The Last Queen of Travancore

I had written an article on Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (Pooradam Thirunal), a very interesting person who ruled over the state of Travancore for 7 years, on my previous blog. After I deleted that blog the article was lost but a recent correspondence with the Maharani’s granddaughter, Dr. Lakshmi Raghunandan (Makham Thirunal), brought to my attention even more facts and details and hence this post about Sethu Lakshmi Bayi.

Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (Painting by Rukmini Varma, courtesy Lakshmi Raghunandan)

The Travancore Royal Family, considered among the oldest royalties of India, is descended from the historic Chera dynasty of South India. That branch of the Cheras that settled in the extreme south of Kerala was called the Kupaka family and a similar branch settled also in the extreme north and came to be known as the Mooshikas. During the course of the last 800 years, the Kupakas found themselves on the brink of extinction (due to the absence of female members so essential to the perpetuation of the family in the matrilineal Marumakkathayam tradition) on several occasions and in every such instance the line was continued by adopting heirs from the Mooshika house. Indeed whereas the Mooshikas were known as the “Northern Kolathiris”, the Kupakas were addressed as the “Southern Kolathiris”. The first such adoption occurred in 1315 when two princesses of Mooshika (Kolathunad) were adopted into Kupaka (Travancore). The place known as Attingal was set apart for them and they were installed as the Senior and Junior Ranis of that place and it was decreed that only the sons of the Attingal Ranis would henceforward succeed to the Travancore throne. Further adoptions took place in the years 1684, 1718, 1748, 1788 and 1857. The “maker of modern Travancore”, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma Maharajah (1730-1758) was born of the 1688 adoption (made by the legendary Aswathy Thirunal Umayamma Rani). His successor Dharma Rajah Karthika Thirunal (1758-1798) was the son of the princess adopted in 1718. The next ruler Avittom Thirunal Balarama Varma Maharajah was a descendent of the 1748 adoption. The adoption of 1788 brought about a long line of remarkable rulers starting with Maharani Ayilyam Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi (1810-1815) and ending with Maharajah Moolam Thirunal (1885-1924) who was the great grandson of Gowri Lakshmi Bayi. Moolam Thirunal’s mother Pooradam Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi, the sole female member in the royal family at the time, died eleven days after his birth in 1857  and once again the Travancore House found itself facing the threat of extinction.

Only a few years after the 1788 adoption, Tipu Sultan invaded Malabar and all the Rajahs of that place, unable to offer resistance, fled to Travancore. Once the war was concluded and peace was restored, the main branch of the Kolathunad family, known as Chirackal Kottaram, returned to their ancestral seat. However three cousins of the recently adopted Attingal Ranis who belonged to Chenga Kottaram remained in Travancore and they were settled at Ennakkad, Mavelikkara and Prayikkara respectively by the ruling Maharajah. Thus when in 1857 the need was felt for another adoption, the Maharajah decided to adopt princesses from one of these three houses.

Among the nominees for adoption were two daughters of Chamunda Amma Thampuran of Mavelikkara. The then Maharajah Uthram Thirunal found them satisfactory and thus in 1857 the 6th adoption into the Travancore royal family was concluded by adopting Bharani Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi as Senior Rani and Bharani Thirunal Parvathi Bayi as Junior Rani.

Rani Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore

The Senior Rani was married in 1859 to Sri. Kerala Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran (whose erudition and talent at literature won him the appellation of Kerala Kalidasa) and the Junior Rani was married the next year. However this adoption proved entirely fruitless in that while the Senior Rani had no issue, the Junior Rani gave birth to four sons and a single daughter who died soon after birth. By 1894 the Junior Rani and one of her sons had already died and the royal family now came to consist of the Maharajah Moolam Thirunal (the last of the 1788 line), the Senior Rani, the Elayarajah Revathi Thirunal Kerala Varma, First Prince Chathayam Thirunal Rama Varma and Second Prince Aswathy Thirunal Marthanda Varma. As the Senior Rani was well past the childbearing age, once again the problem of succession came to haunt the royal family.

Ayilyamnnal Mahaprabha Thampuran with RM Varma in a famous Ravi Varma painting

It was obvious that a 7th adoption would be required to perpetuate the line and as Senior Rani and eldest member of the royal family, Rani Lakshmi Bayi had the authority to nominate her successors. Her youngest sister in Mavelikkara, Pururuttathinnal Bhageerathi Amma Thampuran had married the celebrated artist Raja Ravi Varma and to this couple was born two sons and three daughters. The first two daughters, Ayilyamnnal Mahaprabha Thampuran and Thiruvadirannal Kochukunji Thampuran had been married and Mahaprabha, who appears to have been very close to the Rani, had already had a son R. Marthanda Varma. The Rani looked upon these two nieces of hers to give birth to daughters whom she could subsequently adopt into the royal family. With this in mind the Rani went on a pilgrimage to Rameswaram and undertook the Sethusnanam in the company of Mahaprabha and Kochukunji. Her prayers were heard for in 1895 Mahaprabha gave birth to a daughter followed in 1896 by Kochukunji. Since the birth of these girls was seen as an outcome of the Sethusnanam, the elder child, born under the star of Pooradam, was named Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and the younger child, born under Moolam, was named Sethu Parvathi Bayi. 1895 was also the year when the Elayarajah died and Chathayam Thirunal succeeded to that position.

In 1900, after the girls were “old enough to be introduced into the royal etiquette”, Rani Lakshmi Bayi formally petitioned her brother Moolam Thirunal to adopt the children to succeed to her “estate and its appurtenances”. The British Resident met the children and although he felt they were too young, he communicated his approval of the proposal. It is said that Moolam Thirunal was not very keen on adoption at that particular juncture but acceded to the desire of the Senior Rani. However the Elayarajah Chathayam Thirunal, who was disgruntled with the Maharajah’s refusal to sanction large funds for his daughter’s wedding, opposed the move and suggested that the adoption be made from Ennakkad or Prayikkara. However legal opinion was sought and it was found that the Elayarajah’s dissent was inconsequential. Also Raja Ravi Varma, grandfather of the girls, exerted his own influence with the Viceroy who sanctioned the Mavelikkara adoption. Thus in 1900, Pooradam Thirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi became Junior Rani of Attingal and Moolam Thirunal Sethu Parvathi Bayi became First Princess by adoption. The Elayarajah boycotted the ceremony and went on a tour of North Travancore and to avoid embarrassment the Maharajah and the Senior Rani also stayed away. It was the First Prince Aswathy Thirunal, an intelligent man who was the first Indian royal to secure a BA degree, who adopted the little princesses into the royal family.

Rani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (1900) (Picture courtesy Lakshmi Raghunandan)

Only a few months later, however, the First Prince died and Rani Lakshmi Bayi, who was overjoyed after the adoption, felt so much grief at the loss that she herself fell ill. Her consort, Kerala Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran, became the guardian and “grandfather” of the little princesses. In 1901 the Elayarajah, who was on bad terms with the Maharajah, also died and the Senior Rani “grieved but little” on hearing the news. Her own condition was much deteriorated by now and a week later Rani Lakshmi Bayi also died. These happenings within less than a year of the adoption made Sethu Lakshmi Bayi the Senior Rani and her sister Sethu Parvathi Bayi the Junior Rani.

The Valiya Koil Thampuran now lavished all his attention on the little Ranis. However the seeds of dissension between the two princesses were sown at this early stage itself. In the royal family, matters were governed by tradition, rank and precedence and not always by more amiable human feelings. Thus even though they were children of nearly the same age, they were always seen in the light of their positions as Senior and Junior Ranis. Thus the Junior Rani, early in life, realized that her position was secondary to her sister due to the order of precedence and it is possible that for the little girl being constantly overshadowed by her sister much regret was fostered. Everyone who met the Ranis commented on how intelligent both were, but it was always the Senior Rani who, owing to her position, took center stage. For the talented and intelligent Junior Rani, this was not always pleasant. But as years later the Senior Rani would advise, “however unpleasant or unnatural this position may be, it has to be reconciled to…very often we have to face things as they are instead of worrying about what they should be.”

The two Ranis were brought up as per the royal custom and the best education of the time, overseen by the Valiya Koil Thampuran and an English governess Miss. DH Watts was provided for them. It was noted that the Senior Rani was “reserved but nonetheless good natured”, “gifted with a good memory”, and “a young mathematician” while the Junior Rani was “quick and vivacious”. A foreigner, Henry Bruce, in 1908 noted “the elder is more reserved, more conscious of her dignity and also the quicker pupil”. Beside their ordinary studies, the Ranis also traveled with their guardian and visited places of importance. Thus by the time the Ranis were 10 years old, they were both aware of their position and had turned into real little princesses.

HH Sethu Lakshmi Bayi with Rama Varma Koil Thampuran on their wedding day (1906) (Picture courtesy Lakshmi Raghunandan)

In 1906 when the Senior Rani was still 10 years old it was decided to get her married as per the convention of the royal family. Two boys aged 16 and 22 from the Harippad family of Koil Thampurans, who were nephews of the Valiya Koil Thampuran, were presented to her. While she was advised to select the elder one, the Senior Rani chose the younger one. All preparations were made and after many decades Trivandrum witnessed a Pallikettu (royal wedding) when the Senior Rani was married to Makayiramnnal Rama Varma Koil Thampuran of Harippad. The following year the Junior Rani was married to Ravi Varma Koil Thampuran of Kilimanoor who was almost 11 years older than her.

When the Ranis turned 14 their marriages were consummated and they began to live with their husbands. Much excitement resulted and everywhere the talk was regarding which of the two Ranis would give birth to a son who would be heir to the throne. In 1910 the Senior Rani became pregnant but suffered an abortion but as her aunt Kochukunji noted, “I do not think she is very upset because of the abortion. I think she is worried because her Koil Pandala (husband) is not allowed to come here”. Already the Senior Rani had grown very close to her husband and theirs would be happy marriage that would last nearly 70 years.

Maharajah Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma (1911)

In 1912 the Junior Rani became pregnant and in November gave birth to a son. It was the Senior Rani who performed the first ceremony of giving the baby gold and honey although the 17 year old confessed to having been “afraid to even touch him.” This baby boy came to be called Chithira Thirunal Rama Varma and would become the last Maharajah of Travancore. For the Junior Rani the birth of her son was the commencement of a new phase. Having always been secondary to the Senior Rani, the birth of the Elayarajah to her meant a whole new position for herself and the disaffection between the two Ranis, which had so far been domestic in nature, now began to grow in proportion. Only a few days after the birth of Chithira Thirunal, the Senior Rani wrote in a letter to her mother, “there is not a moment when directly or indirectly they do not insinuate something. Though I feel very hurt at the time, I do not think about it later and grieve.” Ever since her miscarriage in 1910 the Senior Rani had been facing questions and, eventually, sarcastic jabs about her inability to conceive.

Having given birth to the Elayarajah, the Junior Rani felt no need to remain in her sister’s shadow and hence applied to the Maharajah to grant Vadakkay Kottaram, the traditional residence of the heir apparent, to her. The grant was made and thus the two Ranis now had separate establishments. In 1913 when she came of age, the Senior Rani took over the Sreepadom Estate in her position as eldest female member of the royal family. Since the Junior Rani did not desire to remain in the Sreepadom establishment, under her sister’s authority, she was given an allowance of Rs. 7000 from February 1914 and the Sreepadom was henceforward “to be no longer bothered about her.” However trouble was brewing in the palace that would alienate the Senior Rani and her husband Rama Varma from the Maharajah.

Rama Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran (Picture courtesy Lakshmi Raghunandan)

For one, the Ranis had been adopted for the perpetuation of the dynasty and the Senior Rani’s inability to have children since her miscarriage irritated the Maharajah. The Rani herself went under tremendous stress because of this and religious offerings, even in famous Christian churches, were made. But more importantly the Maharajah appears to have been annoyed by the Senior Rani’s refusal to hold court for his “chief favorite”, Sankaran Thampi. This man, who had begun his career as a palace servant, had risen to power over the years so much so that he had tremendous influence over the Maharajah. Things became even better for him when the Maharajah took a fancy to his wife, Karthyayani Amma, and in 1899 married her. Thampi married the sister of his ex-wife (now the royal consort known as Vadasseri Ammachi) and his relation to the ruler as “the Maharajah’s present wife’s former husband” (in the words of Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai, who was banished from Travancore for objecting to Sankaran Thampi’s influence) made him all the more powerful. The Valiya Koil Thampuran, who had died in a car accident in 1914 causing much pain to the Senior Rani, also had issues with Sankaran Thampi. During the childhood of the Senior Rani, Thampi was entertained on occasions such as Vishu, Onam etc with gifts. However after attaining majority the Senior Rani saw no reason to entertain the man. Her consort Rama Varma, who after the death of the Valiya Koil Thampuran had succeeded to that position, was constantly induced to get his wife to send for the “chief favorite” to honour him on such occasions. “The Maharajah seems to be very anxious that the Rani should see and get his favorite’s favour.” While the Junior Rani easily acquiesced, the Senior Rani saw now reason to show deference to Sankaran Thampi and this irked the Maharajah. Although she was his niece, the Maharajah could not directly admonish the Senior Rani and hence all his anger was vented out to her husband, Rama Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran. On the one hand her childlessness and on the other the Maharajah’s irritation with her husband put the Senior Rani in a difficult position.

Meanwhile the Junior Rani had been granted Kowdiar in 1915 to construct a palace for herself while the Senior Rani received Poojappura. Since she was the head of the Sreepadom, this property was added to the estate, which would have severe implications later. In 1916 the Junior Rani gave birth to a daughter, Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi and in 1922 another son, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma. The Senior Rani meanwhile underwent treatments and when even these did not work, reconciled to her childlessness. Additionally, in 1919 her mother died and as the eldest daughter, the responsibility of all her younger siblings fell upon her. It was her husband, who was in perpetual disfavour with the Maharajah, who stood by her during these trying times.

Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi with Princess Lalithamba Bayi (1924)

Suddenly and very unexpectedly in 1923 the Senior Rani became pregnant. On New Year’s Eve in 1923, after nearly 14 years since her miscarriage, Sethu Lakshmi Bayi became a mother with the birth of Princess Uthram Thirunal Lalithamba Bayi (see my article on her: The Reluctant Princess). While great joy and happiness followed, the sufferings of the past could not be easily forgotten.

In August 1924, when the Senior Rani was holidaying with her husband and daughter at Varkala and when the Junior Rani was sojourning at Ooty, news reached them that the Maharajah was critical. On the 7th of that month Moolam Thirunal died and a new chapter began in the life of the Senior Rani.

The Elayarajah was only 12 years old and at least for the next 6 years, until he came of age, Travancore would need to be ruled. In other princely states, such circumstances resulted in the appointment of Regency Councils that would administer the state during the minority and the late Maharajah’s widow and the mother of the minor heir would act as Regent with limited powers. However in Travancore, under the matrilineal system, the minority of the heir meant that the eldest female in the royal family, the Senior Rani, would assume ruling powers. Thus Her Highness Sri Padmanabha Sevini Vanchi Dharma Vardhini Raja Rajeshwari Rani Pooradam Thirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, Senior Rani of Attingal was proclaimed Maharajah Regent of Travancore. The title “Maharajah” was used in the proclamation to show that she reigned in her own right as head of the royal family and not as widow or mother of a Maharajah. The titles of Senior Maharani and Junior Maharani were created and henceforward Sethu Lakshmi Bayi was addressed during her reign as the Maharani Regent of Travancore. However this appointment of her sister as Regent for her son irked the Junior Maharani. Now that power was involved, the Junior Maharani began a feud with her sister, which would last many decades into the future.

Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (1928)

The regency of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi came to be known as the “Golden Age of Travancore”. The first problem she had to tackle, which she did admirably, was the famous flood of 1924 that affected most of Travancore. Relief work was carried out very well and she won the appreciation of her people and also the British government. Already, at her installation durbar she had ended the custom of presenting costly nuzzars to royalty which came as a pleasant surprise to all those waiting on her. Towards the end of Moolam Thirunal’s reign, a serious issue known as the Vaikom Satyagraha had troubled the government and this problem had been handed down to her. She dealt with the issue and after a meeting with Mahatma Gandhi in 1925 threw upon all the public roads in Travancore to all Hindus irrespective of caste or community. Mahatma Gandhi too returned with a wonderful impression of the Maharani whom he described as the “ideal of Indian womanhood” and complimented her for the “marvelous progress” of Travancore. The Maharani raised the Women’s College to First Grade in Trivandrum and also appointed the first Indian woman as the head of a major department (Dr. Mrs. Poonen Lukose was appointed Head of the Medical Department) and member of the Legislative Council of Travancore. The Maharani abolished the custom of women having to bare their breasts in temples and in 1926 the obscene “Pooram songs” were strictly prohibited. In 1930 “Her Highness’ Government sanctioned a complete cessation” of the Devadasi system. The Maharani, in spite of the severe opposition she had to face, ended the age old custom of appointing only caste Hindus as Dewans of Travancore and made an Anglo-Indian Travancore Christian, ME Watts, her Dewan in 1925. In the same year the Maharani constituted a committee to look into the establishment of a Travancore University, a task completed in the next reign by her nephew Maharajah Chithira Thirunal. 1925 also saw the abolishment of the custom of animal sacrifice that was in vogue in certain temples in the state. An act was passed in 1925 to reform the Marumakkathayam system and in 1928 the Maharani’s government formally ended the system. In 1925 the Maharani also instituted the Panchayati Raj in Travancore. Travancore invested in the Cochin Harbour Project and reaped tremendous economic benefits. In 1928 the Central Road Board was constituted and many new highways and bridges were constructed all over the state. In 1929 the Quilon-Ernakulam railway project was completed and in the same year electricity reached Trivandrum for the first time. Telephone services were throne open for the use of the public. The Maharani also instituted a special Banking Enquiry Committee to look into the provision of rural credit facilities in Travancore, another task which her successor would complete. Taxation in kind on the Kandukrishi “Crown” lands of Travancore was abolished and in 1927 alone 2995 acres of land was redistributed among the landless. Ports were developed in Travancore and by 1927 the Dewan’s report showed a good surplus due to this. Education received a major boost and after 3 years of her regency the Senior Maharani had become so popular both within and outside the state. As Lady Golver notes in her 1927 book “Great Queens: Famous Women Rulers of the East”:

“During the short time she has held it (power), she has shown that her rule will be a wise one and a blessing to her people…She has won the affection and respect of her subjects during her short reign on account of her justice and benevolence, which are extended to all alike, no matter what may be their caste or religion”.

This enlightened rule of the Maharani was rewarded by the British government in 1929 when the Maharani was made a Companion of the Most Imperial Order of the Crown of India.

The Junior Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bayi

However during this time the Maharani also had to face problems from within the royal family emerging from her sister the Junior Maharani. With the backing of the Nairs, the Junior Maharani first objected to the appointment of a Christian Dewan. In spite of this, which included a great deal of mud slinging against the Maharani Regent and the British Resident, when the appointment was confirmed the Valiya Koil Thampuran became the next target. Indeed throughout the regency as the Maharani herself could not be attacked, any opposition was vented out onto the Valiya Koil Thampuran. His integrity and character had already impressed the British government even before the regency and he played a major role in 1914 when the Rajah of Cochin (Ozhinja Valiya Thampuran) was accused of being sympathetic to the Germans. Rama Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran vouched for the Cochin Rajah, which helped avert punishment for that ruler although he had to abdicate the throne. However after the Regency commenced, the Valiya Koil Thampuran found himself at the receiving end of a great deal of malice. From 1925 onwards, up to 1930 when the Senior Maharani’s determination finally closed the matter, the Junior Maharani caused much trouble over the determination of the Civil List. The Junior Maharani wanted complete control over her son’s Rs 7 lacs, which could not be logically granted. Although the funds for the management of Kowdiar Palace were made available to her, she continued to demand access to further funds, which could not be given. Thereafter she sent a memorial to the Viceroy complaining of the Maharani Regent’s attitude towards her. The Senior Maharani presented an excellent case justifying her decision and the memorial was therefore dismissed but not before the Regent stated that the Junior Maharani’s attitude towards her since the commencement of the regency was one of “militant antagonism” and she would have to reform this. Every time the Resident changed, the Junior Maharani would broach the subject of the civil list till finally in 1930 the new Resident Col. Pritchard decided not to “reopen the question.”

Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer

The Junior Maharani had other ways of harassing the Maharani Regent. In 1926 she attempted to involve the Maharani Regent in a domestic quarrel she had with her husband the Kochu Koil Thampuran by pronouncing him to be “mentally unsound”. In 1927 when intelligence reached the Maharani Regent of certain plans being made by the Junior Maharani at Ooty with the help of Sir CP Ramaswami Iyer, the Valiya Koil Thampuran’s friend S. Satyamurthi was sent to find out the truth. Although Sir CP referred to the Senior Maharani is grand terms, a suspicion lingered in her mind. The Junior Maharani had by now become impatient with the Regency and wanted the succession of her son to full ruling powers to be effected quickly. A report by the Dewan Mr. Watts in 1928 shows the Junior Maharani’s eagerness to discredit the regency government. Another memorial was sent to the Viceroy with the help of Sir CP, Sardar KM Panikker, Sir Vasudeva Raja of Kollengode and others which called for the creation of a Regency Council for “things have never been so bad” in Travancore. However the Resident communicated the truth of affairs in the state and the Viceroy being satisfied with the Maharani Regent’s government dismissed the memorial.

The Junior Maharani’s several memorials and other attempts not having worked, a new programme was embarked upon: Black Magic. In February 1929 the Maharani Regent received intelligence of the performance of certain sinister ceremonies at Kowdiar Palace. She did not involve herself directly and instead asked the Resident and the Dewan to deal with the matter. Capt. Harvey, the young Maharajah’s tutor who watched matters from close quarters, was an informer and the Junior Maharani’s manager was told of the “expediency of her terminating these secret ceremonies” as soon as possible or to face trouble. Finally the Resident who was at Munnar called the brothers of the Junior Maharani, who were principal actors in these ceremonies, and after ordering them to put an end to all the “costly tomfoolery” they were engaged in, told them to leave Kowdiar palace with their mother and sisters. They were not, thereafter, permitted to meet the Junior Maharani or the Maharajah without prior permission from the Resident. The entire black magic incident shocked the establishment, to say the least.

Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi with Princess Indira Bayi (Courtesy Lakshmi Raghunandan)

Meanwhile the Maharani Regent had been informed that the Maharajah would not succeed with full ruling powers on his 18th birthday but only after completing 19 and half years of age. The Junior Maharani was indignant at the delay and so frustrated that at a meeting in 1930 that she had with Parukutty Nethyaramma aka Lady Rama Varma, the consort of the Cochin Maharajah, she flourished a revolver and threatened to shoot herself. The Resident’s fortnightly report after this incident speaks of the Junior Maharani’s “fondness for intrigue” among other things. Even earlier when news of the extension of the regency had been communicated, Sir CP had left for England and once again the Maharani Regent was troubled with thoughts of what the next problem would be. But nothing came of this for it was immediately after this that when the Viceroy Lord Irwin visited Travancore that he decorated the Maharani with the insignia of the Order of the Crown of India. However what did happen was that the Junior Maharani’s black magic misadventure caused the Government of India to separate the Maharajah from his mother by sending him for administrative training to the state of Mysore earlier than had been planned. In April 1931 however, Lord Irwin retired and was replaced by Lord Willingdon who invited Sir CP to join his Executive Council. The Junior Maharani laid her case before the new Viceroy and finally secured her goal under the auspices of Sir CP. The Maharani Regent was informed that the Maharajah was to be installed with full ruling powers in November 1931 on his 19th birthday as opposed to August 1932 as had been planned. The Viceroy however made it clear that the early termination of the regency was not due to any dissatisfaction with the government of the Maharani Regent but due to other considerations. Thus the second phase of the life of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi came to a close.

Maharajah Chithira Thirunal Rama Varma

It may be mentioned at this point that the Senior Maharani had a genuine interest in the upbringing of the young Maharajah, her nephew, in spite of the Junior Maharani’s attitude towards her. As early as 1913 the Junior Maharani and her mother had tried to distance the child from the Senior Maharani and Kerala Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran and whenever either expressed a wish to see the baby, a messenger would sent to communicate some excuse. Kerala Varma, the father of the Senior Maharani, noted that the “Rani too is much disgusted with Kochukunji’s insolent behaviour.” However during the Regency the Senior Maharani took great care to ensure a worthy upbringing for her successor. Even when the black magic incident occurred, her primary concern was regarding the Maharajah and the effect witnessing such absurdities would have on him. When the time came for his administrative training the British Government was of the opinion that the administrative tutor must not be paid more than the Dewan of the state. Although the Maharani was also of the same opinion initially, she waived the condition and offered to pay a higher salary than that of the Dewan in order to secure the best possible man to train the Maharajah. A formidable series of 65 letters were exchanged between the Maharani and the Government of India to detail every aspect of the training and she was keen to see that when the time came the Maharajah would be fully equipped to assume his responsibilities.

A Task Well Done- Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and Rama Varma (Picture courtesy Lakshmi Raghunandan)

The Senior Maharani now requested the Government of India to continue all the privileges and allowances she had been receiving as Maharani Regent, keeping in view her unique position. The Maharani had been drawing an annual allowance of Rs 200,000, which, in order to prevent a backlash from the Junior Maharani, she expected to be continued. The Viceroy however sanctioned a pension of Rs 75,000 to the Senior Maharani. Sir CP assured the Viceroy that her privileges and position as Senior Maharani and the Rani of Attingal, besides being the head of the royal family, would be respected. However the Senior Maharani was disappointed with the arrangements made for her and even the British Resident registered his dissatisfaction. An excerpt from a letter she wrote around this time to the Valiya Thampuran of Cochin is as follows:

After seven years of strenuous hard work performed under very difficult conditions, I am naturally sighing for that quiet and peace which I fondly hope may be my portion in retirement. I emerge a wiser woman from the Regency and have learnt that often in this world one gets kicks for honest selfless work, while the canting self seeker wins half pence.

This excerpt is a rather interesting, and not surprising, observation made by the Maharani which holds true even today.

The Junior Maharani and Sir CP dominate the next stage in the history of Travancore from 1932 until 1947. The Senior Maharani was now made to live under the control of the Junior Maharani and the nature of her future treatment was evident on the very day her rule came to an end. Immediately after the installation durbar of the Maharajah, the ex-Regent was sent back in an ordinary carriage without escort or any state dignities. Although she felt the insult, the Senior Maharani was now looking forward to a life of retirement. With this in mind she had constructed in 1930 a “country residence” for herself beside the Vellayani Lake known as Lalindloch Palace. In 1926 she had given birth to her second daughter Karthika Thirunal Indira Bayi and for her daughters and husband, Lalindloch became home. They had another favourite resort at the Kovalam beach known as Halcyon castle that belonged to the Valiya Koil Thampuran, in addition to his villa at Pothencode, which was constructed a few years later. During the summers the Senior Maharani and her family retired to her estate at Peermade. However the rift with the Junior Maharani did not permit her the happy retirement she desired.

Lalindloch Palace, Vellayani

In 1939 the Maharajah took over the Sreepadom Estate and the Senior Maharani’s complaint that this was her ancestral possession and essential to the dignity attached to the position of the Rani of Attingal was not accepted. Very soon after she lost the Sreepadom, and therefore the ownership rights of Satelmond Palace in Trivandrum, the Maharani was informed that her estate at Peermade belonged to the Maharajah as well. However the Maharani involved the Resident who prevented a breach of justice and decided that the property was the Senior Maharani’s private holding and the Maharajah had no ownership over it. In 1941 the Senior Maharani was informed that unless she made “courtesy calls” every now and then to the Maharajah at Kowdiar Palace, her pension would be stopped. She was also informed that her residence at Vellayani was harmful to the prestige of the royal family and hence she would have to reside at Satelmond Palace, under the control of the Maharajah. Sometime in the 1930s, all the documents and official papers pertaining to the Regency of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi were also destroyed in a “mysterious fire”.

The Maharani and the Valiya Koil Thampuran (1955) (Courtesy Shreekumar Varma)

The Maharani’s daughters began to regret these trappings of royalty and the Senior Maharani was not in the happiest circumstances when in 1947 India became independent and in 1949 the states were merged into the Indian Union. The Maharajah was awarded a Privy Purse of Rs 18,00,000 per annum and the other members of the royal family received separate allowances. Finally, after more than 15 years the Senior Maharani and her family were free of the Junior Maharani’s control. In 1949 itself Princess Lalithamba Bayi moved with her husband to Bangalore and in 1953 Princess Indira Bayi took up residence in Madras. By 1958 the Senior Maharani was lonely in Trivandrum and hence moved to Bangalore where she lived for the remainder of her life. She never returned to Travancore.

The Maharani certainly did miss her homeland and by all means the transition from being the Maharani of millions to an ordinary amooma (grandmother) must not have been easy for Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (who in subsequent documents chose to identify herself as Srimathi and no longer as a Highness). However she adapted herself with poise to changing times. Her sense of maturity and wisdom is clearly reflected in the following extract from a letter she wrote to her daughter Lalithamba Bayi regarding her grandchildren:

We have to make sacrifices for the children’s sake. It will do them good to be on their own sometimes. It is not like the olden days. We can have no idea, through what all paths life is going to lead them. They must be trained and prepared to face everything.

In 1971 the Government of India passed a constitutional amendment by which the privy purses were stopped. A partition was effected in the Travancore royal family and the Sreepadom estate was divided between the two branches. Satelmond Palace was claimed successfully by the Maharajah and by then the Senior Maharani had disposed of most of her private properties. In 1975 the Valiya Koil Thampuran died in Bangalore and the Maharani became more or less of a recluse thereafter. Her grandson Shreekumar Varma wrote about his impression of her last days:

I remember the small rectangular room where she spent her last days, lonely and occasionally visited, watching the dusk slip in and out of a series of windows. She read the newspaper and listened to songs by Yesudas. She kept toffees and carefully clipped-out comic strips ready for her grandchildren. She spent her days waiting for festivals like Onam and Vishu when she would get streams of visitors. One day towards the end, she confessed she was in danger of “forgetting how to talk”. An inherent optimism kept her going. It is frightening to consider such a darkening of life.

In 1979, after more than 20 years, she met the Junior Maharani who called at her Bangalore residence “Shreenivas”, causing much surprise to the Maharani. All the members of the Junior Maharani’s family visited the Senior Maharani and Lalithamba Bayi in Bangalore in a sort of unexpected family reunion. It was to be the final meeting of the two Maharanis. In 1983 the Junior Maharani died and in 1985 Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi breathed her last in Bangalore. She was then the last living C.I. and a grand old lady of 90 who had seen three generations of her descendants.

Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (1895-1985)

Her daughter Uthram Thirunal Lalithamba Bayi resided in Bangalore till her own demise in 2008. Lalithamba Bayi had seven children; all based in Bangalore, including the artist Rukmini Varma (Princess Bharani Thirunal) and author Dr. Lakshmi Raghunandan (Princess Makham Thirunal). Her only son, and the first grandson of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, is Balagopal Varma (Revathi Thirunal).

Princess Karthika Thirunal Indira Bayi, who is at present the eldest female member of the Travancore royal family, resides in Madras with her husband and two children. Her son Shreekumar Varma (Punardam Thirunal) is a writer and she has a daughter Shobhana Varma (Swathi Thirunal).

Rama Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran (1889-1975) (Picture courtesy Lakshmi Raghunandan)

This post is based on the following books: Lakshmi Raghunandan’s “At the Turn of the Tide” (1995) (which can be read here), Prof Sreedhara Menon’s “Triumph and Tragedy in Travancore” (2001), the Travancore State Manual (1940) by TK Velu Pillai, and “No elephants for the Maharajah” by Louise Ouwererk and Dick Kooiman (1994). I am grateful for the wealth of information I could access through Dr Lakshmi Raghunandan and also my grandparents for communicating to me the general public impression of various members of the royal family in the 1930s and 40s. A special thanks to Mrs Rukmini Varma for permitting me to use her latest portrait of the Maharani on this blog. To the best of my knowledge all the above stated is accurate and correct.

(This article was redrafted on the 25th of June 2010 as the earlier version published last year was not entirely satisfactory. The matter, content and course of the narrative remains the same. It may also be worth mentioning that certain objections were raised to this article and these along with my replies and the attendant arguments may be read below in the comments section. However as the language used by some individuals is not in healthy taste, I feel it might be prudent to warn a potential reader of the same.)

109 Responses to “The Last Queen of Travancore”

  1. dear manu,
    this was one of my favourite posts in your previous blog, anyway thanks for posting it again, think you have added much more flesh to it…..
    recently on my visit to a friend’s place, his mom told me about rukmini varma, her palace and abt regent, she had been to bangalore palace many times and went there when regent died.
    will write in detail later…..
    and in btwn, i visited changanacherry market estd by velu thampi in 1805, visited vettady temple (resting place of pillamar)….will mail you the pics.

  2. manupillai Says:

    Hey Sharat,
    Thanks a lot for your comment. I have very briefly corresponded with Rukmini Varma’s son, Jay Varma. Infact I am presently in correspondence with Dr. Lakshmi Raghunandan, who authored the biography of the Maharani. She has agreed to send me a copy of the book. And I never knew Rukmini Varma resided in a “palace”. Her mother, Uthram Thirunal, purchased a large bungalow in Bangalore and perhaps malayalis acquainted with the family began to call it a Kottaram. Halcyon Castle, for example is not a ‘palace’ but only a 6000 sq foot house. But out of reverence it was often called a Palace. If it is the same place where the Regent Maharani died, then its Uthram Thirunal’s house, now occupied by her son Revathi Thirunal Balagopala Varma and his wife. Anyhow I shall await your detailed email.

  3. Hi Manu,

    I just read your interesting history of the two Ranis of Travancore. When growing up in Trivandrum, I had heard of some of the palace intrigues from my grandmother, Madhavi Amma, who was married to P. Kerala Varma Raja of Prayikkara (who was Mathilakam Karyakkar and later Asst. Devaswom Commissioner for Chittira Thirunal, the last Maharaja of Travancore). As children, we had no interest in these matters, so we did not pursue historical details, but I find these stories fascinating now as the record of the human failings of a royal family that has always prided itself as having served the interests of their subjects and having ruled as the servants of Lord Padmanabha, without ostentation.

    I am glad to note the connection of the Prayikkara Palace to the Travancore royal family. The next time I go to Prayikkara to see the grandmotherly matriarch there, I will have the historical setting of the family in better perspective thanks to your website.

    Thanks and regards,
    Mohan

    • manupillai Says:

      Dear Sir,
      Thank you for your comment. The Prayikkara house is also related through “Pula” with the rulers of Travancore. Infact I am told that during the 1900 adoption, prospective adoptees were nominated from that family too. And indeed the human failings of royalty are more visible now due to the easy access to records. They had their own ambitions too and were not all spiritual and divine. For eg: Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bayi clamored for nearly a decade to get the style of Highness. Chithra Thirunal throughout demanded an increase in gun salute for Travancore. The British Library, London has comprehensive records regarding the habits and scandals of the royal family that are available for research now. Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, it is well known, was troubled immensely by the Junior Maharani. A “mysterious fire” is supposed to have destroyed all the documents pertaining to her reign. The amount of power, wealth, authority would be enough to turn anyones head.

      Manu

  4. Wow! what a wounderful site . I love it.Everyone will enjoy it. please publish more articles and pictures.

  5. Dear Manu, came across your blog by accident. Since I am in personal contact with some of the names mentioned (and not mentioned) who are still alive, read it through. Am thinking of forwarding the link but am not sure :-0

    Anyway shall save the link to my favourites and keep coming back. And do look forward to meeting you some day. Where are you based ?

  6. Hello Ashvin,

    I think ive read a comment by you on another blog at blogspot.com where you mentioned something related to history and so i clicked on ur profile to check ur blog but as it was blocked I couldnt see it. Well who are you in touch with? Do you know Lakshmi Raghunandan? I am in contact with her too.

    Manu

  7. Dear Manu, replied to your other mail separately. I do not have a blog as yet, planning to start soon, as soon as I get some technical advise on the best blogsite to use. I have a lot of queries, not getting the right feedback.

    which site did you read my comments on ?

  8. Dear Manu, as you rightly pointed out, I think everyone tends to forget that these were human beings, with their failures and shortcomings, insecurities, egos et al.

    One should not judge them with too critical an eye – power and the wish for power does strange things to people. The fact remains that despite all their faults, the rulers of Travancore were enlightened people who did their best for their people. In their personal lives also I think they set an example to their subjects in many ways, if they have failed in certain areas this only goes to show that they are as fallible as other human beings.

    Also in many cases, it is always ‘I heard a story’, ‘I heard of someone who had met someone who had heard that’ …. rumours, conjecture etc…. maybe these were true, maybe not….

    If nothing else, being wealthy in their own right, they did not have to steal from the common man like our current rulers do….

    • Dear Ashvin,

      Thanks for the email. Yes indeed on comparison with the royalties of north india, the Travancore house lived an almost middle class lifestyle. And I did not intend this post to be a judgement on anyone at all. This is, as far as available records go, fact and thus, based on the same. And I read your comments on an article about Chithira Thirunal and some incident in Peermade I think, on the blog of Parayil Abraham Tharakan.

      Manu

      • Dear Manu,

        Noted :-)

        I had certain queries regarding the best blog site to start my blog on – are you a techie who would be able to advise on that ? or know anyone who can ?

      • manupillai Says:

        well i used to have a blogspot site first. Deleted that after a while. i dont really know much about this but i think blogspot is a good place to start. its quite good. probably later u can move on to wordpress or summat.

  9. dear manu,
    I stumbled upon this website by accident, indeed impressed. Jaygopal verma(Jay verma) was my classmate during my school years at Baldwin Boys High School. Somehow we lost touch and I was looking for a way to contact him. Was wondering if you can provide his email or website address.
    Thanks

    • manupillai Says:

      i tried to email you his id on your lycos id which u have entered here. It bounced. Anyway it’s (removed). Thanks for your comment.

  10. Quite an informative and well written article! Congrats!

  11. The first thing that I am going to do when my mother drops in is to show her the photos of her old classmate RUKMINI VARMA in your blog. Rajamma Kallivayalil, my mother was in Mount Carmel College Bangalore during the late fifties with the princess. I have heard a lot from my mother about the Princess and thanks to you finally I am able to put a face to the name. Yes indeed, she is all what my mother used to say,”Nalla kalayulla mugam aayirunnu” – loveliness personified.

    The Regent Maharani’s summer palace at Peerumade also known as ‘Ammachy Kottaram’ was bought from Her Highness by my Great Grandfather’s brother Mr. K.V.Thomas Pottamkulam and made it his residence before converting it into a hotel (International hotel). Before long the hotel had to be closed for want of patrons, the venture was far ahead of its time.

    Subsequently it was sold to Mr. Michael A. Kallivayalil who happens to be my maternal grandfather’s brother. Presently he resides there with his family. I have a video of the Palace. If you would like to have a look, send me your email id and I’ll mail it to you.

    ‘INORITE’ is an interesting site with a wealth of information and palace intrigues plus excellent narration. Pray from where did you master your English? Though it’s too late to send my children, I’ll keep it in mind when eventually my grandchildren are ready to be admitted in school.

  12. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Dear Manu,

    I;m sorry to say that you have written a whole bunch of lies.
    HH the Regent Maharani was a gentle and gemkind of a person, but her husband was a vicious character who tried to finish HH Sree Chithira Thirunal. Kerala Varma Valia Koil Thampuran, the uncle of Regent’s husband even tried to point his gun at Chithira thirunal when the little price was just 2 years old. This happened at Thevarathu Koikkal Palce in Fort area. Kerala Varma was very cruel and he behaved as if he wanted to shoot a bird, but in reality he was pointed his air gun at Chithira
    Thirunal. But it was seen by HH Sethu Parvathy Bai and she asked her staffs to send away Kerala Varma as he was mad and cruel to the core. The Family members of the former Regent are spreading such stories against the the present royal family just to duspell their frustrations. Sree Chithira thirunal was “Pratyaksha Padmanabhan” and his great mother Queen would never commit such things. The Regent was unlucky in begetting a male child, thats all. She even performed poojas at Santhana Gopala Swamy shrine at Attingal near to Thiruvarattu Kavu Devi Temple to begent a son who could inherit the throne after Chithira Thirunal. There also she was unlucky. But, Regent Maharani was very progressive and did bring in many reforms for sure. Her Husband was wicked and cunning, no doubt. You even said that the then Viceroy was unhapppy with Sree Chithira Thirunal and thats is baseless. The Viceroy called the 18 year old crown prince to Shimla and his mother queen accompanied him. The Viceroy asked “So, you have come with your mother” to which Maharaja replied, “No. my mother has come with me”. The Viceroy got impressed witht the reply and the Chirathirunal was allowed to take up his throne from Regent Maharani.

  13. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Study, istory very well and never ne\be one sided. Mean while 6000 sqt feet palace at Kovalam was built by Regent Maharani and it was called Kovalam Kottaram. The Regen’t husband was even sucessfull in limiting the the fund a;;ocation to the junior Maharani, such wicked he was. But Sree Padmanabha Who is the Teutelary deity of the Royal Family of Travancore, knew what was right and he wanted his eternal devotee, Sree Chithira Thirunal Rama Varma Maharaja to get the throne. Don’t write for some one and study history carefully. Please remove comments against Amma Maharani, the great queen of Travancore.

  14. manupillai Says:

    @ Murali Sir: Im glad you liked it :)
    @ Mr. Nebu: There are two pictures of Rukmini Varma on this blog. You can find the other one on the latest post. Thats actually cut out of a photo of Mrs. Varma with Lord Mountbatten in 1976 at her exhibition opening. But I didnt use the whole thing because Im not sure I have permission for that. And I have heard a lot about the Kalivayalil family. There even was a website owned by Mrs. Mariamma Kalivayalil with many pictures of Glenrock Estate. Unfortunately its not working anymore. Thanks so much for your comment and please do send me the video. My email id is .

    • manupillai Says:

      also, Mr Nebu: It may interest you to note that a couple of years ago the Maharani’s daughter, Indira Bayi and her husband, along with her niece Lakshmi Raghunandan and her husband visited and spent a nostalgic vacation with the Kalivayalils at Peermade. The property belonged to Indira Bayi till it was sold in 1952. Thanks for the name of the first gentleman who purchased it.

  15. manupillai Says:

    @ Mr. Gautham Padmanabhan: Firstly thank you for commenting. Indeed I was wondering why nobody criticized this post at all. However I deny your statement that this is a bunch of lies. You will find that this post has two books, namely “Triumph and Tragedy in Travancore” by the eminent Prof. Sreedhara Menon and “At the turn of the Tide” by Dr. Lakshmi Raghunandan to back it, besides hundreds of records at the British archives. Before I proceed, however, i should clarify that some errors have inadvertently crept in. For instance, the black magic incident was not in 1924 but in 1929.

    About Kerala Varma Valiya Koil Thampuran pointing a revolver at Chithra Thirunal; are there any sources for this story? I am not however refuting the story because palace intrigues and scheming was quite an engaging occupation for some people at that time. About family members of the Senior Maharani spreading rumors to defame the “present royal family”, I don’t quite agree. There are letters exchanged between the British Resident and Regent, and the former with the Dewan which clearly show the involvement of the Junior Maharani in a great deal of malicious business. The “mysterious fire” in the 1930s is said to have destroyed all the official documents, but the private letters survived with the authors and recipients. Also when you say “the Viceroy”, I must direct you to the fact that the Viceroy who allowed the Maharajah to succeed in 1931 was Lord Willingdon who had arrived and taken charge in India only a few months previously. The Black Magic incident, which was the brainchild of the Junior Maharani, and implemented by her brother Rajan Thampuran (refer to the Resident’s letters), shocked the government so much that the previous Viceroy Lord Irwin ordered the Maharajah to go to Bangalore and meet his mother only on fixed dates for limited periods. Again, Chithra Thirunal was called a “moron” in one of the official letters of the Resident. There is also an entire set of letters called the “Civil List papers” which clearly show that the Junior Maharani’s allowances were not decreased, but increased by the Regent. She however, and certainly on the advice of the Valiya Koil Thampuran, did not permit Amma Maharani complete control over the civil list simply because she was the Maharajah’s mother. Funds were controlled by the head of the family and not by the minor ruler’s mother.

    About the Valiya Koil Thampuran being wicked, again there is little documentary evidence to implicate him. But I am aware that he was unpopular among certain factions at court. I will be happy to clarify any more doubts you have and answers you may need. I must also assert that I have added a disclaimer at the end of the post stating that this is what I have gleaned from sources and I have no pretensions of being a scholar on this topic. Meanwhile I do not intend to remove the “comments against Amma Maharani”.

    • manupillai Says:

      There are many documents housed in the British Library in London ranging from the Black Magic incident to allegations about the Junior Maharani’s behavior while on tour in Europe. Existing records do not favor her much with even a document recording rumours that the Maharani in 1932 felt that as there was a problem with Chithra Thirunal’s horoscope, in the event of his untimely demise SHE and not the Senior Maharani should be appointed Regent of Travancore.

      Also returning to your allegation that the Senior Maharani’s family was spreading false rumors about the “present royal family”, you may like to know that when the Maharani’s biography was published in 1995, her son in law, Kerala Varma, did not allow the publication of one particular letter which shows the Junior Maharani in a possibly scandalous and morally diminished position. The letter itself is insignificant but the Regent’s family felt it could warrant unnecessary gossip.

      • manupillai Says:

        I wrote this article before I could actually get a copy of the records. Hence some corrections:
        (1) The Senior Rani was granted the Sreepadom in 1913 and the same year the Junior Rani asked to leave the establishment and have a separate one of her own at Vadakkay Kottaram.
        (2) The Maharajah Moolam Thirunal restricted the Senior Rani not only because of her inability to give birth to a son but also because she refused to entertain the infamous Sankaran Thampi, the first husband of the Maharajah’s second wife, at her court. Moolam Thirunal was entirely under the control of this man.
        (3) The black magic was performed at Kowdiar palace and not Vellayambalam. Also the two fold objectives are given by Prof. Sreedhara Menon. Lakshmi Raghunandan’s book has published a letter that records word to word the conversation of the Resident with the Junior Maharani’s brothers asking them to leave the palace with the “old lady”, their mother and not meet the Maharajah without his permission.
        (4) Animal sacrifice was banned nearly 5 years before the black magic incident and therefore the two are not connected.
        (5) The Maharani moved away to Bangalore in 1958 and never came back to Kerala. In 1971 her Satelmond Palace, in the division of properties, was claimed by the Maharajah and a subsequent court case could not recover it for the Maharani. The only palace she and her children received was Saraswathi Vilasom. The tens of other properties were all retained by Chithira Thirunal.

        The rest of the information is correct.

  16. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Dear Manu,

    I have no intention to pass comments which are baseless.

    I will answer each and ecery point one by one.

    1. HH Moolam Thirunal was more partisan to Regent because of various reasons. However When Chithira Thirunal was declared the next heir, Moolam Thirunal had no option but to support him.

    2. Kaudiar Palace was not even constructed in 1929. The Kaudiar Hill had a bunglow there which was housed by a brahmin Family. Chithira Thirunal bought it from that brahmin family in 1932 and made a french style palace. HH shifted to Kaudiar to have more privacy from administrative affairs in the Fort Area. Vellayambalam Palace was completely under the controll of Regent Queen. My Family member Late Madhavan Pilla who was a palace staff at that time had told my father decades later that Kerla Varma Valia Koil Thampuran did try many a times to kill Chithira thirunal and he witnessed this at Thevarathu Koikkal which is now SP Fort Hospital.
    3.Regarding Shreedhara Menon’s book and Mrs Raghunandan’s book, Many historian including MGS Narayan had refuted his claims on the Travancore Royalty. HH Amma Maharani wanted her Akka (Regent)to stay here in Trivandrum after 1931, but she went on to say” we don’t even wont Sree Padmanabha, We hate Travancore”.

    4. There is no doubt that Regent was a great queen who even allowed Nair Ladys in Temples to cover their breasts. She was very progressive. But there were many royal conspiracies hatched against Young Prince HH Chithira Thirunal. these are again substantiated by Kovilvila Krishna Pillai in his book “Raja Kalathe Charithra Rekhakal”. In this book the plots hatched by Regent’s husband and KVVK Thampuran are detailed. He wrote this book after 1961 after the Royal rule. K. Krishna Pillai was critical of CP Rama Swamy Iyer too. so this person was unbiased.

    5. Regarding the fire incident, I can only tell you that it occurred in Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The Temple Records were not even hit by that fire as they were in Padinjare Nadappura. That claim is false. See MAnu, Regent Mharani was very popular even b4 she came Regent, so People wanted her son to rule the State, but that didn’t happen. So How can you blame Sethu Parvathy Maharani Thirumanassu for that.

    6. I’m a person who checked Mathilakam Records, where it ios clear that after Moolam Thirunal’s Death, the monthly financila provision to Sethu Parvathy Bai and her Children was 550 chakrams as compared to 2500 chakrams given to Sethu Lakshmi bai and her Family. Amma Maharani’s family was confined to Vadakke Kottaram which is now Hotel Lucia. Where as Regent had Poojappura Plalace, Sethel Mount Palace( Which is now Chithra institute), Vellayani Kottaram, Kovalam Palace and Vellayambalam Palce was owned by Ashwathy Thirunal, brother of Moolam Thirunal. Sree Padam belong to Attingal Mootha Thiruvadi (Regent)

    7. All your claims are dispproved by sensible historians and Recors. Senile Peple like Menon can cook such stories for their pleasure.

    8. Regarding the Morality of Amma Maharani, Sir CP’s worst critics have disapproved such stories, because there is no truth i it.

    • manupillai Says:

      (1) There is no question of “support”. Obviously Chithra Thirunal on birth was proclaimed heir apparent or Elayarajah and it is only natural that the Senior Rani’s position diminished thereafter. I am in agreement with you on this point.

      (2) You are almost certainly wrong about Kowdiar Palace. After the Junior Rani moved to Vadakkey Kottaram by her own choice, and left the Sreepadam, in the year 1915 Kowdiar was GIFTED to her by Moolam Thirunal, and Poojappura to the Senior Rani. For constructing a palace at Kowdiar a fund of Rs. 45,000 was provided and for Poojappura, Rs.10,000 was provided.

      The present structures however are the result of expansions and extensions in the 1920s and 1930s. The original palaces were much smaller. Kowdiar was not purchased by Chithra Thirunal. It was gifted to his mother by Moolam Thirunal. Even the court papers of Revathinnal Balagopala Varma Vs. Sir Balarama Varma clearly states that these properties were granted by Moolam Thirunal.

      (3) “We dont want Padmanabha” etc seems exaggerated. When the regency terminated, after the very installation durbar the ex Regent was sent back in an ordinary carriage without escort which was an insult to the woman who had ruled for 8 years. Later the Maharajah threatened in 1941 to stop paying the Senior Maharani her allowance if she didnot pay “courtesy calls” to him. She kept saying that she was his aunt and the eldest member in the family and hence it was HE who should be visiting her. But when her allowance was threatened she acquiesced. Once again i state: there are records for all of this. However I think there is some truth in that the Senior Maharani and her daughters did not participate in temple rituals but I am not too sure yet about it.

      (4) I have not read this book. Is it in malayalam? And no I dont stay in Trivandrum but have gathered plenty of information. My granduncle was a friend of Sir CP (he had the liberty of addressing the Dewan as “Swamy”). So CPs virtues and vices have also been easy to glean. Although, I repeat, that barely interests me.

      (5) The fire in the Padmanabhaswamy temple is different from the fire in the secretariat. Indeed there are apparently even witnesses who saw the Junior Maharani personally destroy documents, chiefly because the documents implicated her in so many scandals and intrigues. I don’t know more about this though. The residents reports, one of which says “the Junior Maharani has a fondness for intrigue” etc are still preserved at the national archives I think. Also i am not blaming anybody. I have merely stated what is backed by available records.

      (6) You are completely misinformed about the payments. The Regent received a higher allowance because her own position as Regent entailed an annual income of Rs 200,000 because of rank, position, head of state duties etc. The Junior Maharani continued to receive the earlier allowance. Also the Junior Maharani was paid an allowance from the Sreepadom by the Regent.

      About the palaces: Sethulmount and Poojappura are the same palaces as far as I know. It is called the Satelmond Palace. Vellayani and Kovalam were purchased by the Regent with her private allowance in 1930 and then built. Obviously the Junior Maharani and the rest of the royal family had no claim over it. Kovalam and Pothencode palaces belonged to the Valiya Koil Thampuran privately. Therefore you cannot say that the Regent had so many palaces and the JM had barely any. These palaces were built privately and hence are not included in royal properties.

      (7) This is the first time i am hearing anyone call Prof Menon “senile”. His contribution to Kerala history is tremendous. That was an unwarranted statement.

      (8) I am not concerned with any moral debates respecting the Junior Maharani. That is of barely any significance. In this post I have only alluded to it in passing because of the currency the rumors gained at that time. In this regard I may also, I suppose, mention that my grandmother was sport enough to tell me the lyrics of certain vulgar songs that even the children in villages sang about the Amma Maharani and her Mylapur Pattar. However it is possible that this was communist propaganda at the time.

  17. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Dear Manu,

    Even Supreme Court had validated that Chithira Thirunal claims were right.

    Regarding Britishers who advocated for Regent, I can only tell that they wanted a puppet at their hands, They feared if Chithira Thirunal became king, ther plans to loot wont work out that easily.

    Amma Maharani wanted CP to become the Dewan as CP was a very eminent economist and National Leader at that time. No one can question the moral side of HH Maharani Sethu Parvathy Bai. Just remember, you are talking about a person who believed in the Supreme Service to People. Mannathu Padmanabhan, founderof NSS once said about Amma Thampuratty (chithira Thirunal’s Mother) ” HH Maharani is charity personified”. She encouraged her son to start Vanchi Poor fund and other charitable socities. Please remove comments about Sree Padmanabha Sevini Raja Rajeshwari Maharani Sethu Parvathy Bai. Don’t waste your time for those who are embodiments of Jealousy and shere Hypocracy.

    • manupillai Says:

      Chithra Thirunal won the case and so there is little we can debate about on this. It happened because in 1939 he took over the Sreepadom and Satelmond Palace was included in the Sreepadom and so he became the owner. In the same year when he threatened to cut off the Senior Maharani’s allowance for staying at private palaces, her complaint was that she didnt have a single official palace under her control. It was then that she was allowed to manage Satelmond again. But ownership remained with the Maharajah. In essence, the property that was presented by Mulam Thirunal to the Maharani was confiscated by the Maharajah.

      “The britishers want to loot and therefore needed a puppet” argument is not an argument at all. It is a very convenient response when there is nothing else to say, and I am not going to respond to that.

      The title you addressed Amma Maharani with is wrong. That title was for the Senior Maharani and Amma Maharani never succeeded to that title. But leaving that aside, i cannot base posts on the praises of individuals. That way the Senior Maharani’s side has supreme benefit because she was praised by Mahatma Gandhi himself. Again and again I am repeating that all the records support the side of the Senior Maharani and not the Junior Maharani. I dont think the British had anything against the Junior Maharani personally to fabricate records.

  18. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Dear Manu,

    Don’t try to change the Claims made by you initially. Please go and visit the Avanavan cherry Nair Tharavadu where rcords are still preserved. Regent Queen’s husband did that that Mrigabali in Attingal at Meledathu Kali Amma, 4 Goats were sacrificed when amma Maharani was 4 months pregnant carrying the GREAT GREAT KING HH SREE CHITHIRA THIRUNAL.
    I Still say Regent was GREAT but her family was very very cruel and cunning.

    • manupillai Says:

      I have not changed any “claims”. Only some of the dates got jumbled up. I merely clarified that. The claims are still sustained.

      Perhaps the Regent’s husband was also involved in intrigues but I have not yet come across any records personally. Whatever is available in books and with the British archives in London is about the hindrances the Junior Maharani created during the regency and her complete domination over her son. She was herself quite a woman and no one is questioning her achievements. My post is about the Senior Maharani and so much was the trouble created for her by the Junior Maharani, that avoiding her becomes impossible.

      What are the records with this Tharavadu though?

  19. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    I Don;t know where you are from? R ufrom Tvm? f you are Ill show more Proves of the ‘greatness of Regent’s family”……

    • manupillai Says:

      I must concede here that I have never visited Trivandrum, except a brief passage to the airport once. Naturally perhaps my views are slightly impaired due to this. However I have several friends in Trivandrum who are equally involved in its history.

      Again, I have gathered many stories about the Junior Maharani from them but its all gossip and there is no need for mentioning that in any post. Anyhow, the very fact that she performed black magic, which is factual history, which possibly involved a plan of human sacrifice also (sounds strange but again: residents letters and Sreedhara Menon), doesnt present a very agreeable personality.

  20. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Long Live Maharani Sethu PArvathy Bai of Travancore……..

  21. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    I have many letters of Britishers that say, Regent’s husband was a sex maniac, but again, these topics deserve an audience which like to feed on gossip alone. To err is human. So rather than personally attacking any one, you present the History in an ethical manner. Sreedhara Menon is known for his Apathy towards Travancore and its kings because he is more fond of his home state-Cochin. I can give you any proof to establish that junior Maharani was innocent. Why don’t you accept that God’s choice fell on her son and What is so wrong in dominating over one’s son when the son has no complaint? Actually the Britons wanted to annexe Travancore. But fate didn’t allow them and It was the will of Destiny which wanted the great Son of the Soil, Sree Chithira Thirunal to come up and rule the people and lead them to the path of progress. Chithira Thirunal allowed the so called oppressed Hindus to enter Temples which was even hailed By Gandhiji. Well, if you think you need to swollow the content of the letters written by the partisan and biased British asses, then i would never comment.
    Any Way, i will request your great soul to do research on the progress made by Chithira Thirunal under the guidance of HH Maharani Sethu Parvathy Bai.

    Congrats for your experiments in History and god Bless You and Do come to Trivandrum, I shall take you to all places which are of interest and will show you the Heritage of Travancore. Bye…….

    • manupillai Says:

      I cannot comment on the biases and apathy of historians. His is the most prominent name in Kerala history and naturally therefore my inclination would be to believe him rather than random assertions of individuals.

      I donot understand why you seem to think I have something against Chithra Thirunal who was “Gods choice”. “Actually the Britons wanted to annex Travancore” is another fallacy to which I will not respond. The British after 1857 increased controls over the states but could never annex them thereafter. As for the biased British “asses”, they were high ranking officials, ranging from the Resident to the Maharajah’s own tutor, Captain Harvey. It seems hard to believe that somehow everyone seemed to hate the Amma Maharani, who was actually so benign and sweet, that they felt compelled to fabricate documents and incriminate her in malicious activities. I consider historical documents over and above your loyal assertions of her greatness. I would recommend an objective analysis of history as opposed to one blinded by deep rooted faith and loyalty and attaching godly importance to men. I have not said that Travancore did not make progress under Chithra Thirunal. So my “great soul” need not delve into that as far as this article is concerned.

  22. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    I must give you the following points to dispell your ignorance.

    1. SethelMount Palace or Sethu Lakshmy Mount was won in a case By late Chithra Thirunal in 1980s b4 Regent’s death in 1985. Then His Higness donated it to a Medical institute which is now Sree Chithra Institute for Cardiac Sciences.

    2. Palaces at Kovalam and Vellayani for sure belonged To Regent and her family. Sree Chithra Thirunal never claimed these.

    3. Sree Chithira Thirunal the Great would have never asked the Maharani to give him courtesy calls. He was never a cheap and insensitive person. He was very affectionate towards the Regent. but his equation with her Husband was bad.

    4. I think you are not well aware of the rites and Rituals of Royal Family of Travancore, when you said Sethu Parvathy bai was never amma Maharani. According to the Pathivu shasanam of SREE VEERA MARTHANDA VARMA, the mother of Maharaja is naturally entitled to be called AMMA MAHARANI although her sister was alive as senior Maharani simply because of the right to throne poccessed by her Son and late Maharaja. So there were two Senior Maharanis. She Got Maharani’s title in 1930 itself. The Family priest, Kakkadu Potti gave her that title with full acceptance of the then Governor of Madras. OK?

    5. When i said quoting Maharani that She said such and such things, you must understand that those things appeared in Mahtrubhumi News Paper which was even validated by Lalthambika bai, Regent’s daughter that her mother felt separated and isolated by Sree Padmanabha . IT was between Her and Her Deity. We shouldn’t intervene, but its a fact.

    6. Sree Chithira Thirunal till the end was a Great Devotee of Sree PAdmanabha Swamy……….and just because he was silent on controversies, nobody should doubt his ability to defend himself.

    • manupillai Says:

      Thank you for taking the effort to dispel my ignorance.
      () & (2) I am in agreement. I never said otherwise.

      (3) Again you make a statement based on your opinion of the greatness of the man. He was a great king perhaps but what transpired within the royal family cannot be assessed by public images of its members. Refer to records and you will find that in 1938 the marriage of Lalithamba Bayi was not sanctioned till the Maharani was made to visit Kowdiar on an inferior footing. Unable to bear harassment when she went away to Vellayini, in 1941 she was asked to return to Satelmond Palace and pay courtesy calls. These calls were on the 1st of every month, on festive occasions such as Onam and to participate in the celebrations of the Maharajahs birthday.

      I really dont understand how you make statements like “Sree Chithra Thirunal the Great would never have asked…”. I was hoping to gain a new perspective from you but unfortunately your entire argument is based on blind loyalty.

      (4) I did not say Sethu Parvathi Bayi was not the Amma Maharani. However the title of “Sri Padmanabha Sevini Vanchi Dharma Vardhini…..” applied to the Queen of Travancore and by definition the Queen was the Senior Rani of Attingal ie Sethu Lakshmi Bayi. The Junior Rani died in 1983 before the Senior Rani and therefore never succeeded to the title of Padmanabha Sevini etc.

      (5) Perhaps it is true in that case. I will ask the Maharani’s family members. But it is not difficult to guess when her position was so made so difficult that she should feel alienated.

      Another clarification: Satelmond Palace was won by Chithra Thirunal but the court case did not end before the Regent Maharani’s death. The final verdict was delivered in 1991. I have the court papers with me.

      (6) Chithra Thirunal may have been sensitive etc and was a great king indeed. However, with the available records, the same cannot be said about his mother. She was not only unpopular with her sister but even with the general population of Travancore.

  23. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Regarding Kaudiar Palace, I can tell with full confidene that it was purchased by Sree Chithira Thirunal from a brahmin family. I must correct myself that the Kaudiar Bunglow, which still exists in Kaudiar Palace compound was urached in 1928 and huge 3 tier complex was built by Chihtira Thirunal in 1933-34. The Kaudiar hill was purchased at tthe time of Sree Moolam Thirunal. This was revelaed to me by a member of Travancore Royal family.

    • manupillai Says:

      My information states that Kowdiar was given in 1915 to the Junior Rani. Perhaps the present building was constructed by the Maharajah. I am not aware of that. But the property was in their possession from 1915 onwards.

  24. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    No.thats misinformation.

  25. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Sri Manuji,

    I’m a resident of Kaudiar. Our Ancestral home is still there in Kaudiar. Our Family members know the History of Kaudiar Place very well. The Bunglow which has now become the outhouse of Kaudiar Palace was built in 1915 by Kurandiyar Narayana Iyyer Annavi. The 75 acre plot was under him which was bought by Sree Chithira Thirunal. HH made a big palace there. You know one thing, the writer’s forum headed by eminent writers and historians had a meeting in Trivandrum to condole the death of Regent Maharani. The Meeting was attended by Sree Chithira Thirunal and other members of the Royal Family except Regent’s family members.
    The whole meeting was funded by HH the Late Maharaja. The Present Maharaja was very affectionate towards the Regent Maharani. HH Uthradom Thirunal, the present Maharaja was staying in Bangalore with his wife, Radha Ammachi till 1991. They were close with Regent Maharani also. Sree Kumar Verma, the grandson of Regent frequently comes here to Kaudiar Palace. Mrs Reghunandan had herself attended the Lakshadeepam in 2008 here at Trivandrum.

    • manupillai Says:

      The relations between the two branches of the royal family are not bad anymore. Indeed Mr Shreekumar Varma and Dr. Lakshmi Raghunandan were in the Trivandrum last year for the ceremonies of the temple. She even told me how she was asked to walk along with Pooyam Thirunal etc in the temple corridor as a Thampuratti of the royal family. Indeed Lakshmi herself told me that Uthradom Thirunal has always been on good terms with their family. In 1995 he also asked her sister, Rukmini Varma, to paint a portrait of the Regent and place it in Kuthiramalika. Incidentally, she will be in Trivandrum on the 19th, I think, for the Regent’s birth anniversary celebrations.

  26. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Sreedhara MEnon is a coward, i must say. He was a student of Sardar KM Panicker. It was Panicker who made significant contributions to Kerala History along with Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai. Both these historians were poor at wriitng books, but they dictated notes to their students including Shreedhara Menon. So Shreedhara Menon did an excellant copy of these historian’s findings and began publishing books. Mr Menon had himself said this to my father. We know very well, how Menon cooks up gossips and convrt them into History. Mr Menon was turned down by The Indian history congress in 1988, when he presented his thesis that The present Kshatriyas of Kerala belonged to Marava Community( a low caste hindu section in in Tamil Nadu)…….But you are right, he made significant contribution in the art of Copying History….He should be given Bharat Ratna for that.

    We in Trivandrum are proud of our Royal heritage especially in the greatness of HH SEthu Parvathy Bai the Greatest and HH SRI CHITHIRA THIRUNAL RAMA VARMA MAHARAJA.

    • manupillai Says:

      I am not aware of any of this and cannot comment. Sethu Parvathi Bayi and Chithra Thirunal were great people, sure, as was Sethu Lakshmi Bayi. But that doesnt negate the personal disaffection and problems, largely a result of the Amma Maharani’s actions, that existed before independence in Travancore and its royal family. Anyhow, I think we should stop this now. I find myself unable to convince you of the validity of records whereas your arguments are all influenced tremendously by the public contributions of the royal personages and a certain loyalty to them.

    • why blame a historian as a coward.Very funny .Time to forget what all i read here .Thanks

  27. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Well, Even i want to end this. Sethu Parvathy Bai was like the Mother of Travancore. We all love her very much.

  28. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    The most important part of this blog is its weakness to find a suitable title The title ‘last queen of Travancore’ should have been ‘ last regent queen of Travancore’. The Last queen of Travancore was HH Moolam Thirunal Maharani Sethu Parvathy Bai.

    • manupillai Says:

      I cant believe your still hanging around this post. But anyway, once again you will find you are wrong. The Queen of Travancore was always the Senior Rani of Attingal. In this case, the Senior Rani was Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and not Sethu Parvathi Bayi. The latter never succeeded to the title as she died in 1983 while the Senior Rani was still alive. Thus it was Sethu Lakshmi Bayi who was the last Queen of Travancore and not Sethu Parvathi Bayi.

      • Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

        Dear Manu,

        I don’t hang to any controversy like that.
        I must with all apology confirm that you are totally ignorant of the Pathivu shaasanam of Marthanda Varma Kulashekhara Perumal, the Maker of Modern Travancore.

        You must understand one thing very clearly.

        The Senior Most Queen of Travancore will be called ‘Attingal Mootha Thiruvadi’. The next princess will be Junior Queen of Attingal or ‘Attingal Randaam Thiruvadi’. In this case, Sethulakshmi Bai was ofcource the senior most queen of Attingal till her death in 1985. But the happenings in 1912 were entirely different. The Senior Rani who was supposed to beget a male child couldn’t do so and hence the Royal Key of Travancore went into the hands of the Branch o the then junior Rani, Sethu Parvathy Bai. According to Life history of Sethuparvathy Bai-”AVASAANATHE NAADUVAZHIYUDE AMMA” WRITTEN BY TN Gopinathan Nair, its clearly written that SEthu Parvathy Bai got the title of Maharani in 1924 before the Demise of Sri Moolam Thirunal in that year itself. THIS IS A FACT…..

        I REALLY DON’T KNOW FOR WHOSE PLEASURE U R WRITING SUCH STORIES. BUT TRUTH IS TRUTH. AS PER TRAVANCORE ROYAL FAMILY RULE, THE MOTHER OF HEIR APPARENT NATURALLY BECOMES AMMA MAHARANI. SO THERE WERE 2 MAHARANIS. BUT SINCE THE BRANCH OF HH SETHUPARVATHY BAI HAD THE LUCK TO PRODUCE THE HEIR APPARENT…AMMA MAHARANI WAS MORE ON FOCUS. I TOTALLY AGREE WITH U THAT THE REGENT QUEEN WAS ALSO MAHARANI OR SENIOR MOST QUEEN. I THINK UR NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE MALAYALAM TRANSLATION OF THESE TITLES.

  29. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Dear Manu,

    I dont hang on to any thing like that. But Justice must served well.

    • manupillai Says:

      I am not contesting that she was called Amma Maharani. I am only saying that the title of Padmanabha Sevini etc was held by the Senior Rani/Attingal Mootha Thampuran and not by any of the Junior Ranis. Hence SPB was indeed Amma Maharani but not Padmanabha Sevini etc. As for the title of Maharani, i am aware that it was granted in 1924. But that has nothing to do with their hereditary titles as Ranis of Attingal.

      Anyway please end this. This argument is going in the most petty direction.

  30. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Dear Manu,

    I’m ending this with a strong note conveying my strongest protest and dssatisfaction with your blog that crticizes our Dearest Sree Chithira Thirunal Maharaja and Our Dearest Sree Padmanabha Sevini Sethuparvathy Bai.

    You have once again shown your ignorance when you said that only senior most Rani of Attingal is entitled to the titile of Sree Padmanabha Sevini. THIS IS A JOKE…….i KNOW MANY PRINCESSES IN TRAVANCORE ROYAL FAMILY AND ALL THE FEMALE MEMVERS OF ROYAL FAMILY ARE SREE PADMANABHA SEVINIS. PLEASE READ THE ‘THRIPPADI DANAM’ DOCUMENT WHEREBY THE GREAT MARTHANDA VARMA MAHARAJA PROMISED BEFORE LORD SREE PADMANABHA THAT HIS MALE MEMBERS AS WELL AS FEMALE MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL FAMILY WILL BE CALLED SREE PADMANABHA DASA….FEMALE ROYALTY WILL BE CALLED SREE PADMANABHA SEVINIES . SO I DON’T KNOW WHO HAS GIVEN THIS MISFORMATION TO YOU….ANY WAY ALL THE BEST FOR YOUR EXCAVATIONS IN TRAVANCORE HISTORY………….

    AND ONE ASTONISHING THING IS THAT YOUR CHANGING YOUR AARGUMENTS. FIRST U BEGAN THE CONTROVERSY BY QUESTIONING THE PERSONALITY OF AMMA MAHARANI. LATER U QUESTIONED WHETHER SHE WAS MAHARANI. THEN U QUESTIONED WHETHER SHE WAS ENTITLED TO PADMANABHA SEVINI TITLE……THESE APPEAR TO BE A PLANNED ATTEMPT TO DEFAME THE ROYAL FAMILY. I HAVE STUDIED IN DEPTH ABOUT THE WICKED KOIL THAMPURAN AND REGENT’S HUSBAND. I MUST UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE AN ADVOCATE OF REGENT’S FAMILY. GOOD: THAT SHOWS UR LOYALTY TO THE TRAVANCORE ROYAL FAMILY OF BANGALORE. I LIKED IT. BUT JUSTICE SHOULD BE SERVED WELL AT THE END……

    THANK U FOR YOUR CO-OPERATION AND COURTESY THAT U HAVE ENTERTAINED ME IN YOUR BLOG. GOD BLESS U MANU AND STUDY HISTORY WELL/ DON’T COMMENT FROM HERE AND THERE.

    LONG LIVE AMMA MAHARANI
    LONG LIVE OUR PONNU THAMPURAN
    LONG LIVE THE VANCHI ROYAL HOUSE

    • manupillai Says:

      I must thank you for ending this. However I also feel obliged to inform you that your dissatisfaction is of little consequence to me and the topic of discussion. I have listed references and mentioned records that support this post whereas you have almost entirely failed in advocating your version. Your version, in itself, is flawed because you seem to think that the principal intention of this post is to malign and defame the Amma Maharani. This post is about the Maharani Regent and her life, so punctuated by the doings of the Junior Maharani that it is impossible to leave her out. Anyway, no more clarifications will be forthcoming from my side hereafter and I hope, earnestly, that you will refrain from further comment as well. Also, forgive me if I am wrong, but the following comment by Shri Ravi Varma of Kilimanoor palace, seems to have been authored by you. I am sorry if it is my misconception. Anyhow, my regards to you and thank you again. Goodbye.

  31. Ravi Varma Says:

    I’m extending my total support to Shri Gautham Padmanabhan who is an authority of Travancore Royal Family’s history.
    I must sympathize with Manu for his comments on the present Royal house. May Sree Padmanabha forgive for his comments. Shame onmaking such remarks. I’m from Kilimanoor Palace and my grand father, Kerala Varma who died at the age of 93 was present in thevarathu koikkal when Valia Koil Thampuran was asked to get out of the Fort area. My grandpa told this our family members and he was critical of Sir CP too.
    This incident was repeated many a times by Valia Koil Thampuran. Don’t try to make new histories, Manu.

    • manupillai Says:

      (1) Sree Padmanabha, I am sure, has better things to deal with than my blog posts.
      (2) Please do not “sympathize” etc.
      (3) If you could provide any documents I would take you more seriously.
      (4) I am not making new histories. I have presented my obvious understanding of history.
      Thank you for your comment. My stand is clear from the above conversations with Mr Gautham Padmanabhan of Mazhavanchery Vadakkedom and if they do not satisfy you, there is little to discuss. Therefore please do not comment further.

  32. Col: Aravind Thampi Says:

    Hey Gauthamji,

    Well done. You have silenced Manu Pillai. Manu, i have nothing personal against you. But, i was following the whole controversy silently. But i think Gauthamji has more valid points than you. Gautham Padmanabhan is a notable person in Trivandrum. I dont know whether you know him. He is the Grand son of Late Prof Gupthan Nair who was a great writer and critic and the great grandson of Sri Kalpuzha Narayanan Nampoothiri who was a well known Historian and Sanskrit scholar in Madhya Thiruvithamcore. I’m a retired Army man and i have been informed by my grand mother Goury Kutty Thankachi that Regent was a heavenly personality and her husband the opposite. Actually, in a devi temple near Attingal, the regent’s husband conducted aN ANIMAL SACRIFICE to destroy young Chithira Thirunal who in his mother’s womb then. Then, Belhaven Thampi who is the grand son of Sree Moolam Thirunal was informed by this HENIOUS ACT BY GEN: KUTTAN PILLAI of Travancore royal Army. Thampi later informed this to Sri Moolam Thirunal and to Amma Maharani, who was junior Rani then. Later Regen’t husband changed the whole story by saying that it was Junior Maharani who did this. Koil Thampuran’s air gun show was described by many Historians who HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ROYAL FAMILY. IT WAS PROOVED……..
    Any Way all the best to both of you……Thank you.

    • manupillai Says:

      Thank you for the insight on the family of Mr. Padmanabhan, although I don’t see how that furthers the validity of the arguments. Indeed the Valia Koil Thampuran was an ace rifle shooter etc. I am bored of repeating that I have records to back my side and unless valid references, other than hearsay and family anecdotes, are provided in these matters, I will not believe anything that is asserted otherwise. Thanks for your comment colonel.

    • manupillai Says:

      I just realized how incoherent with history your comment is. You said the Valiya Koil Thampuran performed animal sacrifice to kill the young Chithira Thirunal when he was still in the womb of Amma Maharani. So this must be in 1912. However, Belhaven Thampi (Capt. Padmanabhan Thampi), in your own words, was the “grandson of Sree Moolam Thirunal”. He was born only in 1919 to the Maharajah’s daughter Bhagavathi Pillai Kochamma and GV Thirumulpadu. There is no way the Thampi could have told the Maharajah Moolam Thirunal, seven years BEFORE his birth about the black magic incident. Also when you say that the Valiya Koil Thampuran blamed the black magic incident on the Junior Maharani; that event took place many years later in 1929. And the VKT and Regent Maharani barely did anything. The entire episode was handled by the British Resident and it was he who ordered that the Junior Maharani’s mother and brothers, including Rajan Thampuran who later married Belhaven Thampi’s mother as her second husband, should not meet the royal family without his permission. It was the Junior Maharani who performed Black Magic and the repercussions were so ghastly that she was separated from her son and was permitted only limited access to him as the Maharajah was sent to Bangalore for “administrative training” by Lord Irwin, the Viceroy at the time.

  33. Raja Raja Varma Says:

    Manu,

    I won’t point my fingers at you. Both Gautham and you are good in daebating. That i understood, but Regen’t husband…. my God!!!!!!!! He was insane and ——— to the core. I’m from Poonjar Palace. My Grand Uncle, Udaya Varma Who was Raja Gopalachari’s good friend told many facts about Regen’t husband. He used to beat Regent very much coz she couldn’t beget a male child. Very Cruel he was. Regent was a great queen. No doubt. I could meet Her Highness in Bangalore. I was just 7 and it was in 1983 0r 82 i guess. She was not keeping well those days.

    I have heard about Gautham Padmanabhan very much. I think he is famous a guy in south Travancore.

    • manupillai Says:

      Thanks for the comment. I know the Valiya Koil Thampuran was unpopular in Travancore during the Regency. About the beating up etc, I cannot comment. But it is fact that Sethu Lakshmi Bayi was greatly pressurized to bear a male child. After a miscarriage in 1910 she suffered from problems till the birth of Princess Lalithamba Bayi in 1923.

  34. Arjun Nair Says:

    This is an interesting blog. But i think Manu should have avoided personal comments against the Royalty.
    I personally know Gautham . He was my friend in Govt Arts College, Trivandrum. Once he openly told Sonia Gandhi, that she should undertand the inner meaning of Indian Culture and he also told her that Congress Party should be more serious about Hindus in India. This happened in 1999 in New Delhi. I was with him and after that i went to Scotland for studies. Some how, i lost touch with him and only now, I’m hearing his comments.
    Thanks to Manu also, although i don’t know him personally.

    • manupillai Says:

      Thank you Arjun. I have not alleged anything against the former royal family. I have attempted to write about the life of the Regent Maharani. The troubles created by the Junior Maharani at the time happen to be many and hence find mention herein. The only thing I was slightly uncomfortable mentioning was about the Junior Maharani’s so called love affair with Sir CP. But I alluded to it in passing anyway since it also finds place in a well known book.

    • manupillai Says:

      Oh and I wonder what the inner meaning of Indian culture is and what greater seriousness about Hindus means. My own belief is that Indian culture is a great, and sometimes intimidating, fabric for each to interpret and understand. One of the greatest problems of today is the moral police and that posse which is out to define “Indian culture” and in the process, damage public property, ban paintings (MF Hussain’s for instance) etc.

  35. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    Shri Manu,

    I was about to end this, i saw my two friends Raju (Raja Raja Varma) and Thampi uncle online in gmail. I asked them to look at your blog, simply because they all are History lovers especially Travancore History. But a surprise occured. Arjun My dear friend contacted me all the way from Tokyo (where he is now) after a gap of almost 10 years. I think it was your blog that helped two friends to re unite. Thank you Manu.

    Regarding the discussion, We both have made our points very clear. Lets not Repeat what we have said. We should be tolerant to each other.

    With regard to your comment on “Indian Culture”(Which you got from Arjun’s comments), I must say that your Blog is not the stage to discuss it. I understand that your blog is dedicated to the Late Regent Queen. Although I’m a great lover of Hindutva and I would be the first person to celebrate MF Hussain’s death, I would hate to comment further on this.

    There is a saying, “All’s well that ends well”. I believe in this Shakesperian Philosophy. And finally, I must thank you for your observation on Sree PAdmanabha that he had better things to deal with. I was wondering how a person who has not even seen Sree Padmanabha can know his mind well. You are Great……

    This Day which is December 6th is a day of pride for Vaishnavas worldwide. We were celebrating today by distributing sweets and hence we would never like to taste bittergourd…so bye Dear Manu.

    • manupillai Says:

      Somehow I feel our debate would have been far more enjoyable and interesting and fun if it had been on culture and Hindutva. But another day for that now, I suppose. Thanks. Bye.

  36. Venugopal Varma Says:

    Hi Manu,

    I’m from Ulsavamadhom Palace and now settled in Montreal. I’m sorry to tell you that your arguments have no basis except being dependant on Laksmi Reghunandan’s book. Although difficult to believe, Gautham’s arguments were right when he said about Regent’s husband.

    Second thing, you seem to be ignorant of the personality of Late Chithira Thirunal. He would never have requested regent to give courtesy calls to him etc etc. How can u so strongly claim that Lakshmi’s book is only right. There are many books written by other authors as Gautham mentioned who were unbiased and in these books the conspiracies hatched by Regent’s husband are mentioned.

    And you seem to emotionally argue in favor of Regent, thats very bad. Regent was well educated and cultured, but she too was fond of harassing our Valiamma, Sethu Parvathy Bai. HH Sethu Parvathy Bai would have never done any thing bad against Regent. Don’t simply try to comment on something on the basis of a book and start a blog. You are offending a Great Lady. You must show some maturity rather than complaining like a naughty child.

    • manupillai Says:

      Thank you for your comment.
      (1) You will find that you are wrong. This post also refers to Sreedhara Menon’s “Triumph and Tragedy in Travancore” as well as it does to Lakshmi’s book, and large numbers of documents in the British archives.
      (2) This is not a commentary on the personality of Chithira Thirunal. I donot understand how anybody can say “he would never have”. This is a repetition, but there are official letters written by the Kowdiar Karyakkar to the Senior Maharani stating clearly that unless she paid courtesy calls on the 1st of every month and on festive occasions, and resided at Trivandrum, her allowance would be cut off. Also refer to Sreedhara Menon for the same.
      (3) I have not come across anything about the Regents husband. If I would have, those conspiracies would also have found mention here. Not once have I said that he never conspired. i am only saying that the records that I have come across do not implicate him.
      (4) I am not emotionally arguing for the Regent. I have provided references and named books for every argument.
      (5) My blog is not one dedicated to the Regent. If you go through it you will find a variety of articles. In any case if it seems to you to be the ramblings of a “complaining” and “naughty child”, you are free not to read it.

  37. Ravi Varma Says:

    Ha Ha HA. Very well, Manu Sir, Go on lying and lying……and quote people who had stolen others’ works…..We Kshatriyas don’t need certificates from those who were our servants a century ago. We the members of Chandra Vamsha wouldn’t use a kitchen knife to kill some poor animals when we have swords in our hands to take out our enemies’ heads.

    And one more thing, don’t try to ‘unfortunately’ suspect that somebody else is writing through another name. I came to know about this blog yesterday, when I was surfing the net about Travancore. Suddenly i saw your blog and initially i was so happy to see pictures of Regent and Queen Mother (Setu parvati bai), but after reading it, my memoirs went to the story told by my mother’s uncle who is from Paliakkara Palace about the false stories published by Regent’s family in 80s in Janayugam News Paper( aCPI mouth piece) and also in Mathrubhoomi) about the progressive King, Sree Chitira Tirunal. My friend, Mahesh Thampan also took serious note of Lekshmy’s ‘irresponsible’ book.

    Whatever you try to say about a great person who was addressed by Mahatma Gandhi as the Real “Mahatma”, seldom will people buy such dirty stories.

    Your blog is another example of how far a frustrated and jealous Royal family can go by employing a “slave writer” who may ofcourse be in need of some money. It’s not a great deal to write something from Bangalore or London and then expect people to believe whatever filth you say.

    Any way thanks very much for making people Laugh through your blogs.

    This is time of Mandala and I was praying to Kilimanoor Sri Dharma Shasta to give me patience and show me the path of resilience even after coming through such stinking stories about great personalities.

    • manupillai Says:

      You very opening on the basis of caste disgusts me. There are no Kshatriyas today how much ever you may wish to imagine yourself to be one sir. And if I may advice, killing a person with a knife or a sword, far from a gallant act, would send you right into jail. You might like to rethink your strategy against your “enemies”.

      Neither you nor your friends and their opinions interest me. The opinions of the contemporary British Residents, Dewans and other government officials hold far greater historical value than what you would like to presume.

      i am not a “slave writer”. I have better things to do with my time, as do the members of the royal family in Bangalore. I should also point out that my finances are most satisfactory, since you seemed to judge poverty to be the drive behind my blog. That is not the case.

      If the stories stink, please steer clear and do not read them. I am not forcing my blog on anyone. Thank you for the comment.

  38. Raja Shekhara Varma Says:

    Hi Manu and other friends who are now engaged in a very indecent war about two branches of the Same Family which was adopted into Royal House of Travancore. Travancore Royalty was always inconsistent when it came to its members. Some were adopted from Kola Swaroopam(Kannur) and from Mavelikkara and so many children who were adopted inherited different qualities from their parents who were from different royal branches. So Travancore was something like the last refuge of we Royals because of its tremendous wealth and great name. I’m from Thulishala Koickkal Palace and i’m now 63. My Father, Unni Kerala Varma was threatened by Kerala Varma Valia Koil Thampuran simply because he tried to see the then Junior Rani, HH Sethu Maharani at Sundaravilasom Palace. He went there to see the young baby Sree Chithra Thirunal. All Royal Palaces in Kerala know very well that Regent Queen was a gift of god and her husband and her uncle were cruelty personified. So please DON’T TEACH US ALL THOSE. WE KNOW BETTER THAN U.

    But writing blogs are good and using it for somebody else is not only very bad, but demonaic also….

    Any way I must congrajulate you for your efforts, although you failed very miserably.

  39. NK Krishnan Nampoothiri Says:

    This blog deserves to be flushed down the toilet. Lies, misquotes, hyprocracies nothing else. Manu Pillai, I don’t lnow who this guy is deserves to get an appoinment fixed with some phsychiatrist. Certain people who get the taste of dirt enjoys it without even knowing that it is is filth just like a hog eating stool.

    I must differ with other participants of this debate by saying that Regent Queen was equally responsible like her husband for their just fate after 1931. Regency was the period of Horror and tension and Attempts were made to destroy Padmanabhapuram palace at this period. This henious attempt was stopped by Amma Maharani with the help of my father’s friend Vamanan Bhattathirippadu and MannathuPadmanabhan. I like others protest strongly against the contents of this blog.

    Shame on you Manu.

  40. Dear All, a sincere request to stop commenting and reacting to each other’s remarks. This is a great disservice done to both branches of the Travancore Royal Family. As a loyal royalist, it pains me very much to see such remarks and counter remarks floating around on cyber space, for all to see; and for those who have no respect, affection and regard for the Travancore Family, to snigger about.

    A lot of dirty linen is being aired in public and as I have mentioned in one of my comments earlier on, we must keep in mind that we are talking about human beings with their frailties and failings. Decades later, to talk about old injustices, imagined or otherwise, done to each other, and the animosities carried on there on, are not really the done thing. An (almost) academic discussion has degenerated into name calling.

    I hope all of you will agree with my sentiments and let the matter drop.

  41. Hi Manu, is it possible for me to reach u via email ?

  42. Hi Manu

    My name is Akshay Chavan and I am a writer on Indian royal families. I read your article and found it very fascinating. Equally informative was the debate which you had with Gautam. I would love to get in touch with you regarding Travancore royalty as Cochin-Travancore are two states that I know nothing about.

    Also, do visit my Indian royalty blog at http://akshay-chavan.blogspot.com

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Regards
    Akshay

  43. My family were royalists because an ancestor was a “vaidyan” to SreeMoolam Thirunaal. But after reading through the verbal spat between you two, I have no regret in saying that I am happy they are gone.

    Born in independent India I didn’t feel any connection to them. But on the way to Munnar years ago, I stopped the car to read an old stone etching on the way, all covered by shrubs because I saw the emblem of “shank” on it. I had to remove some of the shrubs to read it clearly. It read that road was built during the reign of Sethu Lakshmi Bhai.

    So later I did research at the British Library when I spent some time in London. Whatever be the palace intrigues and politics, her records against such oppositions and distractions were superior to many other rulers of India considering the fact that her reign lasted only seven years.

    As for men, the matrilinear succession ensured that most men will be whiling their time away in useless or pleasurable pastimes – a fact seconded by many latter day princes of both Cochin & Tvm whom I met in colleges. They say that in a way it was good Indira Gandhi did away with the privy purses because the more distant their order of succession the less and less their dues will be. Some were not paid those paltry sums also on one pretext or another. Stoppage of privy purse meant such distant and younger thampurans and thampuratties could walk out into midst the general public and start earning a living of their own, far away from the palace dramas.

    • manupillai Says:

      Thank you for the comment. My correspondence with the Bangalore branch of the Travancore family has only showed how constrained their lives as royalty were. That is the reason by the 1950s they settled in Bangalore and slowly gave up all their possessions in Kerala and any attachment they had to Travancore. Sethu Lakshmi Bayi from “Maharani Thirumanassu” became simply an “amooma” for the last 25 years of her life when she never set foot in Travancore again. But again Travancore had one of the highest privy purses of 18,00,000 rupees per annum with not more than 20 members in the family. Cochin had some 300,000 with more than 500 “princes”. Even before independence it was Ozhinja Valiya Thampuran, I think, who allowed them to take up government employment in Madras etc because it was not possible to maintain such a large royal family. As for the family dramas, I think it was all for the power and wealth that their positions carried. Thanks again for the comment.

  44. Thanks for the reply. Just to add one more from memory. It was my maternal great grandfather who was the vaidyan and I have never seen him. This story was told by my grandmother, his daughter, while narrating to me about his last days.

    After Sree Moolam Thirunaal’s demise, he never went back to Trivandrum. But still he used to get tidings from the palace once in a while. He was on his deathbed when the spat between the two sisters were at its height. He made the following comment once:

    “Thirumeniyoo thiippettu. aa thamizhan pattar a sahoodarimaare randupeereyum thammil thetikkukayaanu. athu manussilaakkaanulla buddhi randupeerkum srii padmanaabhan kotukkatte!”

    Now I suspect “the thamizhan pattar” had plans to usurp power even from Balarama Varma by the way he used Punnapra Vayalar uprising as a facade to declare American model executive rule.

    That makes me believe the rumour that the crown prince actually “knew” closely the guy Moni who terrorised “the thamizhan pattar” into escaping to Madras for his life. Thank you.

    • manupillai Says:

      I have also heard that the assassination attempt was always meant to be only an attempt to scare Sir CP and that the Maharajah might have had a clue about it. Anyway the two sisters were already on bad terms before the entry of the Pattar in 1922, I think. He probably worsened it, but even before that the two did not see eye to eye. The roots of the animosity between them go back many many years in my assessment. Thanks for the reply.

      • Dear Manu,

        Do you know much about the life of Rukmini Varma? I just couldn’t find anything about her husband Deviprasad Varma.

      • manupillai Says:

        Although I have never met her, I know a little bit from her sister Lakshmi. You can find general information about her if you scroll down at this link which is the family tree of the royal family. However the information given there about Mr. Deviprasad Varma is incorrect. He was an engineer I think and is now retired and resides in Bangalore itself. Thanks for commenting.

    • Arockiaraj Says:

      Rakesh, my grandmother’s grandfather was vaidhyan for moolam thirunal. He was awarded a title kocha vaidhyar. Do you know about him? If so, please email mariamoraes1@yahoo.com

  45. I also wanted to share a small titbit about the Travancore royal family and Mumbai. Travancore royal family had huge properties in Mumbai through their investment companies.

    In 1960s and 70s, my great grandparents lived in a very beautiful building called “Ramalayam” on Peddar Road in Mumbai. It was full of very large and lovely apartments with teakwood and marble. I believe the sprawling penthouse was used by the royal family.

    Also, there was a building called Sheila Mahal and Setalmond Palace in Colaba near the Taj Hotel. Another one in front of Jaslok hospital. Plus, a very large prime property in front of Victoria Terminus station in Mumbai.

    Due to urban land ceiling act, they had to sell of most of these. One flat in Ramalayam was bought by NCP leader Sharad Pawar. Another flat was bought by congress leader Murli Deora.

    Both Sharad Pawar and Murli Deora live in this beautiful ex-Travancore property. I am not sure who owns the penthouse.

  46. On Manu’s comment on January 10:

    There were Intelligence reports that Sir CP would be attacked on that date(July 25th).Even Sir CP himself knew about it.
    Imagine the communists,still v unproffessional, back in those days 6 decades back conspiring a secret plot!
    But Sir CP,the person he was,insisted on attending the Concert and did not even take security protection in the car that the Maharajah suggested.

  47. Not just HE Sir CP but all the officials knew about it.
    Infact Lord Mountbatten personally conveyed the message to His Highness about it.
    Sir CP who was a firm believer of principles of Sanatana Dharma and an ardent devotee and said that ‘If my time has come,I cannot stop it’!

    • Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

      I was just going through this blog where I had a war of words with Shri Manu. Again, I got an opportunity to learn new facets of Travancore history.
      I must congrajulate Shri Abhed’s knowledge about Sir CP and the Communist movement of that period.

      But there are other points too, to remember. Sir CP was very dicatatorial and he played a crucial role in making the peasants and other workers enemies of the Travancore State. Sir CP used his Army and Millitary to crush the communist movement so cruelly. If he had shown some maturity, the communists would not have recieves such support from the Public.

      On that day, when Sir CP was attacked by the Shri KCS Mani Iyer of RSP, CP was on the throne of pride and power. My friends’s grand uncle was there in Music College and he noticed that Sir CP had sat on the very Chair where HH the Maharaja sat. Infact, he occupuied the Royal Chair as soon as the Maharaja left to the Palace. This led to irritating whispers among the public which was present there and they all were very unhappy at CPs behaviour. Suddenly, the lights went off and the mishap occurred.

      It was but a necessity that CP should have expelled from Travancore like that, because he was very much cruel and all communities except certain
      fanatic brahmins were against him after 1947.

      Not doubt CP was a visionary and preacher of Sanathan Dharma, but he was madly arrogant and dicatatorial to the core!

  48. Well I do agree to an extent Sree Gauthamji;but if people supported him full-fledgedly,there would have been no communists at all today.
    Well,its not really the people’s real support which brought the communists IN, but their fraud statistics and ways of cunningly making people vote for them which they still do.

  49. In full agreement with Mr. R. Abhed Kiran Kandamath. I have written a small blog on Sir C.P.

    http://nebugeorge.blogspot.com/2009/10/sir-cp-ramaswamy-iyer-dewan-of.html

  50. Gautham Padmanabhan Says:

    My Pranams to Sree Abhedji and Sree Nebuji…..

    I’m totally agreeing with you all that Communist Party had to be wiped out ……Yes we do want that even now. CPI and CPIM are both cancerous to our society..But Sir CP should have gone to the National Stream. Surely he could have become the President or Even the Prime Minister.

    His Popularity decreased because of his support to ‘Independant Travancore’

    Any Way I still Like the Idea of ‘Independant Travancore’ because of the fact that It would have been the Land of Sree Padmanabha rather than the land of Shree Achumaman…..:)

  51. [...] earlier post by me on Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi had generated much debate and heated argument. In the [...]

  52. [...] South India. By the late morning congratulatory messages and telegrams reached the Regent Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi from all over the country conveying their best wishes on the occasion of the birth of her second [...]

  53. [...] Kerala Varma was permitted to remain in Trivandrum for some time after this but was found very soon to be engaging in all sorts of conspiracies to secure the gaddi for himself. When this came to the notice of the British Resident he was removed from the capital and eventually banished and imprisoned at Chingleput for the remainder of his life. [...]

  54. Premnath.T.M Says:

    Really deep study. some facts may be contested or denied due to various reasoning.For the many very interesting things are there to peruse.

  55. The article was very interesting to read.. I would like to gift the book ‘At the Turn of the Tide: The Life and Times of Maharani Setu Lakshmi Bayi’ to my father. Please let me know where could I get it from.. Thanks.

  56. my place of prayikkara iam proud of you

  57. Mahesh Thampy Says:

    Sharing some facts which I know –
    There was statue of Amma Maharani in the observatory premises. One day it was beheaded by somebody and the whole statue was removed. There were rumors on the close relationship of Amma Maharani and Sir CP, the voyage they made together to UK etc. and the beheading was to to be read along with that lines.

    It was at Alagappa Hall, a hall inside Sri Mulam Club where Sir CP made his first declaration for an independent Travancore in 1947.

    Satelmont Palace is an improvisation of Sethu Lakshmi Mount Palace which was coined by HH Mulam Thirunal. This was confirmed by Sri R.P.Raja. It was originally gifted to my great great grand father Achyuthan Thampy of Nagercoil Ammaveedu by his father HH Ayillyam Thirunal. But later taken back for the Regent. So there should be an original older name for the palace which is much older than Ayillyam Thirunal. HH Swathy Thirunal used to visit the back yards of the palace and sit on a rock for contemplating on Raagas.

    • Abhed Kiran Kandamath Says:

      @ Mahesh Thampy:
      Wasn’t the statue destroyed by Naxalites who were anti-monarchy and ergo unlikely to have been due to these flimsy rumours.

      And the site of the place at Mudavanmugal had termite-mounds and hence known as Chethal-manda or so in the vernacular. It was sheer-coincidence, a rather convenient one, that Maharajah Sree Mulam Thirunal happened to give it to someone whose name rhymes with it and could then make it Sethu Lakshmi Mount.

  58. Hi Manu, Your articles are all well written, kindly keep on writing. From my grandparents i first heard about the Travancore royal family, Sree Chithira Thirunal, The Regent Maharani, Amma Maharani & Sir CP etc… We are from central travancore, so familiar with the Royals. My grandmom didn’t had much good opinion about amma maharani. I guess she(SPB) was too dominant a character. Recently the classical musician Rama Varma(son of Princess Pooyam Thirunal Gowri Parvathi Bayi ) was asked why none of his granduncles(Chithira Thirunal & Uthradom Thirunal) or his uncle Rama Varma Moolam Thirunal, showed no interest to learn classic music. As a response to this, he said that Amma maharani SPB tried to teach them, but was done in an extremely forceful way . She used to tie up her sons, when they were small, to furnitures & made them listen to her practicising veena!!!! To do such things to such small kids seem to be very cruel to me. As a result of this unique teaching method, they all ended up hating classical music! Luckily for Rama Varma, SPB had mellowed down by the time he was born. That does says a lot about SPB as a mother & as an individual. Also my ammomma told me about the rumours related to Amma Maharani & Sir CP. SPB didn’t seemed to had much positive image amidst the people of the time;t(Don’t know about Trivandrumites) on the other hand, Sree Chithira Thirunal was much adored. There were also some rumours that Sree Chithira Thirunal had fallen in love with someone, but SPB didn’t allowed the King to marry the girl & that is the reason why he remained a bachelor throughout his life. Another version of the rumour was that Chithira Thirunal married the girl secretly without ever letting his mother know about it(curiously, none of his family members have shed any light on this or never talked about the reason for his bachelorhood, may be it is just a rumour). Don’t know if any of this is true, but there were rumours like this at the time. I would like to add some more infos: u had written that the King kept on asking for an increase of gun salute. Travancore was initially a 21 gun salute state & it was reduced to 19 when the King refused to send the Travancore army for the World War participation! Besides, the gun salute wasn’t for the King but for Sree Padmanabhaswami-the head of state. Sree Chithira Thirunal gave away a lot of his private properties for the public’s sake & he sold a lot for keeping the Temple running as well. But the Regent’s family benefitted immensely from selling their properties & shifting out of Kerala before the land reform bill. Besides the Trivandrum branch has the added responsibility of keeping the Temple afloat despite loosing a lot of their properties to land reforms. Post independence, the Bangalore branch didn’t had any output(financially or otherwise) in Temple affairs or didn’t participated in any of the rituals until very recently, as far as i know. So it is not fair that sacrifices should be made entirely by the Trivandrum branch but the credit should be divided equally with the Bangaloreans!!! Also to the allegation that the title & succession was confiscated by Trivandrum branch only: when Chithira Thirunal was born & with the births of Karthika Thirunal , Uthradom Thirunal as Elayaraja, they were born before Regent’s kids. Later on Maharani Karthika Thirunal gave birth to the next heirs (titular), the key to succession naturally went to SPB’s branch. So there is no point in that allegation. But no one can deny the fact that SPB was overwhelmingly dominating & her behaviour alienated the 2 branches. From Mrs. Raghunandan’s book, it seems that SPB’s mother too was an equally detestable character. Anyways, despite their private acrimonies, there is no denying the fact that the Travancore Monarchs were the best rulers of pre-Independant India. And right now the “democratic” leaders of our country doesn’t look so likeable. The communists have destroyed this state with their zero economic policies & militant trade unionism and only their favourites & chamchas can keep their personal wealth(basically tax payer’s money). Everybody else should follow socialism & disperse their hard earned money for the welfare of the poor!!! When congress attains power they r submerged in sexual allegations & other misappropriations. Don’t know what will happen to this once beautiful & prosperous state. Everybody wants to use the wealth of the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple but no body is bothered about bringing back the black money from foreign accounts !!! Strange indeed…

    • Thank you for the very interesting story on Amma Maharani.

      Regarding the salute, while members of the family (Pooyam for instance) have said this publicly, it is not true. Travancore was always a 19 gun salute state but locally permitted to fire 21 guns. Mulam was given a personal raise of 21 guns but this ended with his death in 1924. But thereafter the Regent Maharani continued to receive 21 gun salutes locally during her time as did Chithira after her, while the British recognised 19 officially. It is true they wanted more assistance from Travancore during the War, but the decision not to raise them permanently to a 21-gun salute state was taken in 1898, years before the war, and denied to Chithira consistently again in the 1930s.

      Also, the Senior Maharani’s family did not sell land before the land ceiling act in 1956. The properties of the royal family were divided only in 1971 and until then any properties they sold were ones they had privately bought, which had nothing to do with the restof the royal family. Also Chitra had a lot to give away as he claimed the bulk of the royal family’s properties as ‘private property’ and only the Sreepadam was divided between the two Maharanis in 1971.

      The Maharani’s family stayed away from Trivandrum, and the temple, after the 1970s because they did not even have a palace to stay in- Satelmond Palace was claimed by Chithira Tirunal and it was he who collected the price for it from the Sri Chitra Institute when it was sold. And it must have been a little embarrassing for a former royal family to return and live in a hotel.

      Thank you for your comment.

  59. Hi Manu, Thank you for ur reply. I didn’t know that the division of properties happened in 1971. I guess both branches have become friendly once again. The enemity btw the 2 branches was a loss to Travancore. If Chithira Thirunal had stayed in amicable terms with the Regent, he would have had an extremely experienced & trustworthy ally with him. He could have turned to her for advise at times of troubles, rather than relying too much on outsiders. Then the likes of CP(no doubt a brilliant minister) would have remained where he should have. I guess CP also gradually lost his respect to Chithira Thirunal, as he was having that infamous affair with SPB. I think it must have been a real punishment to Chithira Thirunal to witness the slow & systematic disintegration of his once progressive kingdom by the inept political class. In the end, SPB also was a witness to the loss of power & title of her son. I guess, what goes around always comes around. May be it was God’s way of punishing them for mistreating others. I wasn’t being disrespectful to the Regent/her family members or anything. Just stated the version of things that i have come to know, that is all. Manu, i wanted to know something : Is Indira Bayi’s husband still alive ??? She was quite the beauty in her youth. Her son Shreekumar Varma was in Trivandrum to speak on a function(hosted by Kshatriya Kshema Sabha,i think, Uthradom Thirunal was also present) remembering the Regent Queen. I did checked up on Rukmini Varma’s facebook page. I don’t know much about painting techniques or anything but anybody with an aesthetic sense will enjoy her works. To say the least, they are wonderful. Also very sad to hear about her son’s death. Has she started to work on new projects??? I hope she will continue as such gifted people r hard to come by now a days. Ur article on Cleopatra was INCREDIBLE. I had never heard about such a connection. Guys like u should be appreciated more for putting such an effort for bringing out such beautiful history. If only our professional historians did their jobs!!! Once again thanking you for ur speedy response & also for letting me know about those incorrect facts i had stated. Hope u will continue ur gud work. Take care.

    • Yes, things would have been exceedingly different had there been some more understanding in those days. Alas!

      Indira Bayi is still alive and well in Madras. Her husband passed away in September 2011, however. He used to be quite a well known businessman in his day and owned an iconic Madras company called India Meters, and then an even more popular luxury hotel, decades before chains like the Taj began to come up in the city. But they sold all of that eventually.

      Mrs Varma is a wonderful painter and the photographs that I put up on the facebook page (she doesn’t run it; in fact she lives as a recluse now and it took great persuasion to allow her to let me start a page) only capture half their brilliance. She has done some enormous canvases (9 feet in height, for instance) and they are very grand indeed. She has been painting regularly but the volume of her work is much reduced. She doesn’t exhibit now anymore. Although she has done well over 1000 paintings, i have managed to find photographs only for about 150 or so.

      Thank you for your kind words. I am writing a history of Kerala told through the life of the Senior Maharani, where I hope to narrate history in a more critical manner. Hopefully that will appeal to the intelligent reader as well!

  60. Hi Manu, I will definitely read your future outputs as well. I am sure it vil be fascinating. Your command over English is excellent. I wish i could write like you(i am a PG holder in English Lit, crazy right!!!!). As a student, i had read the book, written by Mrs.Raghunandan, called ‘CONTEMPORARY INDIAN POETRY IN ENGLISH’, so i am familiar with her(didn’t knew she was from the royal family though). Also thank you for the info on Indira Bayi; happy to know that she is well. I felt she & her husband was a beautiful couple. After the death of Karthika Thirunal in 2008, Indira Bayi is the eldest female member of the Travancore royal family, right? I hope that both branches of the royal family will forget all their past acrimonies & get together. I do believe that they all are a talented bunch & will bring national & international fame to our beautiful coastal state in their respective artistic fields. My love for classical music was ignited by my ammomma, a trained classical singer, could sing exceptionally well. But her valiyammavan didn’t let her perform publically as it was considered scandalous in those days. She studied till Class 7, after that she was eligible for govt job in those days(chithira thirunal’s time) & wud have bcom her uncle’s senior in grade. So she wasn’t allowed to write the exam!!!. Anyways, I accidently heard the performance of Rama Varma & became an admirer of his & that is how heard that story reagarding Ammamaharani. In future, u should try to bring out a book comprised of all ur articles(just my humble suggestion). You are a good writer as u express ur ideas in simple English. As a result, people with limited English knowledge can also appreciate ur works. Keep on writng . Take Care.

    • Indira Bayi is the current matriarch, yes, but she did not immediately succeed Karthika Tirunal. Her sister in Bangalore was the matriarch for a few months before she too passed away later in 2008.

      Thank you for your kind words and for the interest in my writing. Once the book comes out, I’ll put something out on the blog.

  61. rakesh nair Says:

    Hi, manuji just went through the long list of comments, very insightful and interesting to read probably which isn’t captured in most history books. I trace our lineage through diwanji Nanu Pillai who was the diwan though ayilyam thirunal’s rule towards the letter years 1877-1890. I haven’t yet come across any photos or any detailed articles on his life as also his son excise commissioner N Raman Pillai. Do please forward any information you may have on them.

    Warm regards and thanks once again for the wealth of information on the travancore royal family.

    • Abhed Kiran Kandamath Says:

      Since Manu hasn’t replied yet and being utterly curious, I’m taking the liberty-

      First of all, may I ask which branch of the Elankom family are you from; since we might be related??

      Elankom is one of those families that had consistently tried to maintain its position in the politics of the region and from Raman Pillai to Sir N R Pillai, ICS produced brilliant administrators.

      There are two portraits of him, one an oil-painting and a charcoal sketch that used to hang at the Diamond Hill House apart from the sketches of the court of the Maharaja where he is seen.

      • rakesh nair Says:

        Dear Adhed,

        Thanks for the revert. Sorry for the delayed response.
        The Branch part I am not sure but we trace our lineage from Bhargavi amma who was diwanji’s grand daughter, she passed away in 1994, aged 100 years. It is surprising no portrait exists for diwanji even not in google, Wikipedia etc. Recently Manorama had brought out a book on Travancore history which has a photo but I have not yet seen it.

        Diamond house near Vellambalam which used to house Khadi gram udyog products was to be pulled down recently, which was a sad news.I think that was diwanji’s place.

        By the way how are you related to diwanji ??

        Regards

  62. All that Manu wrote are facts.The correspondence between Junior Rani & Sir CP is there in secretariat cellar library,according to DrKaimal’s book on Punnapra Vayalar.

  63. There is none called Gautham Padmanabhan in TVM.I had given Lakshmi Regunandan’s book to Guptan Nair to write a review..he was amazed at the servitude described there in.We decided not to carry the review finally considering the view of the “official royalty.”

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