Category Archives: Historical Links, Pre-Independence

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

Indira Bayi, scion of Travancore royal family, dead

Indira Bayi | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

She was the daughter of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, Queen Regent of erstwhile Travancore.

Indira Bayi, daughter of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, who was Queen Regent of erstwhile Travancore, died in Chennai early Thursday. She was 90.

Wife of the late K.K. Varma, founder-chairman of the erstwhile India Meters Ltd, and long-time chairman of the Madras Kerala Samajam, she is survived by son Shreekumar Varma and daughter Shobhana Varma. Indira Bayi was born during the regency of her mother (1924 to 1931). Years later, she would become the first woman from the royal family to enrol for college education. Some of her short stories have appeared in a few magazines and two anthologies of her stories have been brought out.

The cremation will be held at the Besant Nagar crematorium at noon on Friday.

source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Thiruvananthapuram / by Special Correspondent / Thiruvananthapuram – Chennai / July 21st, 2017

How Gundert saved Malayalam

Herman Gundert

Thiruvananthapuram:

Some of the rare books in Malayalam language would have been lost if Herman Gundert, the German missionary, had not taken the trouble to transport them to his home town Calw. The documents preserved by Gundert, who was also a scholar credited with the first Malayalam-English dictionary, included nearly 80 manuscripts and 150 printed works. Some of the available palm leaf manuscripts run into 42,000 pages. These books have been archived in the Gundert archive of Tubingen University which has also taken steps to digitise the documents. The Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University, Tirur, established in 2012 to promote Malayalam language, has received access to the documents through an MoU signed with the Tubingen University.

Mr M. Sreenathan, professor of language at the university, told Deccan Chronicle that it all started with Dr Scaria Zacharia, a Malayalam professor who visited Germany in connection with the meeting of the World Malayali Council, visiting the archives of the university in 1986. He published books like Pazhassi Rekhakal, Payyanoor Pattu and Thalasserry Rekhakal from the university. Some of the other books that were discovered from Tubingen included Nalacharitham Manipravalam and Sheelavathy written by Mannan. The first version of the Mahabharatham Killipattu, Krishnagatha, Thulalkadha, Panchathantram and Ekadeshi were brought to the state from the archives. The copy of Meenakshi written by Chathu Nair and published in 1890 was also discovered from Tubingen, Mr Sreenathan said.

Another finding was Keralopakari, an illustrated weekly published in 1870. There has not been much reference about this weekly earlier. A copy of Krishi Pattu was also preserved at Tubingen. The specialty of the copy of Krishi Pattu, an agriculture verse popularly known as Krishi Geetha in the state, is that it was published from Kozhikode before the advent of Chandrakala in Malayalam. Another significant discovery was Kerala Natakam. This book republished by the university was released recently. Many people, including historian M.G.S. Narayanan, have said that they have seen the book. However, the book was not available anywhere in the state. It was also received from the archives of Gundert. Many literary historians, including Ulloor Parameswara Iyer, have mentioned about this work. There are differences among the historians about who wrote the book.

Some believed that this was written by Thunchath Ezhuthachan. However, Ezhuthachan had not written anything other than poetry. The book was published by Basel Mission. Ulloor had disagreed with the theory that it was written by Ezhuthachan. The book was in the handwriting of Gundert himself. The language of the book proved that it was not written by Ezhuthachan. However, it has many similarities with another work of the period named Keralolpathi. But there is one major change. This is in the chapter Kulakrama Vivaranam which in Keralolpathi was based on Sankaracharya’s Kulakrama Vivaranam. However, the Kulakrama Vivaranam chapter in Kerala Nadakam dealing with the origin of caste was more in the nature of folklore, Mr Sreenathan said.

The documents in the collection of Gundert can be classified into three: printed books; books that had been transcript by Gundert himself or using the service of a scribe; and books in Thaliyola. Many books related to subjects like Manthravatham and on Christianity, including Puthiyaniyamathile Lekhanangal and Sathyaveda Ethihasam, are at the archives. The university is the only one in Europe that teaches Malayalam as an optional. It has also set up a Gundert chair. “I visit Tubingen as a faculty of the university and Mr Scaria Zacharia goes there as an outside academic. The Malayalam and Tubingen universities also have student exchange programmes,” Mr Sreenathan said. He will visit Tubingen soon to identify the original version of the works of Ezhuthachan, including Adhyadhama Ramayanam. Mr Scaria Zacharia said that the access to Gundert archives had begun in 1986. Many books like Pazhassi Rekhakal, Payyanoor Pattu, Thacholli Pattu and Thalassery Rekhakal were published from the archives. However, it was only recently the efforts were noticed in the state, Mr Zacharia said.

Christian missionary turned linguist

Herman Gundert, who left Germany at the age of 23 for missionary work, had planned to go to Calcutta and gained working knowledge in Bengali, Hindustani and Telugu even while travelling by sea. However, he landed in Madras in 1836 instead of in Calcutta. Gundert learnt Tamil while working in Chittoor, Andhra, and Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. During his work in Mangalore, he had a chance trip to Thiruvananthapuram where he had an audience with Swathi Thirunal, the ruler of Travancore who himself was a scholar. Gundert was attracted to Malayalam and became a scholar in the language in a short span of time.

Born in 1814, Gundert is the grandfather of 20th century Nobel prize winning novelist Hermann Hesse. Gundert had studied theology and Sanskrit in Tübingen University before completing his doctorate in theology in 1835 and joining the Bassel Mission in which he worked in Thalassery from 1938. Apart from authoring the first Malayalam-English dictionary, he translated the New Testament into Malayalam. He left India in 1859 due to illness. Most of his Malayalam books, including his Malayalam-English dictionary and hymn book, were written when he was in the south western German town of Calw.

He worked primarily from Thalassery where he compiled a Malayalam grammar book, ‘Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam,’ published in 1859. He lived at Illikkunnu near Thalassery for 20 years spreading the gospel among the natives and writing 13 books and a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew and New Testament from Greek. He attempted a systematic grammar of the language based on non-Sanskrit-based approaches to Indic grammar as he considered Malayalam as a branch of Proto-Tamil-Malayalam, or Proto-Dravidian. It was Gundert who used punctuation marks like full stop, comma, colon and semicolon for the first time in Malayalam. In recognition of his contribution to Malayalam, a statue of Gundert has been erected at Thalassery.

source: http://www.deccanchronicle.com / Deccan Chronicle / Home> Nation, In other news / by Sabloo Thomas, Deccan Chronicle / July 05th, 2017

A royal procession to Sasthamangalam

Sree Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma starting from the Fort for the Sasthamangalam procession | Photo Credit: Sharat Sunder Rajeev

In the days of the monarchy, a royal procession used to make its way to a Siva temple in Sasthamangalam

‘Radhapura Kunnu Lane’, a nondescript signage near Sasthamangalam junction may have caught your attention as you travel along Vellayambalam-Sasthamangalam road. However, if you are planning to explore the lane hoping to find the ‘Radhapura’ or at least the remains of an old chariot house, you will be disappointed. The lane now leads to a well-laid out residential area with no trace of any built structure to substantiate the name of the lane.

Radhapura Lane was in olden times known as Radhapura Kunnu, a hill that gradually descends to the banks of the Killi River. Senior citizens from Vellayambalam and Sasthamangalam regions still remember vivid images of a state procession that linked the region with a royal past. When the city cherishes the Arattu procession and related rituals, of the area recall the state processions that once came to Sasthamangalam.

Sasthamangalam Ezhunnalathu, a regal procession to Sasthamangalam, culminated at the ancient Sasthamangalam Mahadeva temple, where the sovereigns offered prayers and rested in the ‘palace’, a double-storied structure located near the western gateway of the temple. According to popular history, it was customary of the Travancore rulers to visit Sasthamangalathu Madhom’, the abode of Koopakkara Pottis, and the Siva temple soon after the Tirunal (royal birthday) celebrations. Even though the origin of this practice remains unknown to this day, some historians are of the opinion that the practice could be dated to the eighteenth century, to the turbulent days of Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma.

It is said that the Koopakkara Potti had helped the King on one occasion and in gratitude the King and, later his successors, made it a custom to pay their respect, once in a year, to the Koopakkara family at their residence.

V Narasimhan Thampi presents a vivid portrayal of the procession to Sasthamangalam: “… the Maharaja rides to Sasthamangalam in his golden chariot, drawn by six white horses and behind him follow a train of horse drawn carriages of the royals and the various officials. The Elayarajas, Koil Thampurans, and the Chief Justice can be seen riding in carriages drawn by two horses, whereas the other officers ride in simple carriages. The state procession starts from the Fort at four in the evening and proceeds to Sasthamangalam via Pazhavangadi, Puttenchandai, Palayam, and Vazhuthacaud. At Sasthamangalam, the King worships at the temple and visits the Potti at his residence and returns to the Fort by six O’clock.”

On the way to Sasthamangalam, the procession first halted at Vellayambalam, from where the King went to the temple with a few select attendants and high officials. The royal chariot was stationed at Radhapura Kunnu and the royal party walked down to Pipinmoodu to the temple premises.

The temple, located between Sasthamangalam hill and the nearby elevated Oolampara region, claims antique origins. Old records mention ‘Thiru-chatta-mangalam’ (later Sasthamangalam) and the temple there. Old timers believe that the temple has its origins from a small sacred grove on the banks of the Killi River. A small fragment of the grove can still be seen right in front of the eastern gateway to the temple.

With the end of monarchy, the age-old custom of the Sasthamangalam procession passed into the annals of history, but the temple remains popular among the city dwellers.

(The writer is a conservation architect and history buff)

source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture / by Sharat Sunder Rajeev  / Thiruvananthapuram – May 05th, 2017