intelligent, amiable to a fault, and had a power of accommodating himself gracefully to any society or circumstances”
He was naturally kind and forgiving, most polished in manners and as a Ruler most enlightened and constitutional in his ways. He pleased all who went to him, but he was a man of strong likes and dislikes. In the earlier years of his reign he was most generous and liberal. He was very punctual in his engagements and was well posted in the details of the administration retaining its main strings in his own hands.
As His Highness had often been consulted on State matters by the late Maharajah, he had acquired a good knowledge of the politics of his country. The Maharajah was besides peculiarly fortunate in having such counsellors as Mr. Maltby, “one of the ablest, the most experienced and large-hearted members of the Civil Service”, as the British Representative at his Court, and T. Madava Row who had already established his name as a successful administrator, as his Dewan.
Prince Rama Varma, who had by this time distinguished himself as a student, also helped his Royal brother in the carrying out of the several reforms which were so urgently needed for the State. It may be added here that the late Maharajah Martanda Varma always invited the opinions of his nephews on State questions, and encouraged them to join in a free discussion on them. This example naturally influenced the Maharajah in the treatment of his younger brother. He thus ascended the throne under favourable circumstances, and during his reign the State made a wonderful progress in several directions. In his Installation speech, His Highness observed —
“Called upon by the will of God to ascend the ancient Musnud of my ancestors, I trust I am fully sensible of the duties and responsibilities attached to my station. That the great object of a good Government, is the promotion of the well-being of its subjects, is a principle which I most cheerfully and cordially recognise, and it will be my care that this principle is fully and constantly kept in view. It is gratifying to observe that I have at the very outset of my career the opportunity to carry out several measures for the good of the country which have been already initiated in the time of my late lamented uncle. I may instance the proposed abolition of the Pepper Monopoly and the substitution of an Export duty. I may also instance the extension of Public Works and more especially the Victoria Martanda Varma Canal. These and such other measures as the country requires will steadily occupy my best attention, and will be prosecuted to the utmost extent that our resources will permit........................ And I am quite sure that there is no better way for Native Princes of India of gaining the approbation of the Great Queen who holds benevolent sway over these extensive realms, than by ensuring to their respective subjects the advantages of a peaceful, just and benevolent administration.”
The famine of 1036 M.E— Financial state of the country.
The year 1036 M.E (1860 A.D.), i.e the first year of His Highness’ reign, was one of the most unfavourable on record as regards the condition of the people and the finances of the country. The failure of the periodical rains affected the crops to a considerable extent and the scanty outturn the ryots expected also failed, a kind of black caterpillar having appeared and destroyed all the standing crops. The price of food therefore rose abnormally high and though grain was imported in large quantities in consequence of the suspension of the import duty on the part of the British Government and Travancore, the poorer classes still suffered a great deal and thousands died of hunger and starvation. The Government spared no pains to alleviate the sufferings of the poor by gratuitous distribution of food and clothes in several places and by providing the able-bodied with work on the roads and canals under construction. Private charity also contributed largely to the relief. The land revenue of the State fell by more than two lacs of rupees owing to the large remissions which became imperative. In concluding his Report for the year, the Dewan observed —
“I have thus briefly compared the financial results of a singularly adverse with those of a prosperous year and of course the gap is the more strikingly visible. But when an ordinary year is taken for comparison, when it is considered that upwards of two lacs of rupees had to be sanctioned in the land revenues of this year for the benefit of the ryots, that from reduction of taxation on tobacco and pepper, a further sacrifice was entailed on the Sircar to a still larger amount that most other sources of revenue were more or less influenced by the unfavourable seasons, that owing to the demise of His Highness the late Maharajah extra ceremonies had to be performed, which directly and indirectly caused an expenditure of about one lac; that the contingent charges had increased without any extravagance by about 73,000 rupees; when all these circumstances are considered, I venture to think that there is ample cause to congratulate this State that it felt no financial embarrassments even under such adverse combination of circumstances and that it was able, while materially sacrificing revenues for the benefit of the subjects, to afford substantial relief to the distressed who crowded in thousands, to allot the unprecedentedly large sum of Rs. 228,000 to Public Works and even to liquidate a good portion of the former year’s Public Debt and still to hand over a satisfactory balance for the expenses of the next year.”
Fiscal Reforms — Abolition of the monopolies
Reference has already been made to the oppressive monopolies, the most important of which was the Pepper monopoly which was all but formally abolished in the closing part of the last reign. A Royal Proclamation was issued on the 20th Tulam 1036 (13th November 1860), abolishing the monopoly and substituting a duty of 15 per cent ad valorem chargeable on all pepper exported from Travancore whether by land or sea. And to ensue the fullest encouragement to the increased production of pepper, it was at the same time notified that no special tax would be imposed on pepper vines, but that where land had been granted for pepper cultivation the Sirkar reserved to itself the right of taxing it according to its quality and in reference to the value of its produce.
Hitherto the Sirkar made direct purchases of tobacco of various kinds by entering into contracts with individuals for the supply of the requisite quantities at stipulated periods. The tobacco so supplied was brought into the country by certain appointed routes only and under precautions against smuggling and was lodged in large warehouses whence it was distributed under permits to the Sirkar bankshalls, from which again it was sold at monopoly rates to private dealers. These in their turn sold the stuff by retail throughout the country at increased prices.
The monopoly rates being abnormally high, there was a great temptation for smuggling. Again the abolition of the monopoly system in Malabar dealt a serious blow at the Sirkar monopoly and greatly facilitated the operations of the smugglers from Cochin, Anjengo and Tangasseri. A duty of Rs. 150 per candy imposed at the British port of Cochin effectively checked smuggling for a time, but the abolition of the duty shortly after and the relaxation of the monopoly in the State of Cochin, seriously affected the revenues of Travancore. As the finances of the State did not allow of any reform in the system, the monopoly was allowed to continue. But now that enormous facilities were offered for contraband trade, and the British Government could not be prevailed upon to levy a protective duty at Cochin, it became imperatively necessary to relax the monopoly.
The selling rates were considerably lowered and this was attended with fair success. There were still many evils incidental to the monopoly system, viz., (1) it was always very difficult to engage individual contractors for the supply of the large quantities required by the Sirkar (2) the contract system gave ample scope for many grave malpractices in spite of every effort to check them (3) the frequent failure on the part of the contractor to perform his engagements seriously retarded the monopoly sales and affected the revenue derivable therefrom, and (4) the tobacco supplied was often very inferior to that offered in competition by the smugglers. These and other cognate evils led to the sanction of His Highness the Maharajah in 1039 M.E (1863-1864 A.D.) for the abolition of the monopoly and the substitution of an import duty, the trade being thrown open to all. These measures were approved by the Madras Government who expressed “their great satisfaction afforded by the liberal measures sanctioned by His Highness”.
The abolition of the Tobacco monopoly was a stroke of statesmanship reflecting the highest credit on Dewan Madava Row. It entailed a somewhat large fiscal sacrifice at the time. But subsequent history showed the absolute correctness of the reform. We find that while in 1856-1857, the last year of Krishna Row’s administration, when the monopoly was in full swing, 3,460 candies were sold which brought in a net revenue of Rs. 848,978, in 1868-1869 the import duty on 8,150 candies brought in a revenue of Rs. 836,684. “Thus while a world of the most heinous crimes was made no longer possible, while their still worse demoralising influence was removed, while trade was largely unfettered, and while the innocent enjoyment of a luxury by the million was favoured, the loss to the Sirkar was brought down to the paltry sum of Rs. 12,294.”
Freedom of interportal trade
By Act VI of 1848 the coasting trade of British India was freed from all duties, but Travancore did not come within the scope of the measure. Consequently the exports from and imports to Travancore had to pay a heavy foreign duty at the British ports. But Travancore had free access by land to the port of British Cochin except that a light duty was levied by the Cochin Sirkar on goods in transit. It was therefore more advantageous for a merchant to take Travancore goods by land to British Cochin in the first place and thence transport them to other parts of British India. The same was the case with the imports also. Thus much of the trade of the Travancore ports had been diverted to British Cochin, while in the natural order of things the trade of Travancore must be directly between her own ports and those of British India.
“This unnatural diversion of trade has subjected it to trouble, expense and delay, while it has almost paralysed the action of the ports of Travancore, especially of Alleppey with all its remarkable natural advantages which have been largely added to by the construction of a first-rate Light House and other improvements effected by the Sircar. But all this evil is not compensated by advantage to the British Government, which has to some extent missed its aim in point of revenue so far as this country is concerned, and has been unconsciously instrumental only in throwing a handsome revenue into the Treasury of the Cochin Sircar at the expense of Travancore.”*
NOTEs: * Administration Report for 1038 M.E (1862-1863 A.D.).
With a view to remedy this state of affairs and to remove the fiscal restrictions upon the trade between Travancore and the British Government, the Madras Government in July 1863 consented to grant freedom of interportal trade subject to the following conditions, viz.,
1. The free admission of British Indian produce into the Native States by land and sea with the exception of certain articles which are either the subject of monopoly or produce so large a revenue that they cannot at present be admitted without financial danger to the State, e. g. tobacco,
2. the levy of British rates of duties on all foreign produce imported into the States with similar exceptions,
3. the adoption of the same course in regard to the produce of the Native States when exported therefrom,
4. the Native States to raise their salt tax to the same level as that of the Madras Government, and
5. the adoption of the British tariff valuation.
The concessions in return were — (1) The admission of Travancore produce into British Indian ports free of all duty, excepting for opium, salt, wines and spirits, and (2 The Travancore duties, so far as the British Government consider them equitable, to be levied on the excepted articles at British Cochin and the customs receipts of the port to be shared between the British Government and those States in such proportions as a commission specially to be named for the purpose might consider just.
After considerable discussion, the above arrangements were acceded to by the Travancore Government, and a Commercial Treaty was accordingly concluded between Travancore on the one hand and the British Government and the Cochin Sirkar on the other. The sanction of the Government of India having been duly received, the Madras Government gave effect to the above proposals from the 1st of June 1865. In pursuance of this Treaty, the British Government now pay to the Travancore Government a fixed sum (Rs. 40,000) annually in the shape of compensation for the loss the latter sustains by allowing free access into Travancore to goods other than the produce or manufacture of British India, and which may have already paid duty at British Indian custom houses.
Dewan Madava Row introduced several useful reforms for the better conduct of work in the Judicial Department. In 1861 the British Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes were introduced into the Travancore Courts; the name of the Chief Court or Appeal Court was changed into ‘Sadar Court’; the three Sessions Courts and the five Zillah Courts were abolished and in their place four District Courts were established invested with civil and criminal powers; the scale of punishments prescribed in the Indian Penal Code was adopted as far as its provisions were suited to the peculiar customs and institutions of the State, and Courts of Small Causes were also created.
In 1038 M.E (1862-1863), the system under which civil and criminal functions were performed in the Sadar Court was remodelled instead of all the Judges sitting at the same time to hear both civil and criminal cases, the reformed Court consisted of two sides, the Civil and Criminal, each being presided over by two Judges who bi-annually took their turn of duty. In 1864 one of the best judicial officers of the Madras Presidency and a school-fellow of Madava Row, Mr. M. Sadasiva Pillai, then Principal Sadar Amin of Madura, was appointed Chief Justice of the Travancore Sadar Court.
“In moral rectitude, in judicial experience, in mature and dispassionate judgment, in the correct comprehension of the aim of legislation and in powers of application, he had not had his superiors among the natives of India. Travancore owes to him no small debt of gratitude for the great reforms which he in conjunction with Dewan Madava Row had effected in the administration of justice.”
In 1040 M.E (1864-1865), a Regulation was passed for the appointment of duly qualified Vakils to plead in the Courts. The salaries of the Judges were largely raised. Tannas and Magisterial Courts were established in many places and the functions of the Police and Magistracy were better defined. The Police force was strengthened and their status improved with the result that crimes of a heinous nature vastly decreased. To quote the Dewan, “The most notorious offenders have been apprehended and organised crime no longer exists. Life and property are secure and the strong arm of protection of the Sirkar is confided in by the people generally.” In the same year the Law of Limitation was introduced from British India in a slightly modified form to suit local conditions.
In 1861 the Sirkar Anchal (Postal Service) was thrown open to the public and arrangements were made for the conveyance of private letters at rates framed on the British Indian model.
The Dewan also turned his attention to the general system of taxation prevalent in the country. Several important measures were adopted in 1040 M.E (1864-1865 A.D.), all more or less bearing on land or the revenue derived from land. Long-standing arrears of land tax which hung heavily on the ryots and afforded considerable scope for oppression on the part of petty officials were remitted up to a definite period (1030 M.E), as also arrears of tax due on newly reclaimed land up to 1035 M.E A number of minor taxes, upwards of one hundred, which used to be a source of vexation and embarrassment, were abolished. The export and import duties were largely cut down and in one heavily taxed district (Nanjanad), the land tax also was reduced.
A Notification was issued prescribing a certain maximum rate of tax and ordering that all existing taxation in the Nanjanad in excess of that maximum rate should be reduced at once to that standard. But the most important measure carried out in that year was the enfranchisement of Sirkar Pattom lands and the removal of the uncertainties attached to the Pattom tenure. Sir Madava Row himself thus explains the nature of the tenure and the disabilities incidental to it —
“The Sirkar was considered the Sole Jenmie — Merassi holder — or the landlord of these lands. The ryots in possession of these lands held them of the Sirkar, just as the tenants of an ordinary Jenmie or Merassidar hold lands of him. Many serious disadvantages attached to this tenure as a consequence of its character. The Sirkar was supposed to have the absolute dominion of a landlord over these lands, limited only by its own considerations of self interest. It seems that the Sirkar was not bound to respect possession. It was thought that the lands could, in some cases, be resumed at the Sirkar’s pleasure, though this was not often done in practice.
“Sirkar Pauttom lands could not be legally sold by one ryot to another, for the reason, he was a simple tenant, and could not act as a proprietor. If a sale were nevertheless effected, it was deemed invalid and the Sirkar had the right to ignore the transaction altogether. When a sale was executed, it was done clandestinely and in a most circuitous manner, involving an infraction of the truth at almost every step. As Sirkar Pauttom land could not be legally sold, such land was no security for the tax payable on it. When the tax on such land had to be levied by coercive process, the land could not, of course be brought to sale, but the Sirkar had to seek out other property of the defaulter, and on failure, the demand had to be remitted.
“As sales were illegal, mortgages were also equally so and thus the tenant was unable to borrow capital on the security of his Pauttom lands, though such capital were required for the improvement of those very lands. It was only carrying out the pernicious principle to refuse to accept Pauttom lands as security for public servants, for public contracts, &c., nor could Pauttom lands be sold by the Civil Courts of the country in execution of decrees. The judgment creditor was not therefore at liberty to regard the Pauttom lands in the possession of his debtor as any assets available for the satisfaction of the just debt.
“The Sirkar steadily refused to assent to any action on the part of the tenant, such as was calculated to establish any pecuniary interest of his in the Pauttom lands forming his holding. This was carried so far that if a ryot asked to be permitted to spend capital in improving his lands, the Sirkar told him that he might do so if he liked, but that the Sirkar would not recognise the improvement, or respect any claim to consequent pecuniary interest in the property. Following out the system, no price or a mere nominal price was paid by the Sirkar for Pauttom lands resumed for public purposes, such as for roads, canals, public buildings.”*
NOTEs: * Administration Report for 1040 (1864-1865 A.D.)
To remedy these evils, His Highness the Maharajah was pleased to issue a Notification in June 1865 declaring all Pattom lands to be private, heritable and saleable property, thus placing them on the same footing as the Ryotwari lands of the Madras Presidency. This was followed by another beneficent Notification, under date 8th May 1867, ensuring fixity of tenure and unrestricted continuity of enjoyment of his holding to the agricultural ryot.
Dewan Madava Row thus summarises the important changes effected up to 1865 A.D.*—
NOTEs: * Administration Report for 1040 (1864-1865 A.D.)
“Comparing the present condition of Travancore with that of several years ago, the progress made seems encouraging. All public debts have been discharged; public salaries have been raised by about 1,76,000 Rs.; a scheme of retiring pensions to public servants is in operation; the great and pernicious Monopolies of pepper and tobacco have been abolished, and this, without the necessity of the Sirkar availing itself of the considerate offer of the British Government to allow the payment of the subsidy to be suspended; customs duties have been liberally reduced or remitted. While the impost on salt exacts the minimum tax which even the poorer subjects are bound to pay to the State for the benefit of Government, all other necessaries of life are free of duty. The richer classes are made to contribute by such taxes on luxuries as are scarcely felt to be burdensome, while timber, cardamoms, pepper fec., staples, of which Travancore may be said to have a natural Monopoly, yield a pretty considerable portion of the Public revenue, such as can scarcely affect the earnings of the subjects of this country.
“The land tax, where excessive, has been abated; the tenure of land itself has been rendered far more secure by declaring all Pattom lands to be henceforth private, heritable and saleable property. The native is reclaiming wastes in the plains, and the European is utilising the forests on the mountains — the two classes thus working apart and peaceably. Numerous minor vexatious taxes have been abolished, and several rights for gratuitous services (called Oolium) have been surrendered.
“By increased pay and better prospects, as well as by strict supervision the standard of the efficiency and morality of the public service has been much raised. The Police does its duty incomparably better and the judicial administration has much risen in public confidence. A distinct department for carrying on useful public works has been organised and is laying out several lacs of rupees annually in this direction. The benefits of education are rapidly extending in the country and Medical aid is being placed more and more within the reach of the people. After having paid off debts, and after having answered the growing wants of good administration, during a series of years, the revenues of the State have left a good balance for future improvements.”
This gratifying state of affairs received the following handsome compliment from the Madras Government in their Review of the Administration Report for 1040 M.E (1864-1865 A.D.)
“The financial position of the Travancore State still continues to be very satisfactory and is most creditable to His Highness the Rajah and to his experienced and able Dewan Madava Row ..................
“The state of the administration is not less satisfactory than the condition of the finances. It is evident that considerable progress is being made in improving the Judicial administration, by raising the salaries and qualifications of the Judges and abolishing various anomalous systems of procedure which must have seriously interfered with the impartial administration of justice.
“His Excellency notices with much satisfaction the measures which have been and are being carried on for improving the Revenue administration, by the late revision of the interportal duties, by the enfranchisement of the crown lands, by the abolition of objectionable taxes and by the reduction of the land tax, the encouragement which has been given to cultivation of coffee and other exotics, the erection of a suitable range of buildings for the Public offices at the capital; the extension of education, the organisation of an efficient vaccine department and the progress which is being made in abolishing forced labour and in removing the restrictions on the dress of females of the lower classes. The enlightened principles which have guided the policy of His Highness the Rajah in the administration of his country are well set forth in the address delivered on the occasion of His Highness’ laying the first stone of the new Public Offices. The address in question has been recorded in these Proceedings and will be brought to the special notice of the Secretary of State and of the Government of India.”
The Secretary of State’s Despatch to the Governor of Madras fully endorsed these views —
“The financial results of the administration of Travancore for 1864-1865 are, on the whole, satisfactory, and the surplus of Rupees 190,770 by which the Revenue exceeds the expenditure appears to have been secured notwithstanding heavy reduction of taxation, under the enlightened and able administration of the Revenue Department by the Dewan Madava Row. The surplus is the more gratifying in that improvements carried out in some cases at considerable expense have been introduced into other Departments of the administration, and the Public Works have, by no means, been neglected.
“Her Majesty’s Government have especially noticed with satisfaction the endeavours made to place on a better footing the administration of justice, and to raise the position and emoluments of public servants generally. Connected with these very necessary improvements, is the provision of proper offices for the transaction of the business of the State, and I observe with gratification the personal interest taken by His Highness the Rajah in this matter and have perused with great pleasure the statement made by His Highness (on the occasion of laying the first stone of the new edifice) of the enlightened principles which guide his policy.
“The endeavours made by His Highness to improve the condition of his people, to diffuse education and remove arbitrary social distinctions, deserve and have met with the warm approbation of Her Majesty’s Government.”
The following extracts from His Highness’ speech on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the new Public Offices, Trivandrum, which received the warm approbation of Her Majesty’s Secretary of State may be quoted here with advantage, as the speech forms a manifesto of His Highness’ policy —
“It is gratifying to me to be enabled to press forward improvements in various directions. It is true that no limit can be assigned to our progress and it can never be given to any ruler, however powerful or favoured, to say that he has done everything for his subjects. On the contrary, what a single ruler can possibly do in a life of incessant activity, must form but a small fraction of what may be due to the country. The life-time of an individual is but as a day in the life-time of a nation. Yet, it is no less our duty to exert our utmost energies to prove useful in our generation.
“Secure under the aegis of the British Queen from external violence, it is our pleasant, and, if rightly understood, by no means difficult task to develop prosperity and to multiply the triumphs of peace in our territories. Nor are the Native States left to pursue this task in the dark, alone and unaided ..................
“More immediately they have the advantage of the enlightened guidance of the British Government itself. Looking at that Government as a reflex of the British nation, it is undoubtedly true that it is actuated by the noblest philanthropy, that it sincerely wishes for the greatest happiness of the greatest portion of the globe. Of course small States, like the Native States of India, come under the beneficial influence of that comprehensive feeling, as much as great countries, and hence we may rest assured that we cannot establish a stronger claim to the sympathy and support of that great Government than by a full conception, and a steady performance of the duty of securing the greatest happiness of those whose welfare is in our hands........................
“‘These are more commonplaces in the view of the European part of the community I have the pleasure of addressing, but they require to be expressed, repeated and enforced till they come to be regarded as commonplaces by all Native States. Such being my view, I am prepared to do all that lies in my power towards making Travancore an honourable example of Native good government, and in this endeavour, I trust to have the hearty co-operation of all parties.
“I must take this opportunity to impress one important truth on my Native subjects, and this is that the realisation of our hopes depends not in a great measure, but entirely, upon their advancement in moral and intellectual culture. If knowledge is power in individuals, it is equally a source of power to communities. It is knowledge that now chiefly constitutes the difference between one nation and another. What is required then is that education should permeate all the parts of this community. Minds thus fortified are alone capable m these days of claiming a share in the management of public affairs of the highest order. It is only such minds that are at all capable of sustaining the respectability of a State in the view of the enlightened public. And I must add that the vigour, if not the vitality, of Native States depends upon the number of such minds that are brought to bear upon the administration. The bulk of the people too should advance in knowledge suited to their position. They must know everything about their own country and something about other countries.
“The preliminary step for this is to cast off those erroneous notions which have indeed been generated and fostered by long insulation, but which are incompatible with the association of races. Let each by all means enjoy to the fullest extent possible the freedom of thought and action, let each have his own views on all subjects, but let none interfere with another’s liberty of the same nature....................I proceed to lay the first foundation stone of the Public Offices. In doing so, I fervently implore the blessing of Almighty God. May He ever guide with His boundless wisdom those who are to administer the affairs of the country in these buildings.”
Regulation I of 1037 was amended in 1041 M.E (1865-1866 A.D.), and a single Judge of the Zillah Court was authorised to try and decide civil or criminal cases, instead of all the Judges being required to constitute a Court as under the old Regulation. In cases of particular importance, however, provision had been made for more than one Judge sitting in judgment. Regulation II of 1041 revised the jurisdiction of the Munsiffs; their pecuniary jurisdiction was considerably extended; their award was declared final in certain petty cases and the right of appeal from the Zillah Court was limited in certain cases.
The last of the Regulations passed in that year provided for the admission of Approvers in criminal cases. In 1043 M.E., an improved system of Registration of Deeds was brought into force, and arrangements made to open Registration Offices at convenient centres throughout the country.
The Sadar Court being composed of four Judges, it sometimes happened that at a sitting of the Full Bench the Judges were equally divided in opinion; in such cases no decree could be arrived at and they used to be referred for the commands of His Highness the Maharajah. Regulation I of 1047 cleared this difficulty, it being enacted that, when such a division occurred, the opinion of the Senior Judge should prevail and be pronounced as the decree or order of the Court. The Regulation also provided for a difference of opinion at the sitting of an even number of Judges short of the Full Bench, in which case another Judge of the Court was to be called in, unless before the call was agreed to, one of the Judges required that the subject be referred to a Full Bench. This was the last reform of Sir Madava Row in the Judicial Department.
The cause of Education was dear to Sir Madava Row, and it made rapid strides during his administration. A fully equipped Arts College at Trivandrum, scores of English and Vernacular schools all over the country, Girl’s schools, and a Book-Committee for the preparation of the necessary text-books, are so many beacon-lights that mark his career in Travancore.
The organisation of special Department of Vernacular Education claims our special notice. The necessity for establishing proper Vernacular schools conducted on a sound basis forced itself on the consideration of Government for some time and about the close of 1041 M.E (1865 A. D.). The Maharajah sanctioned an annual expenditure of Rs.20,000 in this direction. The scheme comprised the establishment of a Central Vernacular School at the capital, a school in each Taluq of the State, a Normal School for the training of teachers and the formation of a Book-Committee composed of a President and three members who should translate or compile such works as were in common use in English schools, the whole to be supervised by a Director of Vernacular Education with the assistance of two Inspectors whose duty it was to periodically inspect the schools and report upon them. These proposals were duly brought into force from the beginning of 1042 M.E, and Mr. Shungrasoobyer was selected for the post of Director.
Hand in hand with Education, Medical dispensation also progressed very satisfactorily. In 1860 i.e towards the close of the previous reign there were only six hospitals in the whole State, three in the capital and three in the mofussil. In the course of twelve years the number of medical institutions had increased to twenty-four. There were founded a large Civil Hospital to which was attached a Lying-in-hospital and a Lunatic Asylum in Trivandrum, also about ten District Hospitals besides Jail and other dispensaries. The personnel of the department was greatly improved. and Vaccination was also satisfactorily carried on under a special Superintendent, who in addition to directing the vaccinators and inspecting their work was also entrusted with the duty of inspecting the out-station hospitals, treating such as might come on his way and suggesting measures for improving the sanitary condition of the places he might’ visit.
And last but not least, the Public Works Department worked with zeal and energy. To Sir Madava Row is due the credit of having established and fostered it and developed the latent resources of the country by the unstinted expansion of Public Works which have materially conduced to the prosperity and convenience of His Highness’ subjects and to his own popularity and lasting fame. He wrote in one of his Reports: —
“The Government of His Highness must distinctly disclaim any desire to hoard up surplus revenues. Nothing can be more obvious to those who have any pretensions to an acquaintance with fiscal science than the impolicy of abstracting funds from the hands of the people where they would largely fructify, to be only shut up in the vaults of the treasury or even invested so as to yield a low interest. The only justification for levying a revenue larger than the requirements of the ordinary expenditure consists in the laying out of the Surplus, in the construction of useful public works which would not otherwise come into existence. It is the earnest wish of this Government to multiply such Works. In view to this a regular P. W. D. was organised some years since and the requisite agency secured. But owing to causes which could not be much controlled, this Department has been slow in rising to a level with the work before it. There is, however, now every reason to hope that the Department will hereafter fulfil its high mission. If it would only perfect existing canals and roads, and add some hundreds of miles of both, a vast impulse will be imparted to industry.” *
NOTEs: * Administration Report for 1043 (1867-1868 A.D.).
There is no more striking index of the expansion of Public Works since the organisation of the Department in 1860, than the fact that the expenditure had in the course of twelve years increased from one lac to 13 ½ lacs or nearly two-seventh of the normal gross revenue of the State. The country which eight years previously had only one cart-road, viz., from Trivandrum through the Aramboly pass, had now been thoroughly opened up in all directions. Nearly one thousand miles of roads had already been constructed or in fair progress. A great deal had also been done in the opening of useful canals, channels and irrigation works, bridging of numerous streams, the cleansing of towns and villages and the renovation of ancient temples and palaces. Many public buildings &c. had sprung up, as for instance the Alleppey lighthouse, the large and spacious range of Public Offices and the Civil Hospital at Trivandrum, Court-houses, hospitals and numerous edifices of no mean importance at out-stations. Among works newly begun may be mentioned the construction of the Varkala tunnels, a gigantic feat of engineering, a commodious College House at Trivandrum, and The Punalur Suspension Bridge.
Important political events
SUNNUD OF ADOPTION The Governor of Madras, Sir William Denison, K. C. B., forwarded to His Highness the Maharajah on the 30th of April 1862, a Sunnud issued under the orders of Her Gracious Majesty, and signed by her Viceroy, conveying the assurance that on failure of natural heirs, the British Government would permit and confirm the adoption of any person as successor made by His Highness or any of his successors in accordance with the laws and customs of the State.
VISIT OF THE GOVERNOR OF MADRAS Sir William Denison visited Travancore in October 1862 and met with a right Royal welcome throughout his tour, as was usual on such occasions. He was delighted with the Maharajah, his country and the people and Lady Denison has contributed to Sir William’s book* bright sketches of the scenes and personages she met with in the tour.
NOTEs: * Varieties of Vice-Regal Life - Denison. Published in 1870.
Of the State Visit of the Maharajah to the Governor at the Residency, she writes in her journal of October 21 —
“The Rajah paid W____ a state visit yesterday, and it was an amusing sight. The long drawing-room was prepared for it by having chairs and sofas, in a long semi-oval, round the room, and we were told off beforehand to the seats which we were to occupy during the ceremony. W — and the Rajah were to sit together on the sofa at the upper end of the room; I on the nearest chair on W ___’s right-hand, and next to me Prince Rama Varma. ................... Having made all these arrangements, we went out into the veranda to watch for his coming.
“There was a guard of honour posted and all the different European gentlemen came dropping in one by one. By-and-by we heard a salute, the signal that the great man had started from his palace; but he went very slow; and it was a long time before the near sound of native drums announced that he was entering these grounds. The first thing that appeared was a magnificent elephant; then came a horse with a man sitting far back nearly on his tail, as boys do on donkeys in England, beating a pair of kettle-drums; then five or six more led horses; then a tolerable band of military music; then all the Rajah’s troops, cavalry and infantry, amounting to about 1,800 men; then some discordant native music; and by and by the Rajah himself, sitting enthroned on a high state car, drawn by six white horses, with all sorts of fans and flags waving about him.
“After him came the Prince in an ordinary carriage, and then four or five more elephants; but I did not see this part of the procession, for we were called in hastily to take our seats. The Rajah is about 32 years old, but looks older; stout and portly, with a sort of jolly, comfortable- looking face. He was dressed in gold brocade, studded over with emeralds; this dress was shaped something like an Englishman’s dressing gown and on his head he wore a sort of cap, with a beautiful plume of bird of paradise feathers. He is an intelligent man, and speaks very good English, and he and W_______ seemed to be getting on capitally, but I had not time to listen to them, as I was labouring, with great toil and trouble, to keep a conversation with the Prince, who, though he also speaks English well, is shy, and not so conversable as the Rajah. He also was dressed in gold brocade, but duly inferior in splendour to his brother.
“After about a quarter of an hour of this work, W____, according to previous instructions, made a sign, and a peon brought forward a tray covered over with a cloth on which were garlands of flowers, one of which W_____ was to put round the Rajah’s neck and two others round his arms.
“It was all that I could do not to laugh during this part of ceremony, it looked so very absurd, particularly as the large garland on being put over the Rajah’s head, caught somehow on the back of his cap, and Mr. Fisher had to come behind him and set it all to rights again. W____, however, kept his countenance admirably. Then another tray of flowers was brought in with which he similarly decorated the Prince and then they took their departure. The whole show was the best, and the least trumpery I have yet seen in India. The Rajah’s state car was really handsome, and so was his dress.”
Of the State Dinner she observes —
“Our state dinner with the Rajah yesterday was a fairy-like scene more like a spectale in a pantomime than anything in real life .................The whole road from the Residency to the palace about a mile and a half, were illuminated by a line of bamboo frames with three rows of lights hung on each; and, as if this was not light enough, there were numbers of men running by the sides of the carriages with torches; and at every turn of the road very powerful blue lights were lighted in succession just as we came up; and really the effect of all this—— the blaze of blue light illuminating the thick trees and showing off the carriages, the cantering escort of cavalry, and the crowds of native spectators, — was beautiful, particularly at a place where the road by a piece of still water, in which all the lights were reflected. .... At the palace door stood Prince Rama Vurmah, who offered me his arm, and handed me upstairs to the drawing-room, where we were met by the Rajah, dressed in a dark blue velvet dress, rather hot, I should think, for this climate, but still handsome, and in real good taste, rich, but with nothing gaudy about it.
“This velvet tunic reached about half way down his legs, and below it appeared a pair of white muslin trousers and bare feet. He had on a beautiful collar of diamonds, and diamond ear-rings; a white turban with the bird of paradise plume and a quantity of little emeralds attached to the ends of the plume, just to give it weight enough to make it hang gracefully; — a gold chain went round his turban, with some large emeralds hanging in front of it. The dress was made quite plain, without any trimming or ornament, except a sort of little wristbands of pearls, which stood out well on the blue velvet. The Prince (Visakham Thirunal) was also in dark blue, but his dress was slightly trimmed with lace, and he wore no jewels, nor any plume in his turban.............By-and-by dinner was announced.
“The Rajah offered me his arm and led the way into the dining room, which opened from the long straight part of the drawing-room. The dining room was a mass of looking-glass — a long room with pier glasses, not here and there only, but rows of them all down the sides. The room was narrow in proportion to its length, but still wide enough to admit of the servants passing with ease round the table it was lighted by a row of glass chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and there were standing lamps on the table besides.
“The dinner was altogether English. The Rajah sat in the centre of one side of the table, with me on his right-hand and W____ on his left. The Prince handed in S__ __ , and placed himself opposite us, with her on his right band and Mr. Fisher on his left. No natives sat at the table except the Rajah and the Prince. His dewan or prime minister, was in the drawing-room before dinner and after, dressed in white muslin and gold but he did not come in to dinner, because it is not etiquette for him to sit down in the presence of the Rajah. Their Hindoo religion does not permit the Rajah and the Prince to eat with Christians, so they merely sat in their chairs without touching the table, and talked with us while we ate. The Rajah is very conversable.”
From Quilon she wrote again (28th October 1862):-
“I must resume my history, but I really despair of ever keeping pace with the events of this travelling time, still more of being able to give an adequate idea in writing of all the scenes which arise in these Eastern travels: such a succession of pictures: such gay spectacles and amusing sights; sometimes with a strong dash of the absurd, but always with a much stronger of the picturesque; so that this journey has altogether been a time abounding in Enjoyment.
“On Saturday afternoon we were to pay a private visit at the Palace, for the purpose of seeing the young ‘Ranees’, the Rajah’s nieces. I do not suppose gentlemen in general are allowed to see them, but W___ was specially invited, and also Mr. Fisher. We went at 5 o’clock, and were met at the door by the Rajah, who took us up to the drawing-room, and moved about in a quiet, sensible way, without any attendants or fuss, going out himself to fetch these poor children, who were not in the room when we arrived. In they came presently, following him two girls, one not quite fifteen, the other eleven; both small for their age, and so cumbered with their dress and ornaments that it seemed almost difficult to them to walk........
“After sitting thus for a few minutes, we rose and took our departure; but it was not our final farewell of the Rajah, for he paid a quiet visit at the Residency that evening, coming in just as we had finished dinner, without any fuss or parade, except that W____ and Mr. Fisher went out to meet him and the rest of us all stood up as he entered; and then he sat quietly down, and spent the evening like anybody else. In fact he is really a sensible, kind-hearted man and he is said to have been very much pleased with W____’s visit, and to have liked talking over general and useful subjects with him.”*
NOTEs: * Varieties of Vice-Regal Life - Denison, Vol. II. Page 213
THE MAHARAJAH’S FIRST VISIT TO MADRAS. In the same year (1038 M.E.), His Highness the Maharajah paid a return visit to the Government of Madras at the Presidency capital itself. This is remarkable as being the first visit of the kind ever undertaken by a Travancore Maharajah.
VISIT OF THE COCHIN RAJAH. His Highness the Rajah of Cochin paid a visit His Highness at Trivandrum in 1866. A meeting of these two rulers of neighbouring States had not taken place since the time of the famous Rama Rajah. Hence it was a source of much reciprocal congratulations as it was calculated to confirm the amicable relations subsisting between the two States. His Highness arrived on the evening of the 4th November 1866, accompanied by his Dewan and staff, and was received by the First Prince at the landing place, and after mutual exchange of compliments, the two drove to the Fort in procession escorted by the troops of the State. On the 6th there were arranged races and other sports and in the evening the Public Gardens were illuminated. On the evening of the 7th there was a grand display of fire-works in front of the Durbar Hall in the Fort, after which the Rajah took leave of His Highness and left for Cochin.
THE TITLE OF MAHARAJAH. A. Public Durban was held on the 9th of November 1866, to receive the Kharita from the Viceroy conferring on His Highness the title of Maharajah in recognition of his excellent administration of Travancore. The following Notification* appeared in the Gazette of India —
“In recognition of the excellent administration of the Travancore State by the present Rajah, the Right Honourable the Viceroy and Governor General of India in Council is pleased to direct that His Highness shall be addressed by the title of Maharajah in all communications from the British Government.”
NOTEs: * No. 803-Political, dated 6th August 1866.
This title has since been declared an hereditary distinction.
THE SERINGAPATAM MEDAL. On the 31st December 1866, the Resident forwarded to the Maharajah a gold medal struck in commemoration of the capture of Seringapatnam, received from the Madras Government. The medal was received at Madras from the late Court of Directors as far back as 1808, but by some unaccountable oversight it was not delivered then.
HIS HIGHNESS’ APPOINTMENT AS G. C. S. I., AND VISIT TO MADRAS. In March 1866, the Governor of Madras intimated to His Highness that Her Majesty Queen Victoria had been graciously pleased to confer upon him the high and exalted dignity of “Knight Grand Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India”. The Madras Government also deputed Col. A. Stewart of the Royal Artillery to deliver personally to His Highness the Kharita of the Viceroy as the Grand Master of the of the Order, giving cover to Her Majesty’s grant. A Public Darbar was held on the 15th June of that year and the Queen’s grant was received with every mark of honour, being escorted on one of the State elephants from the Residency in a procession by all the chief officers of the State, European and Native.
On the 20th of January 1867, His Highness the Maharajah started for Madras to receive the Insignia of the Order personally from His Excellency the Governor. His Highness reached Madras on the 27th and was received by Lord Napier and staff at the station with every mark of honour. The presentation of the Insignia took place at Government House on the evening of the 15th of February. After the formalities were over and the Queen’s grant was read His Excellency addressed His Highness in the following eloquent terms: —
“Maharajah, — When I take a view of the position which Your Highness occupies, I am constrained to admire the good fortune which surrounds you. In the midst of many vicissitudes, your ancient house has survived not only with undiminished but with increasing lustre. You govern the beautiful and quiet heritage of your forefathers in peace and honour, far from danger and disturbance; you enjoy the attachment of your own people, which is the cheap defence of rulers; you have the inclination and the power to do good. In this state of prosperity, in this career of usefulness, you are overshadowed and defended by the friendship, protection and counsels of our August and Gracious Queen, who has this day sent you by my hands the highest token of her approval and regard.............. The visit which Your Highness has paid to this Presidency is a subject of equal satisfaction to the Indian people and to the English Government. Your countrymen are gratified in seeing and saluting a Prince whom they contemplate with national sympathy and pride. The Government of this Presidency do not only consider Your Highness as a political ally;— they recognise you as a friend in thought and in heart, as an auxiliary in promoting the civilisation and welfare of a portion of the great nation which has been committed to Her Majesty’s general and superior charge.”
On the same day, Dewan T. Madava Row also was presented with the Insignia of the Order of Knighthood of the Star of India (K. C. S. T) an honour but rarely conferred in recent limes. Lord Napier addressed Sir Madava Row thus —
“Sir Madava Row, — ‘The Government and the people of Madras are happy to welcome you back to a place where you laid the foundation of these distinguished qualities which have become conspicuous and useful on another scene. The mark of Royal favour which you have this day received will prove to you that the attention and generosity of our Gracious Sovereign are not circumscribed to the circle of her immediate dependents, but that Her Majesty regards the faithful service rendered to the Princes and people of India beyond the boundaries of our direct administration as rendered indirectly to herself and to her representatives in this Empire. Continue to serve the Maharajah industriously and wisely, reflecting the intelligence and virtues of His Highness faithfully to his people. The mission in which you are engaged has more than a local and transitory significance. Remember, that the spectacle of a good Indian Minister serving a good Indian Sovereign is one which may have a lasting influence on the policy of England and on the future of Native Governments.”
Visit of Lord and Lady Napier. On the 20th February 1868, Their Excellencies Lord and Lady Napier visited Trivandrum. Their Excellencies found in His Highness a most amiable and accomplished Prince and one who took particular interest in the promotion of western culture among his subjects. They visited the several institutions in the capital of His Highness’ kingdom and were extremely satisfied with the manner in which they were managed. A Public Durbar was held and a State Dinner given in honour of the distinguished guests. The party left for Madras on the 29th February. In his Banquet speech His Excellency thus gracefully referred to His Highness the Maharajah:-
“The Maharajah has been blessed and favoured beyond all the Princes of India in the possession of a country which has been saved from the vicissitudes and sufferings which political events and the accidents of Nature have inflicted in so large a measure elsewhere. He has inherited from his predecessors peace and opulence and the affection of his subjects, and the friendship of a Powerful and benevolent protector, our Gracious Sovereign. But the Maharajah has proved himself worthy of this splendid inheritance. He has been equal to his fortune. The benefits which Providence has conferred upon him he has conferred on others. It forms no part of my design to enumerate in this place the wise innovations which His Highness has originated or continued.
“You have all been witnesses of the examples of a humane and enlightened administration of which the capital is the scene. I will only notice a peculiar feature in His Highness’ course which is very rare in the history of reforming Princes. The Maharajah has held a judicious and prudent middle way, avoiding all extremes; conservative by temperament, liberal by intelligence, he preserves the confidence of his own people, while he satisfies abroad the discriminating expectation of a progressive age. Ladies and Gentlemen. — We offer up our warmest aspirations that this blameless, gentle and useful life may long be preserved, that the good designs of the Maharajah may be continued and developed, and that when his honourable career is closed, he may be remembered not only as the best but as the happiest sovereign of his race.”
PALLIPORT. It was in the year 1045 (1870 A.D.), that the Government assumed the direct management of the small but rich tract known as Palliport, which had till then been leased out successively to influential landlords for terms of years.
“This tract was purchased by Travancore from the Dutch power in the latter part of the last century and is historically important, as the transaction was objected to by Tippoo Sultan of Mysore, and led to the war which ensued between him and the Rajah of Travancore, and which drew down upon that Moslem Prince the stern vengeance of Lord Cornwallis. The forts of Cranganore and Ayacotta, which played so prominent a part in those times are situate in this tract, but in a state of complete ruin.”*
NOTEs: * Administration Report for 1045 M.E. (1869-1870 A.D.).
HIS HIGHNESS’ THIRD VISIT TO MADRAS. H. R. H. the Duke of Edinburgh visited Madras in March 1870. and the Governor of Madras invited His Highness to grace the occasion with his presence. The Maharajah and party accordingly left Trivandrum on the 9th of March 1870 and reached Madras via Shoranur on the 16th instant. His Highness was received by the Duke at Government House and was favoured by a return visit. The party left Madras and reached Trivandrum on the 3rd of April 1870.
Retirement of Sir Madava Row. By his vigorous and efficient administration of the State, Sir Madava Row had now raised it to unique and proud position of the “Model Native State” of India. The services rendered by him to the State have immortalised his name. It may be truly said of him without fear of contradiction that the benefits of good Government which the Travancorean now enjoys are more or less due to his wonderful energy, sagacity and wise statesmanship. In the eloquent words of the late Maharajah, “What Pericles did for Athens, what Cromwell did for England, that Madava Row did for Travancore”. But in spite of his good intentions and good work, he was not able to retain the confidence of the Maharajah to the last. His Highness’ mind was poisoned against the Dewan by a number of circumstances.
Misunderstandings soon arose between him and his Royal master. Several difficulties cropped up, some of which at any rate were of his own making, with the result that he became personally obnoxious to the sovereign and had therefore to take leave from February to May 1872, when he retired. The Maharajah recognised his good services and granted him a handsome pension of Rs. 1,000 per mensem, which he enjoyed for nineteen years. When he left Travancore his idea was to stay at Madras in peace and rest for the remaining years of his life. But this was not to be, as two other Native States were destined to benefit by his talents. He was offered a seat in the Viceroy’s Legislative Council, which he declined. On the news of Sir Madava Row’s compulsory retirement at the early age of forty-five reaching England, the late Sir Henry Fawcett, M.P., asked the Secretary of State for India if the Indian Government could not find a place for a man of such brilliant abilities.
In the course of a speech in the House of Commons, he said:
“Sir Madava Row administered Travancore with so much skill as justly to entitle him to be considered the Turgot of India ........... He found Travancore when he went there in 1849, in the lowest stage of degradation. He has left it a Model State .................. This is the kind of man for whom we have no proper opening at a time when our resources are declared to be inelastic and when, if the opium revenue failed us, we should not know where to turn for the amount required.”
Just at this time the Maharajah of Indore requested the Government of India to recommend a competent officer to administer his State. The offer was at once made to Sir Madava Row who accepted it and assumed charge of his office in 1873. Sir Madava Row was Dewan of Indore for two years, and when the affairs of Baroda required a strong minister to conduct its administration on the deposition of Mulhar Rao Gaekwar, the choice fell on Sir Madava Row, whose merits had already been brought to the notice of Lord Northbrook by the highly appreciative article on him by Prince Rama Varma, which appeared in the Calcutta Review of October 1872. He was Dewan-Regent of Baroda for a period of seven years from 1875 to 1882, and died on the 4th of April 1891. He was sixty-three years old, the last nine of which he lived in retirement at Madras. He was Dewan of Travancore, Indore and Baroda for a period of twenty-four years in all, the best part of his life being given to the service of Travancore, where —
“He brought sunshine into a land covered with darkness. He secured the blessings of good Government to a people harassed by anarchy. He obtained freedom of person and property to those who were constantly assailed by hereditary robbers. He reared costly edifices in a city covered with mud huts. He constructed various works of public utility such as roads, bridges, canals and tunnels, and put the most distant and inaccessible parts into easy communication with one another. Forests were reclaimed, waste lands cultivated, and new industries such as the cultivation of coffee, were encouraged. Peace and plenty reigned supreme. Travancore, which when Sir Madava Row took charge of it was in hourly danger of annexation, obtained when he left it the appellation of the Model State.”*
NOTEs: * Representative Men of Southern India. Page 39.
Mr. Griffith thus writes of Madava Row’s work in Travancore —
“Not only was the treasury empty, but the State was in debt and the officials in open rebellion on account of long arrears of salaries. The Maharajah too, had failed to pay the subsidy to the British Government. A more unenviable position than that of prime minister to an almost ruined state cannot be imagined, but he proved himself to be a statesman and organiser of the greatest ability.
“He quickly abolished trade monopolies, did away with vexatious taxes and restrictions which hampered the commercial success of the country, and by this so stimulated industry that under his wise rule European coffee and tea cultivators were induced to settle in the State and to buy land. Public buildings sprang up everywhere, roads were laid out, and bridges and canals built, and the State treasury became full, and the grievances of the poor were redressed.”*
NOTEs: * India's Princes. Page 269.
All over India and England a great upheaval of national prosperity occurred in the latter half of the nineteenth century. That prosperity extended to Travancore also, especially since the abolition of predial slavery in 1855. With this act of humanity and civilisation set in a new tide of good fortune for Travancore. A great influx of civilising ideas and material comforts soon followed. Several favourable circumstances tended to it. A remarkable minister of ability and imagination and gifted with the true instincts of a born statesman, came in the person of Rajah Sir T. Madava Row who knew how to guide the ship of state safely and wisely through perilous shoals and troubled waters.
A kind-hearted and humane sovereign was Ayilliam Tirunal on the throne, proud of soul, but sweet in temper and genial in manner, courteous, cultured and refined and remarkably intelligent, who though patrician by instinct and conservative by nature was himself imbued with liberal ideas and a genuine desire for enlightened forms of Government, and therefore willingly helped to do what promoted the lasting welfare of his people, for he was “a king”, as the poet said, “who loves the law, respects his bounds and reigns content within them”.
In the person of Mr. P. N. Maltby was an ideal British Resident, most accomplished, sympathetic and talented, who knew the art of diplomacy enough to make his influence felt as a political officer in the native Court for the good of the State and its people, without making himself personally odious or the suzerainty of the paramount power he represented galling to the Native ruler.
In Mr. Sadasiva Pillai, the presiding Judge of the Travancore High Court, and one of that ‘noble band of brothers’, known as the High School Proficients, the people found a saint and jurist combined, a gentleman of the highest integrity and the most spotless character, as calm as he was strong, as conscientious as he was learned, and one who dispensed justice between man and man in the fear of God but in the fear or favour of no man. He practically illustrated in his own life the noble Roman maxim which he often quoted, “Let justice be done though the Heavens may fall”.
And last but not least was the far-famed heir-apparent to the throne, Visakham Tirunal, a Prince of delicate build but iron will, of austere character and Spartan simplicity, of uncommon natural abilities and marvellous industry, of great attainments and rare scholarship, who from his closet issued forth pamphlets and papers, the result of much study and mature thought, which went to support and strengthen the cause of his Royal brother’s good government and the progress of the State of which he was ‘the king to be’. Such a conjunction of favourable planets did not occur in recent times, and they combined to give so great an impetus to the national advance that the time they shone together in the Travancore firmament may be truly designated the Augustan era of Travancore History.
Career of Sir Madava Row, K. C. S. I.
Manu says— “Let the King appoint ministers whose ancestors have been Royal servants who are versed in the sciences, heroes skilled in the use of weapons and descended from noble families and who have been tried.”
These conditions were eminently fulfilled in the case of Sir Madava Row. For before he was appointed to the office of Dewan, his ancestors had been Royal servants and were themselves descended from noble families, — his father and uncle having been Dewans before him. He was undoubtedly versed in the sciences of the day, and was a well-tried officer of the State before elevation to the minister’s place, but the skill in the use of weapons of which Manu speaks was, in these days of peace under the British Raj, satisfied by the skill in wielding the pen, in which of course he remarkably excelled.
He was thus in every way well-fitted for the place. And so far as the influence of a minister in a Native State could go, it may be fairly said that modern Travancore is as much indebted to Sir Madava Row for its present prosperous condition, as old Travancore was to Rama lyen Dalawa in the early days of its expansion and consolidation under Maharajah Martanda Varma. A few facts of his life* may therefore be given here with profit to the future Travancorean.
NOTEs: * For this sketch of Sir Madava Row's life, especially the incidents of his earlier career, I am indebted to an article entitled 'A Native Statesman' in the Calcutta Review No CX. Vol LV 1872 A. D., belived to be from the pen of His Highness the late Maharajah (Visakkam Tirunal), while First Prince of Travancore; as far as possible the very words of the Reviewer have been used. But having personally known Sir Madava Row and served under him for a short while in the Dewan's office here, and having made a careful study of all the important Reports and Papers bearing on his career in Travancore, I am able, from my own experience, to vouch for the accuracy of the estimate formed of him in the pages of the Calcutta Review.
He belonged to one of those adventurous Mahratta families, which mingling with the great wave of conquest that during the last two centuries surged to the south through the Dekhan and made Tanjore the chief outpost of the Mahratta empire in the south, settled in that part of India. His great-grandfather Gopal Pant, and his grandfather Gundo Pant, held offices of trust both under Native Chiefs and under the rising British Power. Rai Raya Rai Vencata Row, the eldest son of Gundo Pant, cast his lot in the British service, but subsequently came to Travancore and became Dewan. His brother Runga Row stuck longer to the British service, but when Deputy Sheristadar of the Board of Revenue, he was called to Travancore, where he rose to his elder’s office and though he held it only for a short period, he was a terror to evildoers. Soon after his retirement from Travancore, he died leaving three sons, of whom Sir Madava Row was the youngest.
About sixty years ago. Lord Elphinstone, Governor of Madras, gave an impetus to higher English Education in Southern India which has borne the happiest fruits. Mr. E. B. Powell, C.S.I., Head Master of the High School, Madras, then fresh from Cambridge where he had earned academic distinction, entered upon his duties with all the hope, zeal, and earnestness of the first tiller of a rich virgin soil. Young Madava Row had the good fortune to be one of the very first set of recruits that came up to be drilled by this excellent tactician. Gifted naturally with the highest order of talents yet displayed by India, Madava Row pursued his studies with an industry, a perseverance and a singleness of purpose which were fully rewarded. The Hon’ble Sir A. J. Arbuthnot in 1873 while Acting Governor of Madras, referred to Sir Madava Row thus
“It was during the period to which I allude that there was being trained up for the kingdom of Travancore, which for some years past has been justly regarded as a Model Native State, a Native Statesman, who first in the capacity of tutor to the heir of the throne, and afterwards in the capacity of minister has largely aided in raising that State to its present position.”
He was the brightest of that bright band of the Madras High School Proficients, to whom a sound, varied and impressive education was imparted. His scholastic career extended over nearly six years, during which he once acted for Mr. Powell for a short time, which considering that there were European junior masters of no mean abilities at the time must be taken as a solid compliment to his worth. In 1846 he received his “First Class Proficient’s Degree and Seal” from the Most Noble the Marquis of Tweedale, who had succeeded Lord Elphinstone to the Madras Governorship. Early in 1847 he got an appointment in the Accountant-General’s office in which he continued for a little more than two years.
Maharajah Martanda Varma had succeeded his elder brother in the sovereignty of Travancore at the end of 1846. The germ of the financial crisis which afterwards attained no small magnitude, was then budding. Lieut-General William Cullen of the Madras Artillery, the handsome adjutant of his youthful days, and who in a remarkable manner possessed the chief traits of character of the ‘fine old Indian’, was Resident Nawab at the Court of Travancore. His protégé, the amiable but feeble Krishna Row, was Dewan.
General Cullen with all his failings was himself proud of his scholastic attainments and valued the advantages of education in others. He strongly urged on the Maharajah the necessity of giving a good English education to his nephews and recommended the choice of a well-educated man, as tutor to the young Princes. The choice fortunately fell on young Madava Row who continued as tutor for four years and a half. It may be observed that one of his pupils, the then First Prince,* Rama Varma, was made a Fellow of the Madras University a year before Madava Row’s own admission into the Senate.
NOTEs: * It was this same First Prince who later wrote the article in the Calcutta Review on Sir Madhava Row's career in Travancore, which ultimately led to his becoming Dewan-Regent of Baroda
The Prince was alluded to in flattering terms by Lord Napier in the Vice-regal Legislative Council in speaking of the late Lord Mayo’s earnest endeavours to secure the aid of competent Natives in Indian legislation. He was also offered a seat in the Viceroy’s Legislative Council, which on considerations of health he had to decline. From a tutor Madava Row was appointed in April 1853 to a responsible office in the Revenue line under the Dewan.
During the latter half of 1855, Madava Row was promoted to the office of Dewan Peishcar, the highest in the scale below that of the Dewan. The number of Peishcars at the time would appear to have been varying between two and four; and these were stationed at the headquarters, where while they scarcely did any work of real importance and responsibility, they directed their talents and energies to intriguing against the Dewan, who in turn was ever jealously busy in annoying and impeding them.
Madava Row suggested that the Peishcars might be entrusted with the responsible charge of a certain number of Taluqs each, subject to the general control of the Dewan. He pointed also to a similar administrative arrangement which had obtained in Travancore previously to the establishment of its existing relations with the British Government.
The arrangement was adopted, and Madava Row was deputed to the Southern Division, comprising the very Taluqs from which complaints to the Madras Government had been most frequent and importunate. Accordingly he went thither and began his work of reform steadily. Soon the industrious and peaceful found that there was one who was ready to espouse their cause against oppressors, and the lawless that their palmy days of impunity were gone. He soon won golden opinions by his wise administration of the Southern Division which brought him to public notice and paved the way for his preferment.
In November, 1857, i.e, during the costly sexennial Murajapam festival in Trivandrum, Dewan Krishna Row died. It was necessary to appoint a person to take up the reins of office immediately. There were two Dewan Peishcars at the time; and of these Madava Row was the junior. The senior was a native of Malabar; and had, before entering the Travancore service, served the British Government in that Collectorate for several years, and had earned some local distinction as an efficient Police officer. But he did not know English and was thoroughly a man of the ‘old school’. General Cullen at once recognised the preeminent fitness of Madava Bow for the ministership.
He therefore recommended him to His Highness who appointed him first as Acting Dewan and at the end of one year confirmed him in the Dewanship. Soon after Madava Row’s appointment, Lord Harris visited Travancore, and during His Lordship’s stay in Trivandrum, Madava Row had long and interesting conferences with him, which while they fully instilled the new Dewan with the views of the Madras Government regarding Travancore affairs, assured the head of that Government that the interests of that State were safe in the keeping of the new Minister.
Madava Row entered upon the discharge of his important duties with a zeal, earnestness, noble ambition, and honesty of purpose unrivalled among the natives of India. He was in his thirtieth year and certainly in the general run of cases that age might be considered too young for so high a trust. But his extraordinary natural talents, combined with an excellent education and intimacy with men in high circles, had enabled him early to study the great problems of social statics, to value all enlightened and progressive movements, and to form a sound and unprejudiced judgment in a manner more than amply to make up for the immaturity of years. His task was however, by no means easy or even ordinarily difficult. The entire administration was disorganised. The public treasuries were empty: and while large arrears of payment in the way of salaries, and money for pepper, tobacco, and other articles purchased by the Travancore Sirkar were accumulating, the land tax used to be collected often a year in advance.
Tobacco of the worst description was often the coin in which pepper was paid for and pepper, several years old, similarly fell to the lot of the tobacco contractor, if he happened not to be in the good graces of the leaders of the administration. Five lacs of rupees had been borrowed from the Pagoda treasury; and the Rajah had made a solemn stipulation to replace this sum, plus 50 per cent, in the way of lump interest, in equal monthly instalments, in the course of five years. This together with the subsidy payable to the British Government, not to take into consideration other charges, was enough to deter any one from taking up the reins of the administration. But these were not all. To quote the illustrious writer of the article in the Calcutta Review —
“The public service from the top to the bottom consisted with few exceptions, of an army of voracious place-seekers, who having obtained their appointments by bribes, were bent upon recouping themselves a hundredfold; and peculation, torture, false accusation, pretended demands on behalf of the Sirkar, these were the instruments with which they worked out their object. Non-payment of salaries furnished even an open pretext for these malpractices. The courts of justice were so many seats of corruption and perversion of justice. Dacoits and marauders of the worst stamp scoured the country by hundreds; but these were less feared by the people than the so-called Police. In short, Travancore was the veriest den of misrule, lawlessness, and callous tyranny of the worst description. The State vessel was drifting at random amidst rocks and reefs, without a chart, without a compass, with shattered sails and broken cables, and above all, without a pilot. It was at the helm of this vessel that Madava Row was placed. He grasped it firmly. Full of confidence in the sympathy of the enlightened public, full of eagerness to earn a noble distinction, he guided the vessel not only to safety but to glory.”
Not long after he took charge, the Shanar disturbances arose in South Travancore in connection with the upper-cloth question. We have already noticed the wise and statesmanlike attitude taken by him in regard to this delicate question and the success he attained.
On the 19th October 1860, His Highness Ayilliam Tirunal succeeded to the throne. And under a young and amiable sovereign free from the bonds of self-imposed conservatism, and with a Resident of high character and abilities. Sir Madava Row’s administration attained unimpeded progress. This Resident was Mr. F. N. Maltby who reported to the Madras Government of Sir Madava Row thus —
“The Dewan Madava Row is a very remarkable man. I have never yet met with a native of India who obtained so thorough a mastery over our languages or so intimate a knowledge and appreciation of the modem views of Englishmen in matters of Political Economy and Government.”
Sir Madava Row was pre-eminently a financier and this trait in him was early discernible in the rapid progress which the Travancore finances made under his able stewardship. The revenue rose from forty lacs in his predecessor’s time to fifty-four lacs in 1872, and this in spite of the abolition of monopolies, numerous petty taxes and cesses, and the reduction of the land tax and that of several items of customs duties.
Reference has already been made to the loan of five lacs of rupees borrowed from the pagoda to meet the exigencies of the State. Mr. Madava Row managed to repay the sum by instalments and discharged the liability completely by 1038 M.E (1862—1863 A.D.), and added with excusable pride, “Travancore has no public debt now”. He also raised the salaries of public servants more than 50 per cent, and thus improved the morale and efficiency of the public service. The story of his financial measures is briefly told when we remember that he took charge of a depleted treasury and an encumbered estate in 1858 and left it a prosperous possession in 1872 with a reserve fund of forty lacs to the credit of the Sirkar.
Education, legislation, public works, medical relief, vaccination, administration of justice, suppression of crime, convenience to travellers, help to agriculturists, importation of exotic plants and seeds for local use, these and other equally important matters engaged his most anxious attention during the years of his Dewanship. It was his cherished aim, as he himself so happily expressed in one of his Reports, “to provide for every subject, within a couple of hours’ journey, the advantages of a Doctor, a Schoolmaster, a Judge, a Magistrate, a Registering Officer and a Postmaster’ and he strove most successfully to realise this high ideal. Indeed, he found Travancore in the lowest stage of degradation and political disorganisation, but left it a ‘’Model Native State”. In fine, he had done for Travancore what Frederic William III did for Prussia.
‘’He had established municipal self-government; he had emancipated the peasantry, curtailed the prerogatives of the nobility, and thrown open the public service to all classes alike; he had introduced a liberal commercial policy, abolished the duties shutting off province from province, and done away with guilds. Above all, he had made the schools the envy of the world; he had enacted an admirable and most effective code and he had reorganised the civil service and judicature in so enlightened a style, that for administrative skill and incorruptible integrity the Prussian bureaucracy has since been justly lauded throughout Europe. To effect all this he had called in the help of the blest men of the time. ................................He might well consider himself to be marching at the head of his age and country” *
NOTEs: * The (London) Times, 8th March 1888
The Madras Government year after year, and the Secretary of State often, commended his work highly. It may be added that the State papers drawn up by him on special subjects, such as the Interportal duties, the Boundary question, Territorial exchange, Criminal Jurisdiction over European offenders, the enfranchisement of Pattom lands, the occupancy rights and others too numerous to mention, have elicited the warm approbation of British authorities, Both the sovereigns of Travancore whom he served and successive British Residents have borne high testimony to the excellence of his administration. He was appointed a Fellow of the Madras University in 1862, and in 1866 was invested with the Knighthood of the Order of the Star of India, along with his Sovereign. The appreciatory terms in which Lord Napier referred to his services on that occasion have already been quoted.
But all this brilliant career soon came to a close, for, as the proverb goes, the longest lane must have a turning. So it was with Sir Madava Row. In grateful recognition of his magnificent services, the good people of Travancore have since erected by public subscription a bronze statue of Sir Madava Row, which stands in a prominent thoroughfare facing the Public Offices of Trivandrum, which he himself built and in which he had rendered those yeoman services to the Sovereign and the people which have immortalised his name. Lord Napier during his short Viceroyalty offered him a seat in the Viceregal Legislative Council, but he had to decline it from considerations of health.
Lord Napier made the following reference to Sir Madava Row in his speech in the Council — “Since my arrival here, I have myself offered a seat (in the Viceroy’s Legislative Council) to a Native gentleman of high caste, distinguished family, and mature official experience — a gentleman who really appeared to embody every qualification of natural ability, acquired information, manners, and station which could recommend him for this employment.”
He subsequently became Dewan to His Highness the Maharajah Holkar for two years and Dewan-Regent of Baroda for eight years, finally retiring into private life ten years after he left Travancore. In those States also Sir Madava Row maintained the high reputation he had earned in Travancore, for Mr. P. S. Melville, Agent to the Governor-General at- Baroda, said of him —
“I take this public opportunity of saying that, having been associated with Sir Madava Row in the conduct of the public business of the Baroda State for the last four years, there is nowhere to be found a more able, conscientious, and industrious administrator than he. He has had the honour of the Gaekwar and the welfare of the Baroda State closely at heart, and to these ends he has laboured night and day.”
To which Sir Richard Temple, Governor of Bombay, added —
“I venture to add my expressions to all that has justly been said by Mr- Melville regarding the high reputation which Sir Madava Row’s administration universally enjoys in Western India, I am sure that it is admired, not only by all neighbouring Native States of Western India, but is also highly esteemed by all British officers who, from their proximity or vicinity, have knowledge of it............ He is enlightened in respect to all matters of improvement; but perhaps in his heart he hardly approves of some among the social reforms which are now advocated.”
In social and religious questions Sir Madava Row’s mind moved slowly. He was much more conservative than was generally believed, and advocated care and moderation in dealing with them, which the radically minded and the sanguine-hearted among the younger generation of his admirers so heartily disliked. He was however no blind admirer of the ancient nor irrevocably committed to custom and mamool in all matters; for in his Convocation address he had said—
“Avoid the mischievous error of supposing that our ancient forefathers were wiser than men of the present times. It cannot be true. Every year of an individual’s life he acquires additional knowledge. Knowledge thus goes on accumulating year by year. Similarly every generation adds to the knowledge of the previous generation. Under such a process the accumulation of knowledge in a century is very large. To assert therefore that men possessed more knowledge scores of centuries ago than at the present day is manifestly absurd. ............. Hesitate not therefore to prefer modern knowledge to ancient knowledge. A blind belief in the omniscience of our forefathers is mischievous, because it perpetuates error and tends to stagnation.”
After arduous and incessant labours for a whole lifetime, he went into quiet retirement and enjoyed ten years’ repose in his pretty Mylapore residence known as Madava Bagh, and died there in 1891, full of honours though not perhaps full of years. In his retirement he occupied himself with the congenial study of Herbert Spencer’s works or writing short notes to Newspapers on all manner of subjects from the German occupation of Africa to the coming of hair in boys or improving the dress of girls.
Nothing was too difficult for his comprehensive brain; nothing too delicate for its subtle grasp. He was a man of the highest culture and the loftiest imagination. He was quick-witted, clear-headed and industrious. He was in indefatigable worker and he delighted in his work, for it looks to my mind at this distance of time, having received the impression at a very impressionable age, that he strenuously worked away from morning till night, and he had a giant’s strength, for in one hour he could do what most others could not in six. He writes in one of his letters to Seshiah Sastry in 1849 with the freedom and hilarity of a school-mate, that he was an idle fellow while Seshiah Sastri was not.
“‘I know you are not such an idle fellow like me as not to write out in a book your everyday doings. “
If Sir Madava Row could be considered an idle fellow as he was pleased to call himself, he must have been one of a very extraordinary type.
It was as Gladstone said of Macaulay,
“But it (Lord Macaulay’s) was an extraordinarily full life, of sustained exertion, a high tableland without depressions. He speaks of himself as idle but his idleness was more active, and carried with it hour by hour a greater expenditure of brain-power than what most men regard as their serious employments. He might well have been, in his mental career, the spoiled child of fortune for all he tried succeeded, all he touched turned into gems and gold”.
Sir Madava Row had remarkable strength of will, uncommon patience, unparalleled perseverance, undaunted courage to face opposition and a capacity to overcome where he could not persuade. Towards brother-officials he was considerate, kindly, generous and genuine. With those placed in authority over him he argued, persuaded and convinced, but personally was modest, respectful and deferential in his behaviour. To the people at large he was a true friend and benefactor, the supporter of the weak against the strong, the champion of the oppressed and the helpless. He hated injustice and sham of every kind; he was a terror to evil-doers; he was the declared enemy of the corrupt. What the Governor-General Marquis of Wellesley said of an eminent Anglo- Indian of the last century applies to him with equal justice —
“He is a gentleman of the highest character in India; his talents are not inferior to those of any person in this country, nor have I seen in any part of the world many persons of superior capacity. His general knowledge is considerable, and his particular acquaintance with the Affairs of India, especially those of Fort St. George, is comprehensive and accurate. His diligence is indefatigable; he has passed his whole life in laborious business; his zeal and public spirit are distinguished features of his character; and his eminent integrity and honour are universally acknowledged. In addition to these circumstances his whole public life had marked him as the implacable, indefatigable, and irresistible foe of the corrupt system of intrigue and peculation which long pervaded the service at Fort St. George. He was the declared and ardent enemy of every author and abettor of corruption in that Service, and the cordial friend and protector of every man of integrity, intelligence, knowledge, and talents. While his exertion to encourage the progress of honesty and industry was unremitting, his own example has become a model of emulation to the younger branches of the Service.”*
NOTES: * The Madras Mail, 11th January 1906, London Letter by C. L.
In politics he was cautious and conservative as he was in religious and social questions. He had great confidence in his own powers and judgment, but wherever he went, he secured and maintained around him a strong phalanx of supporters and admirers. He was above all honest, earnest and god-fearing. Intellectual occupations gave him the utmost delight, but he had a keen sense of the humorous and the aesthetic in nature. He excelled in conversation; he had an inexhaustible fund of anecdotes; he always came forthwith generous praise or admiration of real talent; his sallies sparkled with wit and humour and sarcasm, but he never gave offence; it looks as if in his whole public life no word escaped him in conversation which either pained or offended any man. He was incapable of a boorish word or brusque expression. He was a man of delicately refined temperament. He was one of Nature’s nobles. Within the privileged circle of his immediate friends and admirers, he was merry, frank, jocose, playful, sometimes even vain like children, though never coarse or commonplace. He was a poet, and a lover of Art. He composed devotional songs in Marathi, he was an elegant and polished scholar in that language. His whole life was dedicated to the education of his fellowmen and the amelioration of their condition. He was the favourite of the Muses and the chosen pet of fortune. By universal assent he was the greatest statesman that India has produced in recent times. In the words of the immortal Poet, “He was the noblest Roman of them all.”
Sashiah Sastri— Dewan
On the recommendation of the Madras Government, Mr. A. Sashiah Sastri, then Head Sheristadar of the Revenue Board, Madras, and a distinguished fellow-student of Sir T. Madava Row was selected to succeed him as Dewan. He reached Trivandrum about the close of May 1872 and was appointed on probation for one year. In the words of Sir Madava Row, “no better selection could have been made in the interests of His Highness and those of his subjects.” Sir William Robinson the Senior Member of the Revenue Board wrote to Sashiah:-
“Though we miss you in the Board much, I consider the post you have as quite the highest open to natives in the Presidency, for there you are truly ruling your own countrymen.............I know that in the Rajah, you have a considerate light-minded man well worthy of your devoted service, and I feel assured that he has in you one both worthy of his confidence and the good account of his subjects’
The friction between His Highness and the late Dewan towards the closing part of his regime naturally urged His Highness to try the new Dewan before confirming him. But Sashiah combined tact with ability and principle and got through the ordeal very successfully. The Maharajah was much pleased with him and confirmed him as Dewan in April 1873. This was approved of by the Madras Government who were “much gratified by learning that Sashiah Sastri has so entirely fulfilled the anticipations of Government and secured the confidence and approbation of His Highness the Maharajah.”
Sashiah Sastri’s appointment was only for a period of five years. The first year of his administration Sashiah devoted to taking his bearings. He studied the history of the country, its usages, and the nature and requirements of its administrative machinery. The country which fifteen years back had almost collapsed had been bought into admirable order by the genius of Sir Madava Row. The finances of the State had been placed on a stable basis by judicious fiscal reforms, and the seeds of good Government had already taken root. All that was needed for some years to come was only a watchful supervision and continuance of policy which were happily secured under Sashiah’s wise and thoughtful management.
The expenditure of 1871-1872 was in excess of the receipts of the year, and the Madras Government hastened to point out that “the aim of the Sirkar should be to maintain an equilibrium and with this view to exhibit a slight surplus of income over expenditure rather than contrary as on this occasion.” The Dewan therefore diligently set about to regulate the expenditure and for this purpose introduced the system of Budget and Allotment. The outlay on Public Works was at once curtailed, and a strict supervision was exercised over all the other items of expenditure of the State. The equilibrium was restored and the Madras Government were thus pleased to compliment the Sirkar on the successful results of Sashiah’s first year of administration —
“The Government are glad to learn from the financial report of the Travancore State for the Malabar year 1048 which closes on the 14th August 1873, that notwithstanding an estimated deficit by the transaction of the year, a surplus of about Rs. 22,400 was secured by economical management of the funds in pursuance of the advice given by the Government. On the whole H. E. the Governor in Council considers the result of the financial administration of Travancore during 1048 to be very satisfactory.”
The Dewan was able to effect similar savings in the next year also. Several improvements were made in the course of two years in the different branches of the administration. The personnel of the Zillah Courts was improved and a new Zillah Court added at Alwaye to meet the convenience of the public. The Sadar Court was remodelled and a European Barrister-at-law was appointed one of the Judges. The returns of the Revenue Department were full of entries against defaulters pointing to large and long-standing arrears due by them to the State which amounted to nearly six lacs of rupees, and the Dewan as a relief to the ryots obtained sanction to grant them large remissions. A general revision of salaries was effected with regard to the higher grades of the service; the salaries of the Sadar Court Judges, the District Judges, as well as of the Dewan Peishcars were all revised and fixed at rates proportionate to their status.
The use of paper which had already been introduced into the Judicial and Registration departments was extended to all State correspondence and accounts, which till then continued to be written on the palmyra leaf. Salt was hitherto received and sold by measure, a system which gave much room for corruption as it afforded great facilities for fraud. Besides, smuggling was carried on to a great extent. To remedy these evils the Dewan introduced the system of weights and provided for a strict and careful supervision in the salt pans. Thus smuggling was stopped and the margin for peculation and underhand dealings minimised, so that petty appointments in the Salt Department, which public servants much coveted before, lost their attraction and, as the Dewan remarked, “the existing incumbents have been ever since most anxious to quit that branch of the service”.
Several new roads were constructed under the superintendence of Mr. Barton the Chief Engineer. Several irrigation channels were improved, new tanks were dug, and the backwater canals were broadened and deepened so as to be fit for navigation at all seasons of the year. But among the many important works carried out during Mr. Barton’s tenure of office, mention must be made of the Varkala Barrier works, a work of great magnitude and unique engineering difficulty. This grand project consisted in the construction of the tunnels through the Varkala cliffs, which alone remained as a serious barrier to an otherwise uninterrupted line of water communication from Trivandrum as far as Tirur Railway-Station in Malabar. It was estimated to cost 4½ lacs of rupees and was undertaken in 1869. The then Dewan, Sir Madava Row, was entirely opposed to the measure considering its cost and unremunerative character.
But his objections were overruled by the Madras Government and the project was accordingly taken in hand. The Public Works Department was first entrusted with the work, but as they made very little progress with it in five years, it was given on contract to a European firm of Bombay and they proceeded with the work under the direction and general superintendence of the Chief Engineer. But the progress even now was slow and the contractors urged for a revised estimate and fresh terms. In the words of the Dewan,
“ Instead of a work which in 1869 was estimated to cost 4 lakhs of rupees an expected to be completed in three years, the Sirkar found itself after five years face to face with a work which had already consumed 8 lakhs, was scarcely half-done-the most difficult and costly portion remaining.—which, the Chief Engineer now estimated, would cost another 8 lakhs and whose eventual cost it was not possible to ascertain with any approach to exactitude after the sad failure of estimate after estimate.”
The Travancore Government were opposed to such a large outlay on a single and not very remunerative work when there were numerous works, more urgent, more useful and more promising in their character, and therefore thought it desirable to complete the Tunnel No. 1, then about half-finished and take up the second at some future date. This was approved by the Madras Government; a revised contract was entered into and Tunnel No. 1 was finished at a cost of ten lacs of rupees, and opened for traffic on the 15th January 1875.
Among other works may be mentioned the completion of the towers of the Suchindram and Trivandrum temples, the Napier Museum called after Lord Napier, Governor of Madras, and the present College building which was opened by His Highness in 1873. Reference may also be made here to the cleansing of the sacred Padmatirtam tank attached to the Padmanabhaswamy pagoda and the restoration of the channel feeding the tank perennially, which was for a long time neglected. This was of very great benefit to the people of the capital as it ensured a never-failing supply of good water to the inhabitants of the Fort.
The Educational Department also received his zealous attention. In 1874, a Law class was opened to prepare candidates for the B. L. Degree examination with Dr. Ormsby the Barrister-Judge as Professor. A grant-in-aid system was introduced which greatly helped to spread elementary education; Taluq and village schools were multiplied and the curriculum of studies in them was revised.
At the instance of the Acting Resident, Mr. Hannyngton, it was decided to open a Central Jail at Trivandrum and one District Jail for each of the four Divisions with an extra one at Alleppey for receiving convicts from the neighbouring hill and coffee plantation districts.
The Dewan next turned his attention to give a general increase of salary to the various State employees and thus raise the status of the public servants. But as it involved additional expenditure, the detailed and carefully prepared scheme of the Dewan was not well countenanced by the Maharajah.
But the Dewan never flinched in his efforts to convince the Maharajah of the necessity of such a reform and in this he even incurred the displeasure of the Maharajah. Nothing daunted, the Dewan persisted and the Maharajah had at last to yield to the Dewan’s appeal, and a general increase of salary to all public servants was sanctioned in February 1874.
The powers of the various departmental heads and their relations to the Dewan were clearly defined. The Dewan as the head of the administration was given the right to exercise a real and practical control over all the departments of the administration. He was relieved of his magisterial functions, and the powers of the Peishcars were consequently enlarged.
A system of gold currency was also introduced as an experimental measure. A suitable mint was improvised for the purpose and pagoda and half-pagodas were struck and issued from the Sirkar mint. But this did not prove a success and the coinage had to be given up after some time.
The first systematic Census of Travancore was taken on the 18th May 1875, the operations being conducted and a Report written by the present writer himself. The population of the State according to that Census was returned at 2,311,379.
In the midst of his multifarious duties the Dewan also found time to keep a strict supervision over the management of the Religions and Charitable institutions of the State by regulating their expenditure and checking the abuses that are the necessary concomitants of such institutions. In 1051 M.E (1875-1876), the holders Ayan Zufti lands (i.e. lands transferred from the British territory in exchange) were relieved of a long-standing grievance. These lands hitherto remained on the old Tinnevelly tenure and were liable to the payment of Ayakut grain-rent commuted at the Tenkasi market-price. This caused great hardship and the lands were therefore placed on the same footing as those of the more favourably assessed adjacent lands.
The great Indian Famine of 1876-1877 drove thousands of poor Brahmins with their families, men, women and children into this “Land of Charity”. Even here the season of 1051 M. K. (1875-1876), had been very unfavourable to agriculture. Both the early and late rains had failed to a distressing extent and the drought seriously affected the paddy cultivation in South Travancore and Shencottah. On this account remissions on an unusually large scale had to be granted to relieve the ryots and consequently the Sirkar finances were not very satisfactory. But “it was no time to think of her curtailed resources when thousands of half-starved men, women and children had come to her gates for succour, drawn by her fair name for unstinted charity”. The Dewan got the sanction of the Maharajah to provide for them all and make arrangements for their housing, feeding and clothing and for sanitary provision and medical treatment. The name of Sashiah Sastri is still affectionately remembered for the very sympathetic way in which he treated the famine-stricken immigrants, one and all of them, and for the liberal hospitality extended to them.
It had been declared by the Government of India so early as 1837 that “Europeans residing in the territories of Native States not being servants of the British Government, were in all respects and in all cases, civil or criminal, subject to the law of the country in which they reside.” But the question as to the liability of European British subjects had long remained unsettled. It came up for discussion in 1866 in connection with the trial of John Liddel, Commercial Agent at Alleppey, who stood charged with having embezzled a large sum of Sirkar money. The Travancore Government tried him by a special Commission which found him guilty of the offence and sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment. The trial was declared by the Madras Government as illegal and as contrary to the provisions of the Proclamation of the Government of India dated 10th January 1867, issued under, and in conformity with, 28 Vict. c. 15, with the result that Liddel’s immediate release was ordered. The Government’s view of the question was expressed in the following opinion of the Advocate-General —
“I ain of opinion that the trial of Mr. Liddel by the Travancore courts is illegal. The effect of the Statute and the Proclamation is to put an end to the jurisdiction of the Travancore courts over such British subjects and to confer it on the High Court. The criminal jurisdiction over European British subjects, hitherto exercised by the Travancore courts, does not appear to rest upon any treaty, but to have been ceded by courtesy and comity. Mr. Liddel on obtaining permission to reside in Travancore, consented, it is true, to be bound by the laws of Travancore and to submit to the jurisdiction of its courts, but that undertaking must be read by the circumstances of the time at which it was given. He could not forestall or exclude the operation of subsequent legislation which has now intervened to alter its status.”
Dewan Madava Row saw in an instant that the Advocate-General opinion was untenable and felt confident that he could bring about a modification of the Government’s views on the point. But he moved in the matter with characteristic caution. He promised compliance to the wishes of the Madras Government but before accepting their view as final on the important question of jurisdiction over European British subjects, he wrote to the Resident requesting him to lay before the Madras Government “certain counter-considerations and arguments on the general question at issue which may possibly lead to a modification of their views on the subject”. In a series of very able letters he completely refuted the opinion of the Advocate-General and the decision arrived at by the Madras Government on the basis of that opinion. His arguments rested mainly on the following four grounds —
(1 The jurisdiction in question is an inherent right of sovereignty
(2 The Travancore State being one ruled by its own Ruler possesses that right
(3 It has not been shown on behalf of the British Government that the Travancore State ever ceded this right because it was never ceded, and
(4 The Governor-General’s notification did not deprive Travancore of this right, but only distributed what right the British Government had already possessed.
Sir Madava Row sought and obtained the legal opinion of that eminent lawyer Mr. John D. Mayne then practising at Madras, who completely demolished the Advocate-Generals views and supported those of Sir Madava Row. As to the effect of the Proclamation Mr. Mayne observed —
“It cannot of course go beyond the powers given by the Statute and the Statute though binding on all British subjects, has of course no force against the sovereign of Travancore or its servants who are not subject to the authority of the British Parliament. Even if the Statute purported in express terms to take away a jurisdiction previously exercised by the courts of Travancore, it would be simply inoperative against them. Parliament is as incapable of taking away the powers of a court in Travancore as it is of dealing with the courts of France. But I agree with Sir Madava Row that neither the Statute nor the Proclamation contemplates any interference of the sort.”
The Advocate-General then retracted from his original view of the question. “On further consideration”, said he, “and with the advantage of weighing all that has been urged by the President and members, the Dewan and my learned friend Mr. Mayne, I have come to the conclusion that the trial of Liddel by the Travancore Government is legal and therefore he ought to be left to undergo the remainder of his sentence.”
In accordance with this opinion, the Madras Government cancelled their former order on the subject and decided that jurisdiction over European British subjects did vest in the Courts of the Maharajah, of Travancore.
But this state of things did not continue long; for in 1874 the Viceroy disapproved of the later decision of the Madras Government arrived at after full hearing and mature deliberation, and the view of the Government of India were communicated to the Travancore Government by the Resident in the following terms —
“In consequence of communications from H. E. the Governor-General of India in Council, I am directed by the Madras Government to explain to His Highness the Maharajah of Travancore, with every compliment, that H. E. the Governor-General in Council having regard both to the position of Her Majesty as Paramount Power in India and to the Treaty engagements entered into with Travancore, does not recognise the position assume by the late Dewan, Sri Madava Row, in the discussion that took place in Liddel’s case (viz., that the exercise of jurisdiction over European British subjects is an inherent right possessed by the Government of Travancore), and that the altered condition of the law respecting the trial of European British subjects for offences committed in Native States, requires some alteration in the practice which has hitherto prevailed.
“It is observed that when the jurisdiction of Travancore in 1837 was recognised, there were difficulties in the way of trying, in British Courts, European British subjects for offences committed in Native States. These difficulties have been removed by different Acts of the Imperial and Indian Legislatures, and the question is thereby placed on a different footing to that on which it formerly rested.”
Dewan Sashiah Sastri carried on a vigorous and spirited correspondence on the subject strongly urging the claims of His Highness’ Government to try European British subjects. To quote Sashiah —
“The State itself may not be very extensive, nor its population and wealth very great in comparison with other countries but this clearly does not affect His Highness’ status as a Sovereign ruler, nor his claim to be subject to no other than the law of nations in the matter of jurisdiction over foreigners. In fact, the point is so far conceded in respect of Travancore that no question is raised as to the power of His Highness’ Courts over Europeans other than British subjects, over Americans, or the subjects of Indian or other Asiatic sovereigns. How then is His Highness’ jurisdiction over British subjects affected? It cannot be that the vast extent to which Her Majesty’s Indian Empire has, by God’s blessing, been able to attain, and the great influence which she exercises for good in the councils of smaller States, can of themselves and without a cession on the part of Travancore, operate to curtail any of the attributes of the Ruler of that state. The two may be vastly different in proportions by the side of each other, yet it will not be contended that the smaller loses any of its attributes, because its neighbour is great and powerful and is bound by certain treaties to protect it against any aggression on payment of subsidy representing the cost of a certain military force. If the principle were at all allowed, then should England, Germany and Russia claim to try their several subjects committing offences in small States like Denmark, Greece, Portugal and Switzerland.”
These forcible and just observations of the Dewan were of no avail.
The Government of India refused to recognise the position taken by the Travancore Sirkar but decided however that,
“In consideration of special circumstances affecting the State of Travancore, and more particularly of the enlightened and progressive principles which were followed by the State in its judicial administration, the Sirkar and not the British Government should appoint First Class Magistrates who should be European British subjects, for the trial of all cases in which European British subjects were defendants.”
The British Resident was invested with the powers of a Court of Session in subordination to the High Court of Madras. A Royal Proclamation was accordingly issued on the 28th May 1875 to give effect to the arrangements settled upon, under which Special Magistrates to be appointed by his Highness the Maharajah and vested with the powers o a Magistrate of the first class under the Indian Procedure Code, were empowered to try all ordinary cases within their cognizance, and in committable cases, to commit (in virtue of their contemporaneous appointment by the Viceroy as Justices of the Peace) either to the British Resident as a Court of Session or to the High Court of Madras.
This was followed by another Royal Proclamation on the 6th November of the same year, constituting the Christian Judge of the Sadar Court, being a European British-born subject, Special Appellate Judge to hear and dispose of appeals from the decisions of these Special Magistrates, as well as to revise their proceedings. Thus ended the question of criminal jurisdiction of the Courts of Travancore over European British subjects.
Important political events
On the occasion of the Investiture ceremony of H. H. the Begum of Bhopal held in Bombay on the 16th November 1872. His Highness the Maharajah was invited to be present by the Viceroy Lord Northbrook. His Highness accepted the invitation and left Trivandrum accompanied by the Dewan and other officers of the State on the 3rd of November. His Highness reached Bombay on the 11th and was received with due military honours. On the 15th the Maharajah had an interview with the Viceroy at Government House, which was duly returned. At the Investiture ceremony His Highness occupied the second seat of honour to the right of the Viceroy. His Highness stayed there till the 23rd November, in the course of which he received and exchanged visits with several Princes and Noblemen and started for Benares where he arrived on the 26th idem. After bathing in the sacred waters of the Ganges and performing the prescribed religious ceremonies and charities, several thousands of Brahmins being fed and donations given to learned Brahmins, the Maharajah left Benares on the 30th November and returned to his capital on 15th December 1872.
In January 1875, the Maharajah undertook a tour to Calcutta complying with the personal invitation of the Viceroy Lord Northbrook while at Bombay in 1872. His Highness halted at Madras, Agra, Delhi and other important stations.
On the 30th November 1875 A. D, another trip to Madras was undertaken by his Highness to pay his respects to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales who had to abandon his proposed visit to Travancore, His Highness reached Madras on the 6th December, and visits were exchanged with His Grace the Duke of Buckingham, Governor of Madras.
On the 13th His Highness visited His Royal Highness with valuable presents, with which the latter was immensely pleased. The visit was returned on the 15th instant when return presents were given to His Highness, which included among others a signet ring, a medal and a sword. From Madras His Highness proceeded to Calcutta to take final leave of His Royal Highness. After halting at Benares, Bombay and several other places, His Highness and party returned to Trivandrum on the 11th of January 1876, just in time for the closing ceremony of the Murajapam and the grand illumination (Lakshadipam} on the evening of the next day.
The Imperial Durbar and the presentation of the Imperial Banner, 1877
A grand Durbar was arranged to be held at Delhi to commemorate in a fitting manner the great historic event of the assumption of the title of “Empress of India” by Her Majesty Queen Victoria. His Highness the Maharajah was prevented by ill-health from attending the Imperial Assemblage at Delhi. In connection with this, a Public Durbar was held in the capital on the first of January 1877, when His Highness was presented with a banner known as the “Imperial Banner’ from Her Majesty the Queen-Empress. The Queen’s Proclamation was read by the Resident who in the course of his address said—
“His Excellency (the Viceroy) however is anxious that, though Your Highness has been unfortunately compelled to forego taking part in the ceremony at Delhi, a formal intimation should be received by Your Highness of the gracious announcement of Her Majesty....................... In further token of this closer union and Her affectionate regard, Her Majesty has been pleased to direct through the Viceroy and Governor-General the presentation to Your Highness of a Banner emblazoned with Your Highness’ Arms and surmounted by Her own Imperial Crown, to be carefully presented and handed down as a symbol of the friendship existing between the British Crown and Your Highness. His Excellency hopes that this Banner will be used on State occasions.”
In connection with the presentation of the Imperial Banner, a full dress Durbar was held on the 1st of October. After the British Resident had addressed the Maharajah in felicitous terms, the latter replied as follows —
“I am deeply sensible of Her Gracious Majesty’s kindness in presenting me with the Banner which I have just now received from my worthy and esteemed friend, the British Representative at my Court. I gratefully accept it as a token of her amity and regard, and as a pledge, that as heretofore Queen, so now as Empress, there will be extended to me the support and protection symbolised by Her Imperial Crown surmounting the Arms of my kingdom. As a memento of the auspicious 1st of January it will be to me a continual witness of the closer union now subsisting between Her Majesty’s Government and the smaller States, and the obligations are under to have our own rule on the principles on which the Empire has been consolidated and rests, not so much on the strength of armies, as on the secure foundation of inflexible justice and an assiduous care of the welfare of the subject population.
“The times are happily gone by with us, when banners led the way to fields of bloody strife, but there are the triumphs of peace to be achieved, and in the onward march of civilisation it shall be my care to follow in the wake of the great nation from whose Queen I have had the honour of receiving this one, and whose representatives, I thankfully own, have aided and encouraged my humble efforts in that direction,”
Sashiah Sastri retires
Sashiah Sastri’s term of office as Dewan having come to a close, His Highness desired to appoint a Native of the State as Dewan, and Peishcar Nanoo Pillai was accordingly nominated. But at the suggestion of the Resident, Sashiah Sastri was given an extension of six months to ‘wind up his administration’. In communicating the retirement of Sashiah Sastri, His Highness wrote to the Madras Government — “I take this opportunity of recording my high appreciation of the several distinguished services rendered by Sashiah Saatri during his five years of successful administration.” In accepting the pension allowed by His Highness, Sasliiah Sastri wrote: —
“In service, Your Highness made me affluent by the grant of a high salary, out of service Your Highness makes me comfortable with a liberal pension and a generous donation. The bread thus given will not be eaten in ungratefulness or sulky discontent. The brightest chapter of my life is my service under Your Highness. The little name and fame I have acquired is in reality but the light reflected on the servant by an illustrious master, to serve whom, even for a brief period, has been my pride and privilege.”
Sashiah Sastri’s regime was another bright epoch in the history of Travancore. Under his administration the country fared happily, finances prospered, the tone of the public service was raised; many useful public works were carried out; increases were given to the various establishments of the State; fresh stimulus was given to agriculture and trade which attained a high standard of progress; new roads and canals were constructed; many petty taxes were abolished; paper was introduced for purposes of writing in the place of palmyra leaves in all departments; the revenue administration was reorganised and the Taluq authorities were given great facilities for the easy realisation of the Government dues. In short Sashiah supplemented all that was left wanting in the administration of Sir Madava Row and made Travancore one of the most prosperous and well-governed Native States of India.
Career of Sir A. Sashiah Sastri, K. C. S. I.
A few facts of Sashiah Sastri’s life may be given here mostly from personal knowledge of him acquired during an acquaintance of over thirty years, and partly derived from his excellent biography by Mr. B. V. Kamesvara Aiyar, M. A.
The lives of Madhava Row and Sashiah Sastri are associated in the public mind with most of the improvements and reforms which have shed lustre on the Travancore administration in recent years, and these two were among the most brilliant of that set of the High School alumni of Mr. Powell’s, who have illumined South Indian history in the nineteenth century. It was a favourite expression of the late Revd. T. Pettigrew, one of the most versatile Chaplains that ever came to Travancore, and a gentleman who knew both Sir Madava Row and Sashiah Sastri intimately, to say, “If I talked English like Sir Madava and wrote it like Sashiah, I shall be the greatest man in Europe”, — a high testimony indeed in any case, but which every one who knew the two statesmen closely would most ungrudgingly corroborate.
Sashiah was born on the 22nd March 1828 in the little village of Amaravati on the banks of the Vettar, one of the deltaic mouths of the Kaveri in the Tanjore District. He was born of poor but respectable parents. At the age of eight he was sent to Madras, which was then the only place where any English education could be got, and where one of his uncles, Gopala Aiyar by name and a dealer in precious stones, undertook to keep the boy and educate him. After picking up the rudiments of English under two Eurasian teachers, he was sent to the Anderson School, a Mission school called after its founder the Revd. John Anderson, the earliest Missionary of the Church of Scotland and the pioneer of English education in the Presidency.
Here he studied for about two years, i.e., till 1840, when the conversions into Christianity of a few high-caste students created an alarm among the native community of Madras and as a result most of the students including young Sashiah deserted the school. Sashiah with many of his school-mates next joined the Preparatory School then newly established and passed from thence to the High School which was opened on the 14th April 1841 with Mr. E. B. Powell as its Head-master. Here he continued till May 1848 when he took a First Class Proficient’s Degree and was launched forth into the world.
During the early years of his school life Sashiah was in very straitened circumstances and his poor uncle’s resources were by no means equal to the payment of a school fee of Rs. 4 per mensem. But the boy’s general intelligence and smartness soon attracted the attention of Mr. Powell who took a special interest in him and generously offered to meet the charges of his school fees from his own pocket. Just about this time the trustees of Pachaiyappa’s charities founded a few scholarships to poor and deserving youths and on Sashiah was conferred one of them. He soon after obtained a Government stipend which towards the close of his scholastic career reached the respectable sum of Rs. 20.
These several small helps placed him above want, and he ever after cherished the most lively feelings of gratitude to his benefactors. His career in the school was an exceptionally brilliant one, and in addition to the annual class prizes he secured the Pachaiyappa’s Vernacular and Translation prizes and the Elphinstone Prize for an essay on “What is civilisation”, the like of which in point of style, Sir Alexander Arbuthnot remarked several years later at the Presidency Collage anniversary of 1872, he had not heard read by a Native. He also received the First Prize of the Council of Education of the value of Rs. 300. He took the Proficient’s Degree with honours on the 29th May 1848 and received the Ring set with Emeralds of a Proficient of the First Class.
Sashiah‘s forte was English and his attempts in English composition were considered remarkable for one of his age. The speech he delivered on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of Pachaiyappa’s College in October 1846 when he was still in his school, attracted great attention and a silk purse of gold mohors was presented to him in recognition of the same, and it appeared in the next issue of the Madras Crescent, then an influential organ of public opinion.
In September 1848, Sashiah Sastri entered the Revenue Board as a clerk on Rs. 25, where he had the pleasure of being trained under the immediate guidance of Mr. Pycroft (afterwards Sir Henry Pycroft) in drafting correspondence. In June 1849, he accompanied Mr (afterwards Sir) Walter Elliot, Senior Member of the Board who was appointed Special Commissioner for the Northern Circars. During the two years of wandering life and varied experience Sashiah had with his master, he had acquired correct knowledge of all departments of revenue administration and had become the right-hand man of Mr. Elliot who always entertained a very high estimate of Sashiali’s worth and capabilities.
In May 1851, Sashiah became Tahsildar of Masulipatam in which he acquitted himself very well. In February 1854, he was promoted to the Naib Sheristadarship and in 1855, was appointed Head Sheristadar of Musulipatam. As Head Sheristadar he was the confidential minister of the District Collector and the virtual ruler of the District. Here he continued till 1859 when he was appointed a Deputy Collector and ordered to duty under Mr. George Noble Taylor, Inam Commissioner.
In 1860 he was made Special Assistant to the Commissioner on a salary of Rs. 600, in which capacity he served for six years. During the time he served in the Inam Commission, he registered 50,000 original Inam claims and reviewed as many as 250,000 titles that had been registered by the Deputy Collectors. He made a special study of the Inam tenures and succeeded in conciliating and satisfying all parties.
In 1866 Sashiah Sastri was appointed Treasury Deputy Collector and posted to his native District of Tanjore. Here in one year he restored order and system. He was also Vice-President of the District Municipality in which capacity he did yeoman service. The sanitation and general appearance of the town was greatly improved under his personal supervision and the District was provided with a network of metalled roads.
In 1868 Sashiah was appointed a Fellow of the University of Madras. In the next year when the post of Head Sheristadar of the Madras Revenue Board fell vacant, the appointment was offered to Sashiah. This was the highest post to which a Native could then rise under the Madras Government, and carried with it a salary of Rs. 800. But as Sashiah was already getting Rs. 750, the Board Sheristadarship was not sufficiently tempting. His friends, however, prevailed upon him to accept it. In recognition of Sashiah’s valuable services, the Board recommended his pay being immediately raised to Rs. 1,000, which Government had sanctioned to be given him after five years’ approved service. The Board wrote —
“It seems to the Board to be scarcely logical or in accordance with the policy pursued by Government in the case of all other appointments, to pay the same man at different rates for the same work merely because he performs it for a stated time. They are thoroughly satisfied with Sashiah’s work at the present time and they are certain that it will be neither greater in quantity nor better in quality after he has been in their office for five years. The Government have attached the condition of approved service in the Board’s office to the higher rate of pay. In the case of a man chosen after a long and distinguished career the approval is certain and any further probation is unnecessary.”
This application having been favourably recommended to the Secretary of State was duly sanctioned. Sashiah spent a very happy life in Madras with many of his school-fellows who after distinguishing themselves in their varied walks of public life were now brought together. T. Muthuswami Aiyar was Police Magistrate; V. Ramiengar was Superintendent of Stamps; Chentsal Row was Salt Deputy Collector, and R. Regunatha Row was Deputy Collector of the city of Madras.
But this school-boys dream of happiness was as usual short-lived. One morning in April 1872 Sashiah was summoned to the Government House by Sir Alexander Arbuthnot, then Acting Governor, who asked him if he could accept the Dewanship of Travancore left vacant by the retirement of Sir Madava Row. Sashiah hesitated and almost declined.
But Sir Alexander advised him to think over it and let him know, adding that the refusal of a Dewanship of Travancore carrying with it a salary of Rs. 2,000 a month would not come twice to any man. All his friends pressed him to take up the appointment, if only to keep up the prestige of Powell’s boys. Next morning he intimated his assent to the Governor and his services were accordingly placed at the disposal of His Highness the Maharajah of Travancore. Sashiah Sastri came to Trivandrum in May 1872 and was immediately installed as Dewan. It is enough to say that Sashiah’s manner and tact combined with solid ability and high principles enabled him to win the confidence of the Maharajah and the approbation of the public who still remember him with feelings of gratitude and esteem. In confirming him as Dewan His Highness wrote to him —
“Permit me to congratulate you most heartily on this auspicious event of your being confirmed in your post so cheerfully by me; and as you have always had several substantial proofs of my having fully confided in you and afforded you my warmest support, be assured you shall always have them. It is really a matter for congratulation that our mutual, both political and friendly, relations hitherto have been so cordial and satisfactory, and I am in full hopes of our being able to get on smoothly both to the great interests of my country as well as to the peace of my mind, as I am already convinced of your excellent ability, tact and, above all, your sincerely faithful attachment and true loyalty to me.”
The Madras Government were also equally pleased. Sashiah Sastri retired after five years of Dewanship in 1877 on a pension of Rs. 600. He had already been created a “Companion of the Star of India” in January of the same year. Thus closed the brightest period of Sashiah Sastri’s public life, and it may be said with justice, one of the brightest epochs in the administration of the country. After his retirement he was nominated a Member of the Madras Legislative Council. Subsequently, in 1879, he was offered a seat in the Viceregal Council which he declined.
‘The Duke of Buckingham thus referred to him in one of his public speeches —
“In nominating the Hon’ble Sashiah Sastri to the Council of the Viceroy, in placing the Hon’ble Justice Muthuswami Aiyar on the bench of our own High Court, I know that I have advanced them to no honour which was not well deserved or to a post which would not be well filled. Such are the men of whom one shall hereafter need more. Keep them in your minds as studies for your emulation.”
In addition to his work in the Council, Sashiah Sastri was consulted by Government and the Revenue Board on several important questions of State, political, legislative and financial and his views were characterised by thought, sobriety and a clear insight resulting from a long and varied experience. Meanwhile the affairs of the State of Pudukotta had been drifting from bad to worse and the Duke of Buckingham offered the appointment of Dewan to Sashiah Sastri in August 1878. Sashiah visited Podukotta at the request of the Rajah and saw for himself the state of things. He seems to have felt it was a regular Augean stables — almost beyond his power to cleanse, that even if he could undertake it with any prospect of success, his road to reform would be beset with obstructions, and it would be unwise to risk in a hopeless task what reputation he had already gained. So he wrote back to the Rajah and the Political Agent declining the offer. But the earnest representations of the Rajah and his own friends induced him to change his mind, and he accordingly signified his willingness to accept the place.
He was thereupon appointed in August 1878 as Dewan of Pudukotta, in which capacity he continued till 1886, and when the old Rajah died leaving behind his grandson the present Rajah who was a minor, the Dewan was appointed Regent. Sashiah Sastri continued for another eight years and retired on the 24th November 1894, when the young Tondiman was installed as Rajah. In all for sixteen years he was in charge of the Pudukotta administration. The magnificent work he did there is before the public of Southern India. In his address at the Installation ceremony of the young Rajah, Lord Wenlock, Governor of Madras, referred to Sashiah Sastri’s services in the following complimentary terms —
“The inheritance upon which you are this day entering was twenty years ago financially and in every respect in a most dilapidated condition. The aspect of affairs is now very different; you will have made over to you a State not only unencumbered with debt but possessing a balance of no less than three lakhs, while there is every prospect of its yielding an increasing revenue if administered with due care. On every side material improvements are visible. Every branch of the administration has been now reformed, the revenue has improved, the roads are excellent and the capital is adorned with modem public buildings. All these are due to the untiring energy and devotion to his duties of Dewan-Regent Sashiah Sastri, one of that talented body, the Proficients of the High School, so many members of which have taken a prominent and honourable share in public affairs.
“Mr. Sashiah Sastri became Dewan in 1878, and, after serving your grandfather until his demise in 1886, has since then continued to work for the well-being of the State of Pudukotta with great ability and remarkable fidelity and honesty of purpose. The result of his labours has been so successful that what was at the time of his accession to office almost a wreck is at the present moment a prosperous possession. He is now, after a long and trying period of devotion to public service, laying aside official harness in view to enjoying a well-earned repose. I consider that Your Highness owes him a deep debt of gratitude, and I am pleased to learn that you have decided to manifest your appreciation of the service done by him on his retirement in an appropriate manner.”
The Pudukotta State granted him a pension of Rs. 400, which added to that of Rs. 500 from Travancore placed him in comfortable circumstances. He then retired to his palatial mansion at Kumbakonam on the banks of the Kaveri, which he called Padmavilasam after the name of his official residence at Trivandrum, and where he spent the remainder of his days in peace and comfort, sometimes engaged in congenial letter-writing but often in convivial talk, in both of which he so wonderfully excelled most of his compeers in life; now listening to an amanuensis reading the daily Madras Mail or The Hindu, now writing his views on the proposed Agricultural Banks of British India or the Religious Endowment Bill before the Legislative Council of a Native State, now discussing with the help of Pandits the eternal problems mooted in the weighty discourse of Sri Krishna to Arjuna, or warmly controverting with educated youths some of the Madras answers given before the Education Commission of Lord Curzon.
Always genial in temper and placid in manner, though never in perfect health, ready to help the poor and the distressed, to offer advice to the erring and the wayward, and to encourage the industries and the intelligent, open to conviction, impervious to flattery, ready to assimilate new ideas, genuinely attached to old friends and dependents and easily accessible to all, hospitable to friends and strangers alike who went to see him, proud of his past achievements and conscious of life’s work nobly done, hopeful of the country’s future, and, above all, trustful in a kind and merciful Providence, he glided through life gently and smoothly, as if unmindful of the weight of years or indifferent to the cares and sorrows which a long life entails.
In 1902 His Majesty King Edward VII was pleased to appoint him a “Knight Commander of the Star of India” on the recommendation of Lord Curzon. Sashiah Sastri died in October 1903 in the seventy-sixth year of his age, full of years and full of honours.
In Travancore he has left an imperishable name for ability and integrity, impartiality, large-heartedness and sympathy to all who have had official dealings with him. He was strong, earnest, honest and loyal to the best traditions of the Royal house and the people of Travancore. He was, to quote Mr. Pettigrew again, “the able and incorruptible prime minister”.
He was calm, cautious and circumspect, patient and forgiving, toilsome and persevering, and when he meant to keep an official secret he was “as open as the sea and yet as deep”. Sashiah was a genuine admirer of the practical Briton and his manly ways, his rectitude of purpose, love of justice and devotion to duty, and an ardent supporter of the English Government in India. He was a strong believer in Native talent and advocate of the Native cause, and his powerful minute on the Ilbert Bill perhaps the very best paper in the huge collection of the Ilbert Bill literature —shows at once the high-water-mark of skill and independence which educated Natives can reach under favourable circumstances as well as the correct view of the large Native population on so important a subject which, it is difficult for the average Civilian to easily understand in the maze of flattery and fear by which he is surrounded.
Nanoo Pilial — Dewan
Dewan Nanoo Pillai, the successor of Sahiah Sastri, took charge of the administration in Chingam 1053 M.E (17th August 1877 A.D). He had served the State for thirty years and was one of its best Revenue officers.
The Kottadilly farm was leased to the Travancore State for five years on the 26th October 1877.
The Sadar Court which had consisted of four Judges was remodelled at the close of 1054 M.E (1879 A.D.), the number of Judges was reduced to three and the powers and duties of this Court were defined as well as those of a single Judge with reference to civil and criminal cases, and the general supervision over the subordinate judiciaries. The Medical Department was thoroughly reorganised and new hospitals were opened in all the important centres. Many court-houses, inns and feeding-houses were built and numerous temples were repaired. The Punalur suspension bridge, a wonderful piece of engineering work, was completed in the year 1054 M.E
The chief domestic events of this reign may be recorded here. Her Highness the Junior Rani (Parvathi Bayi) was married to the Kilimanur Koil Tampuran on the 27th Makaram 1037 M.E (February 1862 A.D.), and the following were the issue of the union.
Prince Revati Tirunal (Kerala Varma) was born on the 6th Chingam 1040 M.E. (1865 A.D.); Prince Makayiram Tirunal on the 8th Medam 1041 M.E (April 1866 A.D.); Prince Satayam Tirunal (Rama Varma) on the 19th Vrischigam 1043 M. E. (December 1867 A.D.), and Prince Asvathi Tirunal (Martanda Varma) on the 9th Vrischigam 1047 M.E. (November 1871 A.D.).
Of these Prince Makayiram Tirunal died in Edavam 1050 M.E (1875 A.D.), which event was followed by another calamity, namely the death of Hastam Tirunal, the elder brother of His Highness the present Maharajah, in Medam 1052 M.E (April 1877 A.D.).
Demise of the Maharajah
A fatal disease seized His Highness, and in the beginning of May 1880 matters took a serious turn. The First Prince Rama Varma was not on good terms with the Maharajah in the latter part of the reign. In spite of repeated repulses, the Prince with a good deal of perseverance obtained an interview with the dying Maharajah. The meeting was very affecting and the Prince never for a moment after that left his brother’s bed-side. For a whole week the Prince tended the Maharajah with exemplary care and affection, and the Maharajah himself was moved and reconciled to his brother. He endured his last sufferings with calmness and fortitude and passed away before day-break on the last day of May 1880. No more flattering testimony could be borne to His Highness’ rule than that contained in the following extract from the Notification in the Fort St. George Gazette, dated 8th June 1880, announcing His Highness’ demise. “His Highness ascended the musnud on the 19th October 1860, and his reign has been marked by the development of wise and enlightened principles of administration which have placed Travancore in the first rank of Native States.”
Dr. W. H. Russel, Honorary Private Secretary to H. R. H. The Prince of Wales (now King-Emperor) thus records his impression of His Highness in his diary of December 12, 1875: —
“His Highness is of Kshatriya caste, forty- four year’s of age (looks nearly sixty); in addition to Mahratta, Tamil, Hindustani, and Telugu, writes and speaks English with fluency; is a good Sanscrit scholar and much given to literary discussion with pundits; is fond of music in which he excels; is an admirable man of business, very punctual and exact; fond of science and profoundly attached to his own faith. He has a stammer in his speech at times, but his manners are easy and agreeable, and his appearance is dignified, as becomes one who claims an ancestry that dates from 600 A.D......................... It is a model Native State and Sashiah Sastri the present Dewan, a school-fellow of Sir Madhava Rao, is a man of great intelligence and ability.” *
NOTEs: * The Prince of Wales' Tour in India. Page 318
To the above may be added the following testimony of the very able the Revd. T. Pettigrew, sometime Chaplain of Trivandrum —
“His Highness was a man of small stature and make, about forty-eight years, with very small hands and feet, and of a pale but intelligent countenance, his ancestry dating back to 600 A.D. Nothing could exceed his urbanity of manners full of life and vivacity, and naturally of a kind and gentle disposition. He speaks English fluently. ...His Highness was much liked by European and native. ...... He was a thorough gentleman, with an instinctive appreciation of that qualification in others. At all times, he was accessible to his people and listened with patience to their petitions.”*
NOTEs: * Episodes in the Life of an Indian Chaplain. Page 334
In the words of Shakespeare: —
“His life was gentle and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up,
And say to all the world — ‘this was a man’.”
3. Rama Varma