Travancore or Thiruvithaamkoor (Malayalam: തിരുവിതാങ്കൂര്, "Thiru" (respectful prefix which suggests either royal or divine) + "idham" (wish) + "koor" (loyalty); [Tiruvitāńkūr], തിരുവിതാംകൂര്; [Tiruvitāṃkūr], തിരുവിതാങ്കോട് [Tiruvitāńkoṭ]) was a princely state in British India, with its capital at Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) ruled by the Travancore Royal Family. The state comprised most of south Kerala and the modern Nagercoil and Kanyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu and its ruler was accorded a 19-gun salute during the state's membership in the British Empire. Its flag was red with a silver, dextrally-coiled, sacred conch shell (Turbinella pyrum Linnaeus). Travancore was merged with the Malayalam-speaking state of Cochin on 1 July 1949 to form Travancore-Cochin, and later with the Malabar district of Madras State, on 1 November 1956, to form the south Indian state of Kerala. The last maharajah was Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma and the last dewan was PGN Unnithan.
Travancore was located in southern Kerala. The rulers of this state were named Sree Padmanabhadasan - servant of the deity, Padmanabha Swamy, an aspect of Vishnu. The former kingdom's geography is defined by three natural terrains - a coastal area to the west, a midland in the centre and mountain peaks as high as 9,000 feet on the east
The history of modern Travancore begins with Marthanda Varma who inherited the kingdom of Venad, and expanded it into Travancore during his reign 1729–1758. He signed a treaty with the British East India company and with their help destroyed the power of the eight feudal land lords (Ettuveetil Pillamar) and the Ettara Yogam who supported the Thampi sons of the previous king Rajah Rama Varma, Travancore Royal Family follows the Nair "Marumakkathayam" system,so inheritance are going through the sister's children. In successive battles, he defeated and absorbed the kingdoms right up to Cochin including Attingal, Kollam, Kayamkulam, Kottarakara, Kottayam, Changanassery, Meenachil, Poonjar and Ambalapuzha. He succeeded in defeating the Dutch East India Company during the Travancore–Dutch war, the most decisive engagement of which was the Battle of Colachel (10 August 1741) in which the Dutch Admiral Eustachius De Lannoy was captured. On January 3 1750 AD, (Makaram 5, 725 M.E.), he dedicated his kingdom to his tutelary deity Sri. Padmanabha (Lord Vishnu) of Trivandrum (the Trippadidaanam) and from then on the rulers of Travancore ruled the kingdom as the servants of Sri. Padmanabha (Padmnabhadasan). In 1753, the Dutch signed a peace treaty with the Maharajah. With the battle of Ambalapuzha (3 January 1754) in which he defeated the union of the deposed kings and the Raja of Cochin, Marthanda Varma crushed all opposition to his rule. In 1757 AD, a treaty was concluded between Travancore and Cochin, ensuring peace and stability on the Northern border. He organised the tax system and constructed many irrigation works. Admiral Eustachius De Lannoy, who was captured as a Prisoner of war in the famous Battle of Colachel was appointed as the Senior Admiral (Valiya kappithan)and he modernised the Travancore army by introducing firearms and artillery. Ayyappan Marthanda Pillai served as the "Sarvadi Karykar" (Head of the Army(Nair pattalam). Marthanda Varma introduced titles such as Chempaka Raman and honours such as Ettarayum Koppum to honour the Lords and his relatives who had remained faithful to him during his problems with the Ettuveetil Pillamar. His able minister during his entire military career was Ramayyan Dalawa.
His successor Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma who was popularly known as Dharma Raja, shifted the capital in 1795 from Padmanabhapuram to Thiruvananthapuram. Rama Varma's period is considered as a golden age in the history of Travancore. He not only retained the territorial gains of his predecessor Marthanda Varma, but also improved and encouraged social developments. He was greatly assisted by a very efficient administrator, Raja Kesavadas Pillai, who was the Diwan of Travancore.
During his reign, Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore attacked Travancore in A.D.1791. The wrath of the Sultan was upon Travancore due to the overtures of Dharma raja who was for alliance with the British forces. The Travancore forces withstood the Sultan for less than 6 months and then, the Maharajah appealed to the British East India Company for aid, starting a precedent which led to the installation of a British resident in the country. The British resident, Colonel Macaulay, managed to engage the ruler in treaties which effectively made the state a protectorate of the East India Company and ended its autonomy resulting finally in the revolt of Velu Thampi Dalawa. Tipu Sultan was defeated and he did not trouble Travancore anymore till his death in 1799 during the Fourth Mysore War. The Dharma Raja improved trade in the country. During his reign however the districts of Kalakkad and parts of Shencottah were annexed to Arcot.
On his death in 1798, Balarama Varma took over at the age of sixteen. During his reign Velu Thampi emerged as an able divan or minister. Initially, the Dalawa and the English East India Company got along well. A mutiny of a section of the army in 1805 against Velu Thampi was put down by British troops, at his own request. But the demands by the Company for the payment of compensation for their involvement in the 1791 Travancore-Mysore war led to enmity between the Diwan and the Resident. Velu Thampi and the diwan of Cochin, Paliath Achan, organised an ill-fated revolt against the British in A.D.1809. Initially, the rebellion was successful. However, the Company defeated Velu Thampi at battles near Nagercoil and Kollam in AD 1810, and the Maharajah, who till then had refused to take any active open part in the fight, turned against Velu Thampi. Following these two defeats, Velu Thampi organised a guerilla struggle against the Company, but committed suicide to avoid capture by the Company's soldiers. Paliath Achan surrendered to the British and was exiled to Madras and later to Benaras. After the mutiny of AD 1805 against Velu Thampi, most of the Nair battalions of Travancore had been disbanded, and after Velu Thampi's revolt, almost all of the remaining Travancore forces were also disbanded, with the Company undertaking to serve the Raja in cases of external and internal aggression. Interestingly, the root cause of the revolt, namely the compensation demanded by the Company for their involvement in the 1791 Travancore-Mysore war, was finally never ever paid by Travancore.
Balarama Varma was succeeded by Rani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi in AD 1810–1815 with the blessings of the British. When a boy was born to her in 1813, the infant was declared the King, but the Rani continued to rule as the regent. Col. Munro served as her Diwan. On her death in 1815, Maharani Gowri Parvati Bayi continued as regent. Both of the regencies saw great progresses in social issues and in education. Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma assumed the throne in 1829. He was a famous exponent of Carnatic and Hindustani music. He abolished many unnecessary taxes, and started an English school and a charity hospital in Trivandrum in 1834.
During the Sangam age, the caste restrictions were not strict. However, following the Chera-Chola wars of the 11th century, the social structure of the region changed and remained so up to the mid-nineteenth century. In Travancore, the caste system was more rigiourously enforced than in many other parts of India. The rule of discriminative hierarchical caste order was deeply entrenched in the social system and was supported by the government which had transformed this caste-based social system into a religious institution. In such a context, the belief of Ayyavazhi apart from just being a religion, served also as a reform movement in uplifting the downtrodden section of the society, both socially and as well as religiously. The ritual corpus of Ayyavazhi conducted a social discourse. Its beliefs, mode of worship and religious organisation seem to have enabled the group to negotiate, cope with and resist the relation of authority. The hard tone of Vaikundar towards this was perceived as a revolution against the government. So the king Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma imprisoned Vaikundar but later released him.In fact, it is notable that after the release of Vaikundar, the caste-based administration of the kingdom underwent a considerable change.
The next ruler Maharajah Utharadam Tirunal Marthanda Varma AD 1847–1860 , following the recommendations of the Protestant clergy of C.M.S. and L.M.S. associations, abolished slavery in the kingdom in 1855, and restrictions on the dress codes of certain castes in 1859. His acts on these social issues won him praise and was copied by the neighbouring State of Cochin. The maharajah started the postal system in 1857 and a school for girls in 1859. He was succeeded by Ayilyam Thirunal AD 1860–1880, during whose rule, agriculture, irrigation works and road ways were promoted. Humane codes of law were enforced in 1861 and a college was established in 1866. He also built many charity hospitals including a lunatic asylum. The first systematic Census of Travancore was taken on May 18, 1875. he also introduced vaccination in the country. Rama Varma Visakham Thirunal ruled from AD 1880–1885. He became the first Indian Prince to be offered a seat in the Viceroy's Executive Council and also authored a number of books and essays. He reorganised the police force, and abolished many oppressive taxes.
The reign of Sri Moolam Thirunal Sir Rama Varma AD 1885–1924 saw the establishment of many colleges and schools. When Jawaharlal Nehru visited the area in the 1920s, he remarked that the education was superior to British India. The medical system was reorganised and Legislative Council, the first of its kind in an Indian state, was established in 1888. The principle of election was established and women too were allowed to vote.
Sethu Lakshmi Bayi ruled as the regent from AD 1924–1931. She abolished animal sacrifice and replaced the matrilineal system of inheritance with the patrilineal one. She ended the Devdasi system in Temples and was commended by Mahatma Gandhi for spending almost 40% of state revenue on education.
The last ruler of Travancore was Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma AD 1931–1949. He made the temple entry proclamation on 12 November 1936, which opened all the Kshetrams (Hindu temples in Kerala) in Travancore to all Hindus, a privilege reserved to only upper caste Hindus till then. This act won him praise from across India, most notably from Mahatma Gandhi. He also started the industrialisation of the state. However, his minister Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer was unpopular among the general public of Travancore. When the British decided to grant independence to India, the minister declared that Travancore would remain as an independent country, based on an "American model." The tension between the local people, led by the Indian National Congress and the Communists, and Sir. C. P. Ramaswami Iyer led to revolts in various places of the country. In one such revolt in Punnapra-Vayalar in 1946, the Communists established their own government in the area. This was brutally crushed by the Travancore army and navy leading to hundreds of deaths. This led to further disturbances in the State, leading to more killings. The minister issued a statement in June 1947 that Travancore would never join India, and subsequently, an attempt was made on the life of Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer following which he resigned and fled to Madras, to be succeeded by Sri PGN Unnithan. After these events, the Maharajah agreed to join India and Travancore was absorbed into the Indian union.
The movement for the unification of the lands where Malayalam was spoken as the mother tongue took concrete shape at the State People's Conference held in Ernakulam in April 1928, and a resolution was passed therein calling for Aikya Kerala ("United Kerala"). On July 1 1949 A.D., the State of Travancore-Cochin was established, with the Maharajah of Travancore as the Rajapramukh of the new State. A number of popular ministries were elected and fell and in A.D. 1954, the Travancore Tamilnadu Congress launched a campaign for the merger of the Tamil speaking regions of Southern Travancore with the neighbouring area of Madras. The agitation took a violent turn and some police and many local people were killed at Marthandam and Puthukkada, irrepairably alienating the entire Tamil speaking population from merger into Kerala. Under the State Reorganisation Act of 1956, the four southern taluks of Travancore, namely Thovalai, Agasteeswaram, Kalkulam and Vilavancode and a part of the Chencotta Taluk was merged with Madras state. The State of Kerala came into existence on November 1 1956 A.D. with a Governor, appointed by the President of India, as the head of the State instead of the Maharajah.
When one looks at the history of Travancore since its formation, and that of the geographical territory that comprised it before that, one is struck by some of its unique features. The religious and social tolerance was one of the notable features. The first synagogue, the first church and the first mosque of the Indian sub-continent were set up here. They are the Kodungallur Synagogue , the St.Thomas Church, Kodungallur and the Cheraman Juma Masjid, Kodungallur respectively. The Jewish community considers this to be the only place on earth where they were not persecuted in some way or other. Christianity reached here before it reached many of the leading European 'Christian' territories, and that too brought here by one of the disciples of Jesus Christ - St. Thomas - who is believed to have reached here in 52 AD. Muslims consider this land to be one of the very few places where their messenger - Malik Dinar - met with no resistance. Not only that, the reigning king (the last emperor of the first Chera dynasty) is said to have adopted the faith and have left the land to live in Mecca. Unlike the situation in many parts of India, relegious and caste based violence was very rare in Travancore, apart from a few incidents in 1821, 1829 and 1858, which themselves, when compared to similar riots elsewhere, were very mild. The Travancore royal family not only proved themselves as very devout and sincere Hindus, but also donated land and material to the contruction of churches and mosques. This genuine concern for the welfare of all the subjects was reciprocated by the devotion of the people, and the example of the local christians who during the Tranvancore-Dutch War, actively supported Maharajah Marthanda Varma against the Dutch East India company, will suffice to highlight this point. This tolerance of different faiths was equally applicable when it came to social and ideological matters too. Every political ideology and social reform was welcomed here. The universality of education and the now historic temple entry permission for those considered as 'untouchable' throughout India, were unique to this part of the sub-continent. Unlike in the rest of Medieval India or almost all of medieval world, in Travancore (and the Malabar and Kochi), the social status and freedom of women was high. In many communities, the daughters (not the sons) inherited the property, were educated, and had the right to divorce, right up to 1925.
Travancore was also characterized by the popularity of its rulers. When the kings of Travancore 'declared themselves as servants of Lord Vishnu and ruled His State according to His wishes' it was not a mere lip service. The kings of Travancore, unlike their counter-parts in the other Native States of India, utilized only a small portion of their State's resources for their personal use. This was in sharp contrast with some of the North Indian Rajas. When contrasted with the examples of Rajas in the north-west of India who utilized more than half of their State's revenues for their own uses, the simplicity and frugality of the Rajas of Travancore, and their sincere devotion to their subjects, are highlighted. Since they spent most of the State's revenue for the benefit of the public, they were naturally much loved by their subjects. This was so even in the context of the high-handedness of some of their Dewans.