Padmanabha Sevini Vanchi Dharma Vardhini Raja Rajeshwari Maharani Gowri Parvati Bayi
was the Regent Maharani
of the Indian
state of Travancore
who succeeded her sister Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi
from 1815 till her regency was relinquished in favour of her nephew, Maharajah Swathi Thirunal
, in 1829.
Rani Parvati Bayi was born to Princess Atham Thirunal of the Travancore Royal Family
in 1802, who was the Senior Rani of Attingal (the Maharani's of Travancore
were styled as Ranis' of Attingal
). When her elder sister Regent Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi
died after childbirth in 1815 Gowri Parvati Bayi was only thirteen years of age and being the only female left in the family, besides her deceased sister's little daughter, she became Regent Maharani
on behalf of her nephew, the heir, Maharajah Swathi Thirunal
Rama Varma. She was on her accession actively counselled by her brother in law, Raja Raja Varma of the Changanssery Royal family as well as her husband, Raghava Varma, who belonged to the Royal family of Kilimanoor
As soon as the Maharani came to power her first act was to appoint a new Dewan
or Prime Minister to her state as Dewan
Devan Padmanabhan had died and state affairs were being conducted by his deputy Bappu Rao. In 1815 Sanku Annavi Pillai
, a Brahmin, was appointed as Dewan
but soon he was found incapable of handling his difficult office and hence within two months he was freed from Dewanship
. After ten months following the suggestion of the British
Resident, Col. Munro, Raman Menon
, a Judge of the Huzhur Court of Travancore
was appointed Dewan
. However differences of opinion arose between Dewan
Raman Menon and the British Resident and hence Raman Menon was removed to an inferior office in 1817, on which her preferred to retire from service entirely.
In his stead a deputy known as Reddy Rao was appointed Dewan as he was close to the Resident in September 1817. He successfully reigned as Dewan till the year 1821. In 1819 the British Resident Col. Munro resigned his office and a new Resident Col. McDowell succeeded him as the British Representative in Travancore. He had a capable assistant in Vencatta Rao who managed to make him fall out with the Dewan and in 1821 Vencatta Rao became Dewan of Travancore. He remained Dewan till the year 1830.
Maharani Gowri Parvati Bayi instituted several reforms in her state during her regency on behalf of her nephew. Some of the chief reforms were:
- Christian ryots were freed from their services connected with Hindu religious ceremonies. They were also freed from attending to public work on Sundays with regard to their religious customs.
- Restrictions put on some of the lower castes of Travancore regarding the wearing of ornaments of gold and silver were removed and they were permitted to adorn themselves as they pleased. Among the higher castes such as the Nairs, for the use of gold ornaments special licenses were to be obtained after paying an Adiyara Panam for the same. This was abolished.
- The Maharani passed a proclamation allowing everyone in her kingdom to tile the roofs of their houses. This was an important proclamation in the context of Kerala, seeing that at a time powerful kings like the Zamorin did not even permit their vassal kings, such as the Rajah of Cochin to tile the roofs of their palaces.
- Restrictions in terms of usage of certain types of houses were removed. Previously only castes till the Nairs were permitted residences known as Nalukettus, after paying an Adiyara Panam. Buildings known as Ettu Kettus, Panthrandu Kettus etc were subject to high taxes and required licences. Such taxes and payments were entirely abolished and members of all castes were permitted the usage of these buildings. Similarly the right to travel in palanquins, atop elephants and in carriages was permitted to all who could afford the same.
- Coffee cultivation was introduced into Travancore for the first time.
- Vaccination was introduced towards the end of the reign of her sister Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi. This was popularised by her sister the Regent Maharani Gowri Parvati Bayi which was a great achievement for her in a state so orthodox as Travancore.
- The Maharani permitted Christian Missionary enterprise in Travancore and even donated lands for the construction of churches in her state.
- Following the rebellion of Velu Thampi Dalawa the armies of Travancore had been disbanded save for seven hundred men to guard the palaces and for state ceremonies under the supremacy of the British. The Maharani convinced the British Government of Madras to raise it to two thousand one hundred men in 1819.
- In 1818 under the regency of the Maharani, Travancore entered into a trade treaty with Ceylon for the supply of Jaffna Tobacco on certain stated terms and prices.
- The Maharani relieved the females of her country from their religious obligations of bearing torches during state processions in 1823. This relief to her womenfolk was twenty years before Lord Ashley passed an Act in England relieving women of that country from certain oppressive and degenerating obligations such as working bare chested in coal mines etc.
End of Regency
In the year 1829 Maharajah Swathi Thirunal
reached the age of sixteen and became a major. Hence his aunt, the Maharani, decided to relinquish her regency on his behalf and invest him with full powers. Accordingly Maharajah Swathi Thirunal
was crowned King in 1829.
Review of the Maharani
In the words of V.Nagam Aiya, the author of the Travancore
State Manual, 1906,
Her Highness was an enlightened and thoughtful ruler who illumined her reign by many humane acts of good government, the memory of which gladdened her last days...she used to refer with pride and satisfaction to her various acts of administration for the amelioration of her people..for many acts of redress of public wrongs had been either carried out or innaugrated during her reign. This was no small achievement for a Travancore queen when we remember that in the early years of reign of Queen Victoria of England, the condition of women in England was far worse than in Travancore.
The Maharani Gowri Parvati Bayi was married thrice. Her first husband was Raghava Varma of the Kilimanoor
Royal family and after his early death she married again, her husband's brother. His death in 1824 caused her to marry again but from neither of her three marriages did the queen have any issue. She looked upon her nephews and niece as her own children since after the death of Gowri Lakshmi Bayi
it was she who brought them up. She died in 1853.
- Travancore State Manual by V.Nagam Aiya
- History of Travancore by Shungoony Menon