Category Archives: Historical Links, Pre-Independence

Valuable folk art recordings remain neglected

Kozhikode :

Video and audio recordings  of the folk art forms of Kerala, painstakingly documented under a project funded by US-based Ford Foundation , are getting damaged at the Calicut University due to lack of proper care and conservation.

The local fund audit wing of the state government in its report has said that the archives at the varsity’s Centre for Folklore Studies is non-functional leading to valuable recordings created under the project getting damaged.

The four-year project, under which the varsity had received Rs 67 lakh grant from the Ford Foundation, had created around 400 hours of recordings of live performances of various folk and ritual art forms of Kerala, including 13 versions of the ancient ritual art form of Padayani and a rich variety of Theyyam performances.

The report said that the archives have around 500 CDs with the video and audio recordings of the live presentations of folk art forms.

“The CDs are lying in a room without proper care and there is no dedicated staff for its upkeep. We do not know how much of the recordings can be retrieved. There are chances that some of it has already got damaged. The Ford Foundation’s folklore project had a special focus on the Kali cult in Kerala. It would be a loss for the posterity if the work is not preserved,” Anil K M, former head of the Centre for Folklore Studies, said.

Experts said that some of the folk art forms documented under the project have become nearly extinct and so rare that it is practically impossible to video document them again.

He said that lack of funds and staff was posing hurdles for the maintenance and upkeep of the video recordings. “We had submitted a project to store the recordings in a cloud storage facility, but it has not taken off,” he added.

The folklore project funded by Ford Foundation was implemented during the 2002-2006 period and aimed to preserve and document the folklore tradition of the state. The project was headed by folklore expert Raghavan Payyanad.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kozhikode News / TNN / January 09th, 2018

Portraying the life and myths of Paniyars

Documentary maker Aneez K. Mappila

Feature-length documentary on the Wayanad tribe’s struggle for existence

A humdrum yet clear rendition of Penappattu, the ballad of the Paniyar tribe of Wayanad with its narrative on their origin and life, soaks the Paniya household in bereavement seven days after someone’s parting.

The intoner, Athali, takes no break as he calmly retells from morning, well into the brooding night, the course of his clan’s struggle for existence from the beginning. “It’s like a swirling song of the dead – the soul of their forbears rattling out their saga,” says Aneez K. Mappila, who has authored the life and death of Paniyars in a feature-length documentary, The Slave Genesis. “The tribe, as you see in the film, is deeply and inwardly spiritual.” The Paniyars believe that long ago, a feudal landlord, Ithimala Gowda, also referred to as Ithimala Pappan, had trapped them using a hand net and engaged them for labour in the fields.

“There is no paddy field, coffee or pepper plantation in Wayanad, especially those owned by settlers, that hasn’t used their labour. The practice continues to date,” says Aneez, from Kalpetta. The film, shot single-handedly over three and a half years, has a scene in which Aneez’s grandfather Moidu Haji, who has since died, narrates the story of his grandfather Pakramar, left with no other option, migrating to Wayanad in the 1860s with three of his friends. “They bought 32 acres of land from a Gowda, who also parcelled out a few Paniyars for tilling their fields. The Paniyas were paid in kind, with a portion of rice as wages,” Haji says in the film. It was his long association with the Paniya workers that prompted Aneez to make a film on their life and after-life. The film opens with a personalised childhood recollection. “I was a single-man crew and as I went about shooting, a suicide happened in the community, which led me to their pithy Penappattu.”

From a death and the superstitions surrounding it, the film takes us through various facets of the Paniya life, all punctuated with hardship, misery and tales of exploitation. “They realise they’ve been historically exploited, as we understand from the Penappattu in which the Gowda, eager to have more of their ilk, asks Paniya siblings to stay man and woman below the waist.”

Cut to modern times, scenes of the elaborate ritual following a girl attaining menarche are followed by episodes of young men getting entangled in POCSO cases, thanks to the tribe’s practice of marrying off girls young.

A graduate in English, he worked as a journalist for sometime before taking documentaries on Wayanad’s agrobiodiversity and tribal food security.

The Slave Genesis was produced with support from DOCEDGE-Bang, crowdfunding from the Kalpetta Film Fraternity and his own Canopy Black production.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by S. Anandan / Kochi – December 28th, 2017

Seminar on Travancore history begins

Thiruvananthapuram :

The three-day national seminar  on ‘Thiruvananthapuram Charithrathil’  which began at the University College  here on Monday brought to light several unknown aspects of the history of the capital city.

Organized by the department of history, the seminar was inaugurated by Kerala Council for Historical Research chairman Michael Tharakan .

In his inaugural speech, Tharakan spoke about the history of the ancient and probably the very first church in Thiruvananthapuram, St. Anne’s Church of Pettah. “During Karthika Thirunal Maharaja’s regime, his courtiers were appointed based on their potential and not according to their religion.

Traders from far and wide used to come to Travancore for their business. One such trader was Thachchil Matthew Tharakan. He used to accompany the Maharaja in his rounds everywhere except to the temple. It is believed that the king learned about Christianity through Tharakan.

And so, way before the British rule was established here, St Anne’s church was built for the Christians just outside Pettah as people belonging to other religions and lower castes weren’t allowed into Pettah. The exact year of construction is still not known,” said Tharakan.

Around 16 experts will talk about various subjects in the seminar, which will conclude on Wednesday.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Thiruvananthapuram News> Schools & Colleges  / TNN / December 05th, 2017

Amid ruins stands the last king of Travancore

Chennai :

Conflict among Hindus, divided by caste, over the right to worship their preferred deity can be found all over modern Indian history. But at the height of Indian independence struggle,  the last Maharaja of Travancore,  Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama  Varma, stunned the rest of the country with a royal proclamation.

The decree, issued on November 12, 1936, removed restrictions on dalit entry to Hindu temples. The announcement had a profound impact on the Madras Presidency, where despite the efforts of Dravidar Kazhagam founder Periyar E V Ramasamy entry for dalits into temples was still not a reality.

Three years later, to commemorate the radical declaration, a statue of Chithira Thirunal was erected near Esplanade Road. Funded by public subscription, the statue was sculpted by M S Nagappa, then the official sculptor to the British Crown. On October 28, 1939, then Governor of Madras Lord John Erskine unveiled the statue.

“It is the only statue erected for a king in Chennai,” said historian R Venkatesh. A park around the statue was taken up for Broadway bus terminus expansion, leaving the statue exposed to the elements. The Travancore royal passed away in 1991, and a few years later the statue was shifted to the Sree Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple in Gandhi Nagar, Adyar by well-wishers.

Today, 81 years since the decree, the statue stands among discarded materials in the corner of the temple premise, having lost its place and significance in transition. “The Maharaja’s decree brought out reformist tendencies in Hindus. It is another thing that the decree did not find favour among dalit leaders like Ambedkar and Rettamalai Srinivasan who only saw it as an appeasement, and not a solution,” said political commentator D Ravikumar.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chenna News / by Pradeep Kumar / TNN / November 14th, 2017

Now, a heritage walk through royal town

Kochi:

With its ancient kovilakams, small leafy shrines overlooking moss-ridden ponds and a musical heritage to match with, Tripunithura always had an immense potential for heritage tourism.

But it was Fort Kochi and Mattancherry that always found a place in the Ernakulam tourist itinerary and the royal town never got its due.

The pilot royal heritage walk will be held on November 11 and 12 in two sessions – one each in the morning and evening

Now, this is set to change with two young professionals, Balagopal C K and Krishnan Varma of Cochin Royal Family, who have chalked out detailed heritage walks around the important sites of Tripunithura for the people to get acquainted with the historicity of the city.

“Despite being multicultural, the focus is only on the Colonial history of Tripunithura with regard to heritage cultural and heritage tourism. Due to this lack of attention and rampant construction and expansion in and around the area, the region is losing its sheen. The heritage walk is an attempt to create awareness about the city and its history to the locals,” said Balagopal, an IT professional and organizer of the heritage walk. He plans to revive the evanescing grandeur of the regal city of Tripunithura.

The pilot royal heritage walk will be held on November 11 and 12 in two sessions – one each in the morning and evening. Later, the walk will be held during the Vrischikolsavam at Tripunithura temple which spans over eight days from November 18 to 25.

With Balagopal is his cousin Krishnan, an architect who had documented the heritage of Tripunithura and held an exhibition of the same in 2014, in an endeavour to bring the city back to public eye.

“The walk will also be advantageous for tourists with a taste for historical structures as a couple of buildings which are kept locked throughout the year, like the Palace Girls School made exclusively for the princesses and Ammathampuran Kovilakam which has documented evidence of Sakthan Thampuran himself living there, will be opened for them during the course of the walk,” Krishnan said.

He added that lack of knowledge about such stories behind each structure is leading to the destruction of the centuries old buildings, which later gets replaced by concrete jungles.

“During the 90-minute walk, anecdotes and histories of the Cochin Royal family and the structures that are associated with them will be narrated for giving them an idea about the past of the royal family and the milieu. The script has been approved by the eldest generation of the royal family to ensure authenticity of the same,” Krishnan said.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kochi News / by Afrah Ali / TNN / November 09th, 2017

Portraying Kerala’s history through cartoons

Kochi :

Cartoonist Unnikrishnan’s ‘Kannirukki Kalam’ is a compilation of issues and affairs- both political and social. The artist who exhibited 60 cartoons- in English and Malayalam, at the Durbar Hall recently, says that he decided to showcase his work on Kerala Piravi, tracing the brief history of changes that shaped Kerala over the years.

He has portrayed different areas such as society, lifestyle, relationships, environment, literature, politics, religion, beliefs, over the last six decades.The works have been displayed in 10 states across the country from November 1. “Some of the exhibitions are ongoing. Some like in Kerala has ended in three days time. I wanted the public in other states to get a feel of the formation of our state,” he said.

The artist says the comic strips, though humourous is meant to be thought-provoking. Exhibition of the same cartoons with English subtitles was held concurrent with Kerala Formation day, organised by All India Malayalee Associations in places such as Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkatha, Ludhiyana, Bhuvaneswar, Goa, Thane and Delhi. Without loosing the essence of the pictures, cartoonist T V G Menon translated the subtitles

In Delhi, poet Sachidanandhan inaugurated the function.”The exhibition is astonishing in the way it contrasted the past and presentlife of Kerala. The sight on cartoons evoked in us that change has this much invaded our life. The event is evoking a rememberance of the transformation in one’s life style,” said Lenin P N, a cartoon enthusiast.

The three day event organised by Orthic Creative Center of artist T Kaladharan, was inaugurated  by Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation Managing Director A P M Mohammed Hanish.

source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Kochi / by Sreejisha Sreedharan & Elizabeth Jacob / Express News Service / November 06th, 2017

Mega project on the lives of Travancore Kings

Seems like the Malayalam industry is all set to scale new heights, in terms of budget in 2018.  Joining the bandwagon of big-budget projects is director K Madhu, known for directing Sethurama Iyer CBI series.

A portrait of the king of Travancore | Wikimedia commons

He has announced a mega project on the lives of two Travancore kings who ruled from 1700 AD to 1800 AD.  The movie will be made in two parts, the director said.

The first part of the movie has been titled Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma- King of Travancore.  It will trace the life of Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the only Indian king who trounced a foreign power in India when he won the battle against the Dutch at Colachel. The second part will be on the Karthika Thirunal Marthanda Varma, who went on to be known as the Dharmaraja. This part is also said to deal with the Karthika Thirunal’s fight against Tipu Sultan too.

“This will be a project on a massive scale. Scriptwriter Robin Thirumala and I have been researching intensively for the last three years. We have finalised the script and signed the crew, that includes big names. We plan to go on the floors by next August,” says K Madhu, who adds that this is his ambitious project.

He says: “We have prominent actors from Malayalam and other industry. While we have fixed a superstar for the first part, the leading actor for the second is yet to be ascertained. We will announce the names and the production banner soon.”  K Madhu adds that the movies will boast of big names from Indian cinema. “We plan to make it in five languages,” he adds.  The director says he has signed the technical crew, that includes Peter Hein for action and Resul Pookutty for sound design. R Madhi will crank the camera. Keeravani, who composed the tunes for Baahubali, will be the music director.

This will be a project on a massive scale.

Scriptwriter Robin Thirumala and I have been researching intensively for the last three years. We have finalised the script and signed the crew
– K Madhu, director

Kerala historians question move to give ‘Paika Bidroha’ first war of independence tag

Paika Bidroha celebrations in Bhubaneswar on October 21, 2017. | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

They argue that the ‘Attingal Revolt’ of 1721 was India’s first freedom struggle

A section of historians in Kerala on Tuesday disputed the Centre’s move to announce Odisha’s 1817 Paika Rebellion as the “First War of Independence”, saying various uprisings against foreign powers had occurred in the southern State much before it, but never got due recognition.

They said the coastal State had witnessed a number of minor and major struggles against foreign powers even before the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, which has so far been regarded as the first war of Indian Independence.

A few among the historians wanted the tag of first war of independence for “Attingal Revolt”, an agitation by locals in the then princely State of Venad against the English East India Company in 1721 over the latter’s arrogant approach and unjust measures that they tried to implement in the land.

As many as 133 English East India Company soldiers were killed during the revolt which according to State historians, was the first organised uprising against the foreign powers in the country.

The struggles led by legendary king of Malabar, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja who locked horns with the British during the period 1795-1805, the strike by Nair Brigade in Travancore in 1804 and the agitation led by Travancore diwan (prime minister) Veluthambi Dalawa in 1809 were some of the uprisings against foreign powers witnessed by the State, they said.

The fight of 16th century naval captain Kunjali Marakkar against the Portuguese forces was also prominent among them, they added.

History Protection Council, a State-based outfit, is planning to submit a memorandum to the State government to press the Centre to declare the “Attingal Revolt” as the first freedom struggle of the country instead of Paika Bidroha.

Eminent historian and former chairman of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), M.G.S Narayanan said facts should be examined before including Odisha’s “Paika Bidroha as the first war of independence” in school textbooks.

“The matter should be examined thoroughly before taking a decision to include so in school textbooks,” he told PTI.

Noted historian K.N Ganesh questioned the government’s right to decide the prominence and value of historical movements and struggles.

“I am not questioning the significance of Paika rebellion.. But how can a government decide the merit and significance of revolts, struggles and agitations in history?” he asked.

“It should be decided by the academicians and the bodies like history research council and so on.. No minister can simply say that Paika rebellion is the first war of independence in the country without due consultation with historians and academicians concerned,” he said.

Historian and academician P.M Rajan Gurukkal, said many local struggles happened in this part of the country including the historic Colachel War did not get deserved recognition.

“It is true that many local uprisings had gone unnoticed in the history.. One of the most significant among them is the Colachel War between Travancore king Marthanda Varma and Dutch East India Company in the year 1741.

“It was the first ever victory of a princely State against a European power in Asia.. But, it did not get deserved recognition,” he told PTI.

A debate on the first war of independence was triggered after union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar’s recent announcement that Paika Bidroha of 1817 would find a place in the history books as ‘the First War of Independence’ from the next academic session.

The announcement was made at a function marking the bicentenary of the historic rebellion.

According to historians, Paikas, the peasant militia under the Gajapati rulers of Odisha who rendered military service to the king during the times of war, had rebelled against the British rule under the leadership of Baxi Jagandhu Bidyadhara as early as 1817.

Earlier, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had, in a letter to the Centre, urged that it should recognise ‘Paika Bidroha’ as the first war of independence against the British rule as it took place four decades before the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, which has so far been regarded as the first war of Indian Independence.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by PTI / Thiruvananthapuram – October 31st, 2017

Govt revises pension for 1,119 royal family members

Thiruvananthapuram:

As many as 1,119 pensioners belonging to Travancore and Kochi royal families will reap benefits as government has decided to revise the family and political pensions.

On Wednesday, cabinet decided to unify and increase the pension to Rs 3,000/month for all those members who have been drawing the pension as on July 1, 1949 (as per revenue department’s order on Aug 29, 1969) which is the criteria for granting pensions to royal family members.

Also, the government is battling a string of anomalies that are prevailing among pensioners belonging to royal families in the state. While Travancore and Kochi royal families draw pension from Kerala, members of former princely states of Malabar (part of British India) have been drawing pension from the Centre, titled Malikhan.

In 2012, the UDF government had enhanced the pension of Njavakkattu, Meenachil royal families to Rs 3,000 with retrospective effect from January 1, 2011.But others will be eligible for the increased pension from the date the government issues an order based on the latest cabinet decision. This is likely to be challenged legally in the court.

Also, the recipients of Malikhan, that includes Zamorins of Kozhikode, Chirakkal/Kolathiri family, Kadathanad/Kurumbranad family, have also taken up pension issues with the government. In 2013, the UDF government issued an order saying that since the members belonging to Zamorin family had wilfully handed over their properties worth crores to the government after the formation of the state, they will be granted family and political pensions, and on the basis of this, the government issued an order granting Rs 2,500 per month as pension to 826 family members. The order that came into effect from June 2013, granted pension to even a minor (four years old). Sources said that this was a grave mistake, and this financial assistance was originally intended to be titled as a grant or allowance that should not have been categorized as family and political pension.

With the decision, several representations have come to the government from all other branches of families receiving Malikhan saying that their central pensions are meagre and hence state should grant pensions just like the Zamorin families. The representations are now under the consideration of the government. “The worst part is that even those who are financially well-off are availing pensions. There is no system in the government whereby their actual financial position can be assessed and pensions are granted only on the basis of their economic condition,” sources said.

In addition, the government is also paying annual allowances to key members of Travancore and Kochi families, which are revised from time to time. Nine members of Travancore family were granted an annual allowance that was last revised in January 2010. The amount ranged from Rs 39,000 to Rs 4,91,000. Key members of Kochi royal family receive anything between Rs 9,000 and Rs 20,000 as monthly pension.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Thiruvananthapuram News / TNN / October 26th, 2017

Former freedom fighter K.E. Mammen dies aged 96

Students of Holy Angels’ Convent greeting K. E. Mammen on his 94th birthday in Thiruvananthapuram. File Photo

The Kerala native had participated in the Quit India Movement

Freedom fighter K.E. Mammen, who had participated in the Quit India Movement, passed away here on Wednesday morning. He was 96. He had been under treatment for age-related diseases at a private hospital in Neyyatinkara for the past three months.

Mr. Mammen had always followed Gandhian principles. He became active in the freedom movement as a college student. He was first jailed for taking an open stand against C.P Ramaswamy Iyer, the then Dewan of the erstwhile Travancore state. After being denied an opportunity at continued studies here, he shifted to Madras Christian College in 1940. He was ousted from there too, following his participation in the Quit India Struggle.

In recent years, Mr. Mammen had been active in anti-liquor struggles in the state.

source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by Special Correspondent / Thiruvananthapuram -July 26th, 2017