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Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - Section C: Modern History - Rama Varma - (Visakham Tirunal)

Accession Attainments and early career

Release of the Valia Koil Tampuran Dewan Nanoo Pillai retired

Career of N. Nanoo Pillai The new Dewan

Reforms Travancore-Cochin boundary

Chief political events The Maharajah’s personal traits

The Maharajah’s demise


Rama Varma - (Visakham Tirunal) 1055-1060 M.E / 1880-1885 A.D

His Highness Rama Varma succeeded his brother Ayilliam Tirunal, the intermediate elder brother Ravi Varma (Uttradam Tirunal) having been declared an imbecile. He ascended the musnud on the 17th June 1880. Never did a Maharajah come to power under more favourable auspices or amidst greater popular expectations, his reputation for learning and high character having preceded him on the throne. The Resident, Mr. Athol MacGregor, wrote to His Highness: —

“It is a matter of the greatest satisfaction that the crown will devolve on one so well fitted, as Your Highness is, to exercise an authority on which the welfare and happiness of so many depend. In saying this I do not adopt the mere ordinary courtesy of court language but I express an opinion for which the strongest ground has been afforded by Your Highness’ former career and known attainments and principles. ................. I am firmly of opinion that few Princes have ever succeeded to a throne with more opportunities of earning a great name, and if Your Highness devotes your talents in singleness of purpose to the good of your subjects, as I believe you will do, the benefit will not be confined to Travancore, but will be reflected far and wide over Hindustan.”

This opinion was entertained of him not only in Travancore but all over India, and the highest expectations were formed of His Highness’ rule. He himself feared that these public expectations being pitched too high must meet with disappointment. The critically minded future historian may perhaps have to record that the performance fell somewhat short of expectations; and if His Highness did not attain the success which his illustrious brother had reached, and which he himself so richly deserved, it was because “there’s a divinity that shape our ends, rough-hew them how we will.” But the historian will most readily admit that the fault, if any, was not His Highness’ by any means, that it entirely lay in quite another quarter (of which as ill-luck would have it, the odium rested mainly on his shoulders), though it must be said to his credit that he worked most conscientiously and strenuously, as he himself promised in his Installation speech, “to the best of my powers, to secure good government and progressive happiness to my subjects”. What Sir. M.E Grant Duff said of Lord Cornwallis in the presence of His Highness applies as well to himself, for his is undoubtedly

“one of the by no means too numerous names which history has surrounded with a halo, not for success, which was often denied to him, but for his rectitude of purpose and unflinching devotion to what he thought right amidst the most varied, and not unfrequently the most trying, circumstances.”

The formal Installation took place on the 17th July 1880, when His Highness made a memorable speech:

“My feelings overpower me in addressing you a few words on this occasion. Called upon by the Almighty and All-wise Disposer of events to the highest of human responsibilities, and placed on a throne, filled in the past by an illustrious line of my respected ancestors, by the Representative of the Government of Her Majesty, the Empress of an Empire, the like of which in extent, power and glory, combined with justice, humanity, prosperity and enlightened progress, neither modern nor ancient history reveals, I fully realise the magnitude, gravity and sacredness of the charge. I am fully conscious of my own unworthiness. I am fully conscious how incommensurate my mental and bodily powers are with the discharge of the duties of a ruler of hundreds of thousands of my fellow creatures. ...................I am aware that on such occasions public expectations are high, often abnormally high, and the higher the pitch to which they are tuned, the greater naturally are the chances of disappointment.”

His Highness’ attainments and early career

The Maharajah was of very delicate health from his birth, his mother having died before he was two months old. He was born on the 19th May 1837. He received his early training from his estimable father for whom he had unbounded respect, and whom he always regarded as “the very model of self-control and rigid unbending honesty”. Having received a sound instruction in Malayalam and Sanskrit, the English alphabet was sounded in his ears in his ninth year by Dewan Subba Row. Though his early studies were often interrupted by bodily ailments, he worked at his lessons most diligently. In 1849 he fell seriously ill and was declared consumptive. In the same year T. Madava Row was appointed tutor to the Princes and he threw himself heart find soul into the task. The tuition continued for about four years during the course of which a taste for study was instilled in the naturally studious mind of the Prince.

The appointment of Madava Row to a post in the administration in July 1853, left the Prince without a tutor, but Madava Row never ceased to take interest in the Prince’s studies and exert a wholesome influence on his mind. For English composition, the Prince had a special aptitude and his first attempt was an essay on the “Horrors of war and benefits of peace”. General Anson (who visited Travancore in 1855) perused the paper and spoke highly of the “ability with which it is written and his admiration of the benevolent sentiments embodied in it”. Thus encouraged, the Prince aspired to further honours and applied himself more closely to his studies and literary exercises. He wrote an article for the Madras Athenæum, then a very powerful organ of public opinion under the editorship of Mr. John Bruce Norton.

The first contribution on the “Education of Native Princes” was rejected by him with the observation that it was not worth publishing except as a literary curiosity. This rebuff keenly touched the Prince who doubled his exertions at essay-writing and sent in another paper, viz., “A Political Sketch of Travancore”. This paper was gladly accepted by the editor who acknowledged it as a truly valuable contribution and wrote —

‘“It was I that noticed so savagely, as you thought, your communication to the Athenæum, but what might then have struck you as unkind must now, I think, appear in its true light— a really friendly warning, for I doubt not it has led you to reflect and fashion your style so as to make your present communication the truly valuable communication which it is.”

The Prince also contributed to other papers. We have already referred to the friendly criticisms on Travancore affairs that used to appear in the successive issues of The Indian Statesman, entitled ‘Topics for Mr. F. N. Maltby’ under the nom de plume of ‘Brutus’, which created a real sensation in those days. We have also referred to his article on Sir Madava Row, K.C.S.I that appeared in the Calcutta Review under the designation ‘A Native Statesman’.

In 1861 His Highness visited Madras as a Prince and made such an impression upon Sir William Denison the Governor, that he wrote to the Resident Mr. Maltby in these gratifying words — “He is by far the most intelligent Native I have seen; and if his brother (the Maharajah) is like him, the prospects of Travancore are very favourable.” He was soon appointed a Fellow of the Madras University, a rare honour conferred on natives in those days. The offer of a seat in the Viceroy’s Legislative Council while he was yet a Prince, was a rarer honour still, though he had to decline it on considerations of health.

He devoted much of his time to botanical studies, and in a short time he became a practical botanist of considerable ability. For agriculture he had a special aptitude.

His name will ever be remembered for the introduction and extension of tapioca cultivation in Travancore; it is now the labourer’s food par excellence, and “there is no poor man in the land who eats it without silently blessing the memory of Visakham Rajah for it”. The value of the tapioca root is now so widely known that it needs no comment here.

He also tried to introduce Manilla Tobacco into the country though with only indifferent results.

He greatly encouraged painting in oils and water-colours, ivory and wood carving and kuftgari work. The Prince visited the chief educational and industrial institutions of Southern India and took a special interest in the Madras School of Industrial Arts, where he instituted two prizes, one for the best essay on the ‘Architecture, sculpture and painting of Ancient India’, and the other for the best wood-engraving of ‘Eve at the Foundation’, an ivory statuette of which he had already presented to the school.

In 1874, the Prince had an attack of Enteralgia brought on by hard riding while on the Peermade hills, which eventually settled down into chronic diarrhoea, complicated with violent bronchial disorder at frequent intervals, but fortunately he survived the terrible attack. His tours outside Travancore enabled him to make the personal acquaintance of some of the eminent men of his time, such as Sir T. Pycroft, Sir Alexander Arbuthnot, Sir Colley H. Scotland, Mr. E. B. Powell, Mr. J. B. Norton and several others. Within Travancore he travelled much and closely studied the capabilities and produce of the different soils and the wants of all the places he visited.

Release of the Valia Koil Tampuran. One of the first acts of the new Maharajah was to recall Kerala Varma, the Consort of Her Highness Lakshmi Bayi the Senior Rani, who had been exiled by the late Maharajah. The good Rani who had heroically borne a five years’ forced separation, was thus reunited to her loving husband.

Dewan Nanoo Pillai retired. On the 15th September 1880, i.e., within three months of His Highness’ accession, Dewan Nanoo Pillai was retired on a handsome pension and the Hon’ble Mr. V. Ramiengar, C.S.I., Inspector-General of Registration, Madras, was appointed in his stead.

Career of N. Nanoo Pillai. Nanoo Pillai was a native of the Neyyur village in the Eraniel Taluq. He was born on the first of Medam 1002 M. E. (1827 A. D.). His father Nagan Tampi of Maycode came of a respectable stock and was a ripe Sanskrit scholar and possessed a knowledge of Hindu astronomy and astrology. Young Nanoo was instructed in Sanskrit by the father himself who sent the boy afterwards to the London Mission School at Neyyur for his English education. After completing his course in that school he was sent to the Mission School at Nagercoil-the Head-master of which, Mr. Miller, recorded high hopes of the boy in his school diary in the following words , “Nanoo is a very intelligent boy” to which thirty-five years later, Rev. J. Duthie added “he became Dewan of Travancore”. ‘The child is father to the man’—-that was the maxim everybody who came in contact with him including the present writer himself believed in. He was good, intelligent, well-behaved, honest upright and above all devoted to his Sovereign and the State. Nanoo subsequently went to His Highness the Maharajah’s Free School at Trivandrum where he distinguished himself and won several prizes.

His general intelligence and good knowledge of English attracted the attention of General Cullen the British Resident, to whom he introduced himself when on circuit at Udayagiri. General Cullen was a true patron of letters himself being an ardent votary of science and a friend to the poor and the needy; towards school-boys especially, he felt a genuine solicitude. He entertained Nanoo in the service first as a volunteer and then as a clerk, and as became so high-minded and generous a Resident, watched his career throughout with a paternal interest until he died in 1862. On his retirement from the Residentship in 1860, he wrote of Nanoo Pillai as follows —

“Nanoo Pillai, Manager of the Petition Department was for four years a volunteer and has been ten years on the permanent establishment of the Resident’s office. He learnt English first in the Mission School at Neyoor, and afterwards in His Highness the Rajah’s Free School, Trivandrum. He attracted my notice when on circuit at Oodagherry in 1846 by his knowledge of English and general intelligence. He has since given very great satisfaction by his assiduity and intelligence and perfect knowledge of business. He translates readily and draws up capital abstracts of all Native papers.”

After a service of fourteen years in the Resident’s office, during which successive Residents bore testimony to his intelligence and great knowledge of business, His Highness Martanda Varma took him into the Sirkar service as Assistant Police Sheristadar. His devotion to duty soon endeared him to Sir T. Madava Row the Dewan. His Highness the then First Prince (Visakham Tirunal) soon marked him out as a capable officer and in one of his letters His Highness wrote to him exhorting him to help on the administration of Sir Madava Row and adding that he felt he was ‘one of the deplorably few’ in the State to whom he could express this wish with hope. He was soon promoted to the responsible post of Dewan Peishcar of the Southern Division — the administration of which was frequently the subject of criticism and complaint by the missionaries of the London Mission Society. He administered the Division with ability and tact and great credit to himself and won the approbation of his Sovereign master. Sir Madava Row himself wrote to him —

“I have only to add my hope that by continuing to render faithful, diligent and willing service, you will advance in the service. Remember that much more than your individual interests are at stake; in short the national character is under trial. If educated young men can show that they can equal Europeans not only in the capacity to do good service, but in the strictest integrity in every sense of the word, it will be a great thing accomplished for our community. I am glad that in your conduct hitherto you have shown yourself quite alive to the importance of this point.”

Sir Madava Row again wrote in May 1867 when he received the honour of Knighthood —

“The London Missionary gentlemen have been calling upon me this morning and presenting me an address of congratulation on the honours lately conferred on me by the Queen. They have done the same to His Highness. They have taken occasion to speak very well of our efforts at good government and I feel highly gratified. I have told them in reply that much credit is due to the heads of the several Departments who have been co-operating with me. In the course of conversation Mr. Baylis and others spoke very satisfactorily of your administration in South Travancore, and it must be a source of great encouragement to you that your efforts are appreciated by such enlightened people as well as by your superiors.”

Dr. Lowe, the Medical Missionary at Neyyur, wrote to him in 1868—

“Your straightforward upright character and conduct; your intelligence and moral worth have secured for you an enviable reputation and made you a powerful influence for good in this community, and have won my admiration, respect, and warmest esteem, and not mine only but of all good men who I have heard express an opinion regarding you and your administration.”

Mr. M. Sadasiva Pillai, the eminent First Judge of the Sadar Court also wrote to him in the same year: —

“Allow me to take the opportunity of expressing to you the great pleasure I had in receiving while lately through your District, the testimony volunteered by such people as I met, to the earnest and patient attention paid by you to their wants and grievances.”

Lord Napier, Governor of Madras, when he paid a visit to the London Mission quarters at Neyyur way very much pleased with the good reports he had received of the administration of the Division and spoke in high terms to the Maharajah remarking that Nanoo Pillai would make a good Dewan for him. He was transferred to the Trivandrum Division, and while there he acted as Dewan on six occasions. In the four months interval between the retirement of Sir T. Madava Row and the appointment of Sashiah Sastri, he was appointed to act as Dewan and the Madras Government, in their Report on the Administration of the Madras Presidency (1872-1873), observed that during the interval Mr. Nanoo Pillai conducted the affairs of the State very creditably.

“The year was marked by a change in the Dewanship. Sir T. Madava Row, the late Dewan, was on leave from February to May 1872. At the expiry of his leave he retired. The Dewan Peishcar, Nanoo Pillay was in charge from the commencement of the late Dewan’s leave, and conducted the current duties of his post very creditably till relieved by the present Dewan, A. Sashiah Sastri, who was thus only connected with the administration for some two and a half months of the year now under review.”

On the retirement of A. Sashiah Sastri, His Highness the Maharajah was pleased to appoint him as Dewan in Chingam 1053 M.E. (August 1877 A. D). His attention was first drawn to the Revenue Settlement of the State for the efficient carrying out of which he introduced what are called the Pokkuvaravu Rules as a preliminary step. According to these rules, several thousands of transfers of registries were effected, and if the scheme had been allowed to go on, it might have led to very satisfactory results, but it was abandoned by his successor the Honourable Mr. V. Ramiengar, C.S.I. His attention was also drawn to the irrigation of South Travancore and a scheme for the Kothayar Project, was drawn up by him. The grounds were surveyed and the work was about to be commenced, but he did not remain in office to carry out the scheme. On the 15th September 1880, His Highness the Maharajah wrote offering him an honourable retirement and recognising his services thus —

“In doing so I will fail in justice and fairness were I not to record in the strongest terms my high sense of your most faithful, devoted and valuable services to myself and to my lamented predecessor in several grades of the public service culminating in the highest office of the State, that of Prime-minister and responsible adviser. The State finances under a combination of causes coupled with your watchful care have risen to an unprecedented level, and the progress in the other administrative branches generally has been conspicuous.”

Mr. Nanoo Pillai accordingly retired in 1880 on a handsome pension, spending most of his time in South Travancore where he devoted himself to literary pursuits. He wrote a history of Travancore beginning from the last quarter of the eighteenth century, but he did not live to complete it, nor were the finished portions published having been dissuaded by friends from doing so, as it was believed that certain facts which he brought to light and opinions which he expressed were not likely to be agreeable to all parties. This is a poor excuse, for a sketch of those troublous times from Nanoo Pillai’s pen must be particularly valuable, as he was well acquainted with the period both from personal researches and by a study of the old records in the Resident’s office where he had been long employed. I regret I have not had the benefit of reading his manuscript sketch in full in the writing of these pages.

He quietly passed away on the 14th August 1881 in his residence at Trivandrum much regretted by the Sovereign, his numerous friends and relatives, and the community at large. He was a simple and unostentatious man, very sincere in his dealings with others and god-fearing and just in his actions. He was kind to his servants and dependents and courteous to all, and in his behaviour was a perfect gentleman in the true sense of the word. He was intensely religious and showed great respect for the opinions of the public in all questions of social and religious importance. He was a constant reader of the Bhagavadgita and the Bible; though an orthodox Hindu, appreciated the good points of the Christian Scriptures, the result certainly of the early influences under which he was brought up. He was a great pedestrian and in the earlier years he used to ride a good deal.

The new Dewan. Mr. Ramiengar was another distinguished Proficient and school-fellow of Rajah Sir Madava Row and Sir Sashiah Sastri, who had risen high in the British service. The Maharajah was acquainted with him for about twenty years and had several opportunities of estimating his ability and educational attainments. Sir Charles Trevelyan among others had borne high testimony to Ramiengar’s character and abilities. It may be worth mentioning here that the name of Mr. Ramiengar was talked of in connection with the Travancore Dewanship even before Sashiah Sastri, his nomination having been strongly supported by Visakham Tirunal then First Prince and “but for the decided hostility of the Ruler to everything proceeding from the First Prince, V. Ramiengar’s appointment as the successor of Sir Madava Row would have become an accomplished fact”.

Sashiah Sastri himself thus wrote to a friend on the subject — “Ramiengar ought to have got it before me and was very near it in the race. But God willed it otherwise. He now gets it though out of turn. Yet it is all the same.............. May Heaven spare him long and give him good sense to be popular.”

The financial condition of the State for 1055 M. E, was in the highest degree prosperous. The Madras Government observed in their G. O. dated 29th August 1881:-

”It must have gratified the present Maharajah to learn that the first year of his reign was a year of unexampled prosperity; the weather was seasonable. The harvest was plenteous. Under almost every head of revenue there was a marked increase of income and the year closed with a surplus of nearly five lacs.”

Reforms. The Maharajah started with an earnest desire to reform the administration in all its branches, it was mainly for this purpose that the old Dewan Nanoo Pillai was retired and Ramiengar, an officer of Madras experience, brought in to take his place. When the present writer informed Rajah Sir Madava Row then on a visit to Travancore, that His Highness’ chief aim was the introduction of reforms in several directions, Sir Madava Row sarcastically remarked, “You mean changes. I suppose you know that all changes are not necessarily reforms”.

Sir Madava Row’s meaning was clear. The present writer who has had twenty-five years’ more experience of the country since that conversation took place, can now say that some at least of the changes then made were not beneficial to the State and might have been avoided. But His Highness had made up his mind to commemorate his rule by a series of drastic changes, and as he had a prescience that his was destined to be a short life, he would not tarry nor allow himself to be thwarted in his designs.

Immediately on His Highness’ accession to the throne, a Royal warrant was issued remitting all old arrears of assessment and other dues to the Sirkar to the extent of between eight and nine lacs of rupees, long left to hang over the ryots’ head without any prospect of recovery but affording ample opportunities for oppression; the salaries of public servants were increased; a Committee was appointed for collecting and codifying the scattered Regulations, Proclamations and Notifications, and the import duty on tobacco was reduced with a view to diminish the scope for smuggling. The Police first engaged his attention. The old Police of the country was condemned as inefficient for the prevention and detection of crime. A Regulation (IV of 1056) was passed for the reorganisation of the entire force. To improve the administration of criminal justice the separation of the Police from the Magistracy was effected, the former being placed under the control and supervision of a separate officer.

The Judicial Department next engaged the Dewan’s attention. The Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code were introduced into the Criminal Courts which were till then working on the model of these Codes, though they were not binding on them as legal enactments. This combined with the separation of the Police from the Magistracy necessitated a complete reorganisation of the judicial machinery. Two Regulations were passed, first the Civil Courts’ Regulation, consolidating and amending the law relating to the Zillah and Munsiffs’ Courts, and the second reconstituting the Sadar Court and making provision for the better administration of justice. The number of Sadar Court Judges was raised from three to five with a Chief Justice and four Puisne Judges, and a Pandit to advise on matters of Hindu law. The Munsiffs’ Courts were invested with small cause jurisdiction; the number of Zillah Judges was reduced, and the salary of all the judicial officers was increased.

The improvement of the Revenue clerical staff was the next matter dealt with. In 1057 M.E, the Division and Taluq establishments were slightly revised. In 1058 the Salt Department which was till then placed under the supervision of the Dewan Peishcars was thoroughly reorganised and placed on an efficient footing. A Deputy Peishcar was appointed to devote his whole time to it and placed under the orders of the Dewan.

But the most important of the administrative measures introduced in this reign was the Revenue Survey and Settlement. The want of a systematic survey and settlement had been long felt and acknowledged by successive administrations to be an imperative need.

“In importance and magnitude it far surpasses any administrative measure ever undertaken, since the consolidation of the State into its present form. The initial difficulties of the step were equal only to the urgency all along felt for it. Travancore is remarkably a land of small holdings and her revenue system like the English Common Law of pre-Benthamite times, is a dissolving mass of the debris of ages. The curious tangle of contorted anachronisms known as her land tenures, is sufficient to perplex and overawe the boldest of revenue reformers and for years together a scheme of revenue settlement was more talked of than attempted.”*

NOTEs: * H. H. Sir Rama Varma - A Biographical Sketch by Professor Sundaram Pillai, M..A.

In March 1883, a meeting of the principal landholders of the country was convened at the capital at which the views of Government were explained by the Dewan and co-operation from the people was solicited. The Dewan concluded his address as follows:-

“Whatever may be the ultimate decision of His Highness’ Government on all or any of those points, and whatever the principles which may be ultimately laid down for the guidance of the officers employed in the settlement operation I believe I may safely assure you of this — that the object of His Highness’ Government in seeking to introduce a revenue survey and settlement is not so much to increase the revenue as to ascertain the extent and resources of the country; to define and fix the boundaries of properties; to obtain accurate registers of lands; to investigate and record the various tenures under which property is held; to fix and limit the Government demand, to equalize — not to enhance— the pressure of the assessment on land; to remove the various anomalies which now disfigure the revenue administration and press more or less on the springs of industry; to give perfect freedom of action in taking up or relinquishing land; to impart perfect security of title to the holders, and thus promote the well-being of the agricultural classes and the general prosperity of the State.

“In valuing and assessing land— whether rice lands or gardens — on the most approved principles, modified where necessary to suit local peculiarities, moderation will be our cardinal and guiding principle of action, for His Highness’ Government is convinced that a fixed and moderate assessment on land lies at the foundation of all progress in an agricultural country’ like India. The Government have no wish to take from the land-holders anything more than is absolutely necessary to meet the wants of good administration, for His Highness’ Government is equally convinced that all margin of profits after meeting the expenses of cultivation, the Government demand and the necessaries of life will fructify a hundred-fold more in the pockets of the people than in the hands of Government.”

Steps were soon taken to bring the scheme into operation. Regulation III of 1058 was enacted providing for the registration of titles to land, for the establishment and maintenance of boundary marks, and for the settlement of boundary disputes. It conferred the necessary powers on the settlement officers and others for the carrying out of these important objects. A Royal Proclamation was also issued on the 26th May 1883, in which the intention to introduce a Revenue Survey and Settlement was formally announced, and all proprietors and occupants of lands and all revenue officers were called upon to aid and co-operate in the work.

Among other measures may be mentioned the introduction of intra-mural labour into jails on a systematic plan, the remission of minor oppressive taxes, the abolition of certain compulsory services, the second systematic enumeration of the population of the State along with the general Census of India, the starting of Agricultural Exhibitions and Cattle-shows, the encouragement of native industries, the introduction of a Stamp Act, the remission of assessment on coffee lands, the abolition of the export duty on various articles, the extension of elementary education by the offer of grants-in-aid, the abolition of the import duty on opium, and the improvement and extension of the irrigation system of South Travancore.

Travancore—Cochin boundary. The long-pending boundary disputes between Travancore and Cochin were settled by arbitration in the early part of this reign. Mr. Hannyngton, British Resident, was appointed Arbitrator. There were five territorial cases, in all of which the Travancore Government advanced the plea of Res judicata, which however was disallowed. The cases were then heard on their merits. The Irinjalakoda case was decided in favour of Travancore (19th March 1881), and on Cochin’s Appeal to the Madras Government the Arbitrator’s decision was upheld. This confirmed the Maharajah of Travancore’s right to appoint a person to the office of Thachudaya Kymal to manage the affairs of the Irinjalakoda temple situated in Cochin territory. The Maharajah highly valued this privilege as it was a question of sentiment; otherwise it was of little importance considering that Travancore has within its own territories several thousands of temples under State management.

The remaining four cases were all decided by the Arbitrator in favour of Cochin. But on appeal,

(a In the Idiyaramade case involving a large extent of territory, the original award was reversed and the Idiyara Range of hills adjudged to Travancore.

(b In the three Devaswam cases (Elangoonnapuzha, Annamanada and Perumanam), the right of sovereignty was declared to vest in Cochin, but the right of management of the pagoda and their endowments were awarded to Travancore. This was an inconvenient privilege, as later events showed.

Chief political events

In 1056 M.E (October 1880, His Highness was honoured with a visit from His Grace the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Governor of Madras.

In January 1882, His Highness the Maharajah went on a tour to upper India. He visited the three chief Presidency capitals and other important cities such as Poona, Jabhulpur, Allahabad, Benares &c. On his return journey His Highness visited Indore in response to the Holkar’s imitation and received a cordial welcome. His Highness returned to his capital on the 22nd March 1882. He made the acquaintance of Lord Ripon and the Governors of Madras and Bombay who were all favourably impressed with him.

On the 23rd May, His Highness received a telegram from His Excellency the Viceroy intimating His Highness’ appointment as “Knight Grand Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India.” Sir M.E Grant Duff in his Queen’s Birthday speech gracefully alluded to “the selection of the Maharajah of Travancore, a typical example of the influence of English thought upon the South Indian mind, for the highest class of the Star of India”. The presentation ceremony took place at Madras on the 1st February 1883. In presenting to His Highness the Insignia of the Star, Sir M.E Grant Duff said—

“Called by the customs of your country and the laws of an ancient line to rule over one of the fairest and most interesting realms which Asia has to show, after having applied yourself with much success to study the learning of the West, Your Highness has fulfilled your trust, so as to merit and to obtain the approval of Our August Sovereign Her Majesty the Queen, Empress of India. ...........................................Long may you wear them amidst the affection of your people, secure from all external foes under the guarantee of the great British peace, and long may you continue to co-operate with those who from time to time are commissioned to govern the Madras Presidency and to take part in the process of bringing the young civilisation of the West to breathe a new and higher life into the old civilisation of the East. It is particularly agreeable to me to be the agent of conveying to you this recognition in the presence of several members of your illustrious family, one of whom* has herself received a high and peculiar mark of sovereign favour. It is well, too that this ceremony should take place in this noble Hall, where your Highness is surrounded by European public of Madras, by all of whose members you are esteemed, surrounded too by its Native public, to whose members you are a representative man, and who feel an honour done to you to be an honour done to them.”

NOTEs: * Her Highness the late Senior Rani, Lakshmi Bayi. C. I.

In the same year 1059 M.E (1883-1884 A.D.), His Highness undertook a religious trip to Ramesvaram, on the centenary of a similar pilgrimage undertaken by his illustrious ancestor, the famous Rama Rajah, in 959 M.E (1784 A.D.). This trip to Ramesvaram was a necessary sequel to a pilgrimage to Benares which His Highness had already undertaken.

The Maharajah’s personal traits

The personal influence which His Highness exerted on the general service of the State was truly remarkable. Corruption was thoroughly rooted out in the State and the offenders were sometimes severely dealt with. He never minced matters. What he felt he said and what he said he carried out. He was a power for good as well as for evil. As a European friend told me at the time His Highness died, his death was a great loss to the country.

He added,

“If you did your duty honestly, you had nothing to fear. You felt that there was one man in the kingdom who will back you up through thick and thin”.

To quote a biographer of His Highness —

“In earnest and indefatigable application to business, he was a model for the whole service to follow. It is very doubtful whether any member of the service was harder worked than the Maharajah on the throne. His daily routine was a routine of incessant labour”.

It is certainly remarkable to record that in spite of this heavy work in connection with the administration of the country, every detail of which he mastered, His Highness found time to continue his old habits of reading and writing. He took every opportunity to encourage the arts and industries of the land. He was their true patron. Scientific studies and pursuits always formed his leisure-hour occupation, and the scientific societies of Europe soon recognised his abilities and conferred honours on him. His Highness was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society, a Fellow of the Geographical Society, a Member of the Royal Asiatic Society, and a Fellow of the Statistical Society of London. The French Government admitted him to the Order of Officer de l’ Instruction Piblique, He was also made Member de la Societte ettute Colonial a Maritime Paris.

For composition he had a special bent and he aspired to distinction in it. The following are some of his contributions: —

(1) An essay on ‘The horrors of War and benefits of Peace *

(2) ‘A Political Sketch of Travancore’ — an Article in the Madras Athenæum.

(3) ‘Topics for Mr. F. N. Maltby’ — a series of letters in the Indian Statesman, from the pen of ‘Brutus’.

(4) A pamphlet addressed to Sir George Clark, defending the State policy of religious neutrality in public instruction.

(5) A pamphlet addressed to Mr. J. B. Norton on the Educational value of Sanskrit literature.

(6) Lectures on ‘Human Greatness’, ‘The Relation between Nature and Art’, ‘Our Morals’, and ‘Our Industrial Status’.

(7) Descriptive pamphlets on the Murajapum, Tulabharam and the Hiranyagharbham ceremonies.

(8) ‘A Native Statesman’ —an Article in the Calcutta Review.

(9) Treatises on ‘Truth’, ‘Education’, ‘Health’, and ‘Good deeds’.

(10) Memoranda on general departmental reforms and other special subjects as The Artesian well, &c.

(11) Translations into Malayalam from ‘Maunder’s Treasury of Biography’; Article on ‘Astronomy’ in the Encyclopædia, &c.

(12) Paper addressed to Sir M.E Grant Duff on ‘Observations on Higher Education’.

(13) And lastly his Diaries which he used to fill in with unerring punctuality for upwards of twenty-five years; these however are now a sealed book to the public.

His Highness did not neglect the religious ceremonies and rites prescribed for his position but performed them with zeal and genuine piety. His Highness was austere in his habits; he spoke of himself as Rajyasrama muni in one of his letters. He added, ‘If God gives me sufficiently long life, I may become a Vannyasrama Muni. But he was not spared to realise his hopes and the hopes of his subjects. He was cut off in the midst of a bright and useful career. As His Highness the present Maharajah gracefully observed of him with excellent taste and feeling in his Installation speech —

“Coming as I do after an illustrious line of ancestors — not the least eminent and wise of whom have been my two lamented Uncles, His Highness the late Maharajah and his immediate predecessor — I feel all the more my own unworthiness to fill a position to which they have done so much honour. And above all, I am full of faith and hope and devoutly pray that the Author of all good, who in His infinite and inscrutable wisdom has seen fit to cut short a most useful and valuable life in the midst of a bright and successful career, may ‘what in me is dark illumine, what is low raise and support; guide me in the straight path of my duty; give me the will and powder to follow in the footsteps of him whose premature loss we all deplore”

The Maharajah’s Demise

About the end of July 1885, His Highness fell ill and quietly passed away on the evening of the 4th of August following. The Resident Mr. Hannyngton in communicating the sad event to the Madras Government wrote —

“I feel that by the death of His Highness the State of Travancore has met with a great misfortune. His entire abilities and energies were devoted with a single eye to the welfare of his country. To this end he personally worked vigorously and unselfishly and by his unsullied character and strenuous efforts to maintain a pure administration, he has set an example which will ever be remembered throughout his dominions and which will bear good fruit in the future. He lived not for himself but for his people and has conscientiously performed the promise he made in his inaugural speech, to endeavour to secure good Government and progressive happiness to his subjects.”

This is high praise and every word of it was fully deserved, as all who knew His Highness personally could testify. Mr. Hannyngton was not on the best of terms with the Maharajah and yet he was deeply moved on hearing of His Highness’ demise and burst into tears, repeatedly telling those about him that the country’s loss was incalculable.

In his memorable essay on the duties of a man and a Prince, which Emperor William wrote as a boy, he said —

“I rejoice to be a prince, because my rank in life will give me many opportunities to help others. I am far from thinking myself better than those occupying other positions, I am, on the contrary, fully aware that I am a man exposed to all the frailties of human nature; that the laws governing the action of all classes alike apply to me too and that with the rest of the world I shall one day be held responsible for my deeds. To be an indefatigable learner and striver for the good of my country shall be the one aim of my public life.” *

NOTEs: * The (London) Times of Saturday, 10th March 1888

These words might well have proceeded from the pen of Visakham Tirunal, for he had truly dedicated his life to the service of his people and devoted it wholly “to be an indefatigable learner and striver for the good of his country”.

In His Highness was realised Lord Curzon’s ideal Native Ruler who according to him, must justify and not abuse the authority committed to him; he must be the servant as well as the master of his people. He must learn that his revenues are not secured to him for his own selfish gratification, but for the good of his subjects; that his internal administration is only exempt from connection in proportion as it is honest; and that his gadi is not intended to be a divan of indulgence but the stern seat of duty. His figure should not merely be known on the polo-ground, or on the race course, or in the European hotel. These may be his relaxations, but his real work, his princely duty, lies among his own people.”

His Highness knew again

“that the secret of successful Government is personality. If he expects his officials to follow an example, he himself must set it. If he desires to conquer torpor or apathy, he must exhibit enthusiasm. Everywhere he must be to his people the embodiment of sympathetic interest, of personal authority, of dispassionate zeal. There is no “position to which a prince who fulfils this conception may not aspire in the affections of his countrymen, and there is scarcely any limit to his capacity of useful service to the State.”*

NOTEs: * Lord Curzon's Banquet speech at Gwalior, 29th November 1899.

The present Maharajah and the late Visakham Tirunal are the two Native sovereigns who best answer to Lord Curzon’s foregoing description in this part of India.

Rajah Sir Madava Row who was “the apt tutor to this apt pupil”, writing from his retirement in Mylapore, thus summed up the good points of the Maharajah’s life in his Notes by a Native Thinker, under which title he contributed a series of articles to The Madras Times. He commended the Maharajah’s “great and good qualities, as worthy of attention or imitation by Native Princes in general”. These were: —

(1 The good of his subjects was the dominant object of his life.

(2 He was conscientiously faithful to the cardinal principles of good Government.

(3 He was sensible of the importance of having a good Minister, and a staff of good subordinates.

(4 He abstained from needless or mischievous interference with the Administration of his country.

(5 He respected and valued ability, but hated corruption.

(6 He banished dishonest influence and intrigues from the Palace.

(7 He avoided extravagance in personal enjoyments.

(8 The Civil List or Palace expenditure was well limited and seldom exceeded.

(9 He fostered Judicial purity and independence.

(10 He was an earnest promoter of public education.

(11 He was a strong advocate of moderation in public taxation.

(12 He was liberal in advancing useful public works.

(13 He was attentive to the wants and wishes of his subjects.

(14 He allowed his reforming zeal to be restrained by his knowledge of the conservative disposition of his people, whose contentment he valued especially.

(15 He was cautious and sparing in changing old and long established institutions and usages.

(16 He preferred the solid to the showy.

(17 He was not capricious or vacillating, but deliberate and decisive, firm and courageous.

(18 He was above the reach of flattery.

(19 He kept himself well informed of the past and of the present.

(20 He was sincerely loyal to the British Government.

(21 He was courteous and gentlemanly to all.

(22 He was scrupulously veracious.

(28 He was sparing in his promises, but sure in performance.

(24 His word was as good as his bond.

(25 His ways were straight, short, and simple, never crooked or underground. *

NOTEs: * The Madras Times, 12th August 1885. - Notes by N.T.

Such a testimony it would be difficult to believe were it not confirmed by my own personal knowledge and coming as it did from so exalted a personage as Rajah Sir Madava Row K.C.S.I., closely acquainted with the Maharajah since his boyhood, and least inclined to flatter him even during his life, added to the consensus of public opinion in his favour both in and out of Travancore, one might fairly be justified in styling Visakham Tirunal, the Marcus Aurelius of Travancore history. In fact what was said of a great European contemporary monarch could well be applied to him,

‘His character was grave, earnest and invincibly upright; his piety was deep, simple and unaffected, and love of his country was his one absorbing passion. He had a keen sense of duty and an invincible devotion to it, a clear perception of his country’s interests, and he possessed the hereditary gift of the family — that of recognising capacity when he saw it and of choosing and supporting the men who could do the work which the country wanted.”*

NOTEs: The (London) Times 10th March 1888.

Lord Roberts remarked of His Highness —

“The late Maharajah was an unusually enlightened Native. He spoke and wrote English fluently; his appearance was distinguished and his manners those of a well-bred courteous English gentleman of the old school. His speech on proposing the Queen’s health was a model of fine feeling and fine expression”.*

NOTEs: * Forty-one Years in India, Vol. II. Page 388.

His late Highness is known as Rama Varma the learned, and Sir M.E Grant Duff referred to him as “a typical example of the influence of English thought upon the South Indian mind”. If he had not been born in the purple and not destined to occupy a throne, he might have shone as one of the greatest Indian worthies embraced in the pages of history. Such were his great attainments, high principles and force of character. He endeavoured to squeeze into five short years of his reign the work of a whole life-time, for he believed in the Poet’s ideal, “One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name”.

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