I had recently written about two of the biggest battles of Kerala, the Battle of Colachel (1741) and the Battle of Nedumkotta (1789), and also mentioned a few of the great kings of Travancore. After a few posts about the Renaissance in Kerala, I plan to write something about those rulers who had control of the biggest kingdom based in Kerala, the Kingdom of Travancore which consisted of about half of the state along with the Tamil district of Kanyakumari. I have just chosen four of them, but you might also want to read about Ayilyam Thirunnal and Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma and a few incidents.
1. Marthanda Varma: Credited as the only king from India to beat any European army, which happened at the Battle of Colachel against the Dutch in 1741, he is also known to have been the maker of Travancore. The Dutch commander Eustachius De Lannoy had even chosen to join the great king. The Treaty of Mavelikkara made sure that the Dutch was no longer a threat to the Indian subcontinent. The unification of the southern part of Kerala is his biggest achievement as he lead the formation of the greatest kingdom based in Kerala. After establishing a strong kingdom with the capital at Padmanabhapuram, he made sure that it is properly defended with a more modernized army and enough fortifications, and also formed an alliance with the Kingdom of Cochin which ensured the latter’s extended existence.
This creation of modern Travancore was well aided by his minister, Ramayyan Dalawa who was the Chanakya figure during his time – his role in the success of the kingdom was more than one could imagine. Ramapurathu Warrier (Vanchipattu) and Kunchan Nambiar (Thullal) were known to be his court poets. The movie based on his life was just the second ever Malayalam movie after Vigathakumaran. You can also choose to read the novel by C. V. Raman Pillai which is a historical romance and the first historical novel to be published in Malayalam. Do check out for the pillar of victory at Colachel if you manage to travel near the place.
2. Dharma Raja: Succeeding his uncle Marthanda Varma, Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma was given this name as he gave asylum to a good number of Hindus and Christians who fled from the north during the invasion of Tipu Sultan. He was already known to assist his uncle in his conquests. The defence of Travancore from Tipu with the Battle of the Nedumkotta happened during his time, and Raja Kesavadas was the man behind the military success along with Vaikom Padmanabha Pillai. It was a battle against all odds in which Travancore succeeded in defending their kingdom.
Known for his religious tolerance and continuing the policy of his uncle, he remains one of the best known adherants of Dharma Sastra, and the success against a many times bigger and more modernized army of Sultan remains a great achievement of Travancore under him. Development of Alappuzha port, Construction of Main Central Road (Currently SH1 from Trivandrum to Angamaly) and establishment of Chalai Market also happened during his period. He was a much loved king, and serving the people was a priority for him, as infrastructure managed to find even more life.
3. Swathi Thirunal: This reign is often referred to as the golden age of arts in Travancore. He himself was a skilled music composer, and the golden age was not restricted to arts, to be exact. English education in Travancore started during his time, and the first Government printing press along with a better code of laws came into existence during his reign. Irayimman Thampi who wrote the famous lullaby “Omanathinkalkidaavo” when the king was born, remained part of his court. He was a huge patron of music and continued to support the same in his court. Swathi Sangeetha Puraskaram, the highest honour for musicians from Kerala government is under his name. A music festival, Swathi Sangeethotsavam is also conducted in his memory.
4. Sree Moolam Thirunal: He established the Travancore Legislative Council in 1888 is said to be the first Legislative Council for any state in India. It later went on to become the Sri Mulam Praja Sabha. The fields including education, transportation, medicine, law and order and others got major attention. He would continue to lead Travancore as the successful state that it has always been. The path of reforms would be followed by Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (grand daughter of the renowned painter Raja Ravi Varma) who would be the next one to be on the throne, and she abolished Devadasi system and animal sacrifice.
***The images used in this blog post are from the Wikipedia pages of the Battle of Colachel and the Kingdom of Travancore meant to support this post. I do not claim to be an expert in this, but I read Kerala History for the information and has graduated in History.