Marthanda Varma

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This article is about 18th century Indian king. For other uses, see Marthanda Varma (disambiguation).
Anizham Thirunal Veerabaala Marthanda Varma
Maharaja of Travancore
Sree Padmanbhadasa Maharajah Anizham Thirunal.jpg
Reign 1729–1758
Coronation 1729
Predecessor Rama Varma of Venad
Successor Dharma Raja
ummini thanka
Regnal name
Sree Padmanabhadasa Vanchipaala Maharajah Sree Anizham Thirunal Veerabaala Marthanda Varma Kulasekharaperumal
Father Kilimanur Koyi Tampuran
Mother Junior Maharani Karthika Thirunal Queen of Attingal
Born 1706
Died July 7, 1758 (aged 52)
Religion Hinduism
Travancore flag in Martanda Varma's time
Dutch commander Eustachius de Lannoy surrenders to Marthanda Varma after the Battle of Colachel. A modern depiction at Padmanabhapuram palace, Kanyakumari
A depiction of Marthanda Varma performing Thulapurusha Danum from A History of Travancore from the Earliest Times (1878) by P Shungoonny Menon
Marthanda Varma making over the kingdom to Padmanabha Swamy from A History of Travancore from the Earliest Times (1878)
Kingdom of Travancore
Part of History of Kerala
Flag of Travancore
Travancore Kings
Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma 1729–1758
Dharma Raja 1758–1798
Avittam Thirunal 1798–1810
Gowri Lakshmi Bayi 1810–1815
Gowri Parvati Bayi 1815–1829
Swathi Thirunal 1813–1846
Uthram Thirunal 1846–1860
Ayilyam Thirunal 1860–1880
Visakham Thirunal 1880–1885
Moolam Thirunal 1885–1924
Sethu Lakshmi Bayi 1924–1931
Chithira Thirunal 1924–1991, (1971-1991 titular)
Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma 1991-2013 (Titular)
Moolam Thirunal Rama VarmaVI 2013- (Titular)
‡ Regent Queens
Padmanabhapuram 1729–1795
Thiruvananthapuram 1795–1947
Padmanabhapuram Palace
Kilimanoor palace
Kuthira Malika
Kowdiar Palace

Anizham Thirunal Veerabaala Marthanda Varma (1706–7 Jul 1758) was king of Travancore from 1729 till his death in 1758. He was one of the Indian Kings to beat a European armed force, in the battle of Kolachel.[1] He contributed substantially to the expansion of his ancestral domains by annexing several neighbouring states and unified the entire southern Kerala.

King of Travancore[edit]

Anizham Thirunal, aged 23, ascended the throne of Venad in 1729. He crushed the Dutch expansionist designs at the Battle of Kolachel in 1741. Marthanda Varma then adopted a European mode of discipline in his army and expanded the Venad domain to adjoining regions. He organized a substantial standing army, reduced the power of the Nair aristocracy (on which rulers of Kerala had been dependent militarily) and fortified the northern limits of his kingdom at the Travancore line.[2] Travancore under Maharajah Marthanda Varma was one of the few kingdoms in India determined to consolidate their power by the use of maritime outlets. The control of trade was also seen as crucial in the statecraft of the period. It was also the policy of Marthanda Varma to extend patronage to the Syrian Christians, the large trading community within his domains, as a means of limiting European involvement in trade. The key commodity was pepper, but other goods also came to be defined as royal monopoly items.[3] The city of Trivandrum became prominent under Maharajah Marthanda Varma.[4] His alliance in 1757 with the ruler of Cochin against the Zamorin of Calicut, enabled Cochin to survive. Anizham Thirunal's policies were continued in large measure by his successor, Rama Varma, who was able, moreover, to defend Travancore successfully against the Kingdom of Mysore.[3] Under his rule, Travancore rose to prominence as a powerful military state in southern India. He was succeeded by his nephew Rama Varma (Dharma Raja).[4][5]

Merger Of Attingal[edit]

The women of Travancore Royal Family were popularly referred to as Attingal Queens. Attingal was also considered as the ancestral homes of Travancore royals. Historians like V. Nagam Ayya, A. Sreedhara Menon etc. say that Attingal was never a separate Kingdom but the estates and provinces given to the royal women by the male head of the family(King). As the kings of Travancore were the sons of Attingal Queens, the latter were held in high respect by the royal family as well as the public. This respect and high status led to the wrong notion that Attingal Queens were once sovereigns which was further compounded by the writings of many foreign historians and travellers. Even if they had any power, it was taken away by Maharajah Sree Anizham Thirunal Veerabaala Marthanda Varma. Many Attingal Queens misused their status and signed potentially dangerous treaties with foreign forces, without even consulting with the reigning Travancore Kings. Maharajah Anizham Thirunal, anticipating the threat to the Kingdom's security, removed the powers of the Attingal Queens permanently and brought them under the complete control of the King. Thus, the Attingal Queens lost all private rights in the family properties, their power limited to the role of just a supervisor of such properties.[6][7]

Military career[edit]

Anizham Thirunal was not only a shrewd tactician and a great king but also an able general as well. After crushing the power of the feudal Lords, he turned his attention to the neighbouring states. In 1731 Quilon or Kollam, which was ruled by a branch of the Venad family was defeated and the last King was made to sign a document allowing the annexation of his kingdom by Travancore after his death. Till then Quilon was to be a Venad tributary. Anizham Thirunal next turned his attention towards Kayamkulam, which allying itself with the Quilon family tried to prevent the growth of Venad. In 1734, several battles were fought against Kayamkulam and Quilon without any decisive effect. In the final battle of that year the Rajah of Kayamkulam was killed and succeeded by his brother who soon sued for peace and hostilities were ended for the moment. Following the expulsion of the Dutch, the Maharajah now turned his attention once again towards Kayamkulam which continued seeking help from the Dutch. In 1742, the Travancore forces attacked the Kayamkulam possessions at Quilon and fought the Kayamkulam army led by its commander Achuta Warrier and Army heads from Valiya Kakkanadu Madom .In this battle Travancore was defeated. But reinforced with cavalry brought in from Tirunelveli, Marthanda Varma mounted an attack on Kayamkulam and finally defeated the kingdom. A treaty known as the Treaty of Mannar was signed, by which Kayamkulam became a tributary. However by 1746, the Kayamkulam Rajah once again started showing signs of rebellion and when his conspiracy with the kingdoms further north (such as Kottayam, Changanassery, Cochin and Ambalapuzha) came to the attention of Marthanda Varma, Kayamkulam was annexed by a final war in which the Rajah fled to the Kingdom of Cochin. Travancore now extended from Cape Comorin to Kayamkulam in the north. Following this, Ambalapuzha, Kottayam and Changanassery were also annexed to Travancore by 1753. The principality of Meenachil was also annexed. In 1753 the tributary states of Cochin collectively known as Karappuram and Alangad were ceded to Travancore. In 1755, the Zamorin of Calicut, the most powerful king in Northern Kerala was also defeated at a battle in Purakkad. He was supported by the armies of some other local kings also. This made almost all the Kings of Kerala prostrate before the power of Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma. In his military conquests he was ably assisted by Ramayyan Dalawa, later his Prime Minister.[8]

Battle of Colachel and its Aftermath[edit]

Marthanda Varma in 1734, annexed the Elayadath Swaroopam or the Kottarakara kingdom, ruled by another related Queen who was pensioned off. In the same year,the Quilon Rajah died and Kayamkulam annexed the possessions of that king against the wishes of Anizham Thirunal. The Kayamkulam Rajah had the support of the Rajah of Cochin and Dutch. The Dutch Governor of Ceylon, van Imhoff, asked the King to stop hostilities against Kayamkulam, to which Anizham Thirunal remonstrated that the Governor need not interfere in affairs that did not concern him. In 1739 Van Imhoff arrived in Cochin and in 1740 took up the cause of the Rani of Kottarakara and protested against the annexation of that kingdom by Anizham Thirunal. On a subsequent interview with the Maharajah Anizham Thirunal, the relations between the Dutch and Travancore became further strained. It is said that when the Dutch Governor threatened to invade the territories of Travancore the Maharajah gave an effective reply that he would invade Holland in case the Dutch misbehaved in Malabar. In 1741 the Dutch reinstated the Queen of Elayadath Swaroopam at Kottarakara against the wishes of Anizham Thirunal who attacked the kingdom and completely routed the Dutch army and finally fully annexed Kottarakara to Travancore while the Queen fled to Cochin and received a pension from the Dutch. The decisive Battle of Colachel, resulting in the complete eclipse of Dutch power in Kerala. Though the Battle of Colachel was fought in 1741 A.D. (10 to 14 August) peace with the Dutch was only concluded and ratified by the Batavian Government in October, 1753. More than twenty Dutch men were taken as prisoners in the Battle of Colachel. The prisoners were treated with kindness, so they were glad to take service under the Maharaja. Among them were Eustachius De Lannoy and Donadi, who attracted the Maharajah's special notice. De Lannoy, commonly known in Travancore as the 'Valiya Kapithan' (Great Captain) was entrusted with the organization and drilling of a special Regiment, which he did to the entire satisfaction of the Maharajah. De Lannoy was raised to the rank of General and proved of considerable service to the Maharajah in the subsequent wars.[1]

Treaty of Mavelikkara[edit]

Treaty of Peace and friendship concluded between Maharajah Sree Anizham Thirunal and the Dutch. According to this treaty both the parties agreed to live in friendship and peace. The treaty was signed on 15 August 1753. The treaty was signed at Mavelikkara.

Administrative Reforms[edit]

Besides the decisive military victories, several administrative reforms were brought about in the revenue system, budgetary system and public works etc. of the state. He also instituted a new knighthood for his loyal officers known as Chempakaraman Pillai. He re-organized commercial sector and monopolized spice trade, Mavelikkara became the centre for trade and commerce. New roads and inns were opened throughout the Kingdom and for the protection of people, military outposts were created throughout the Kingdom. Created water transport from Varkala to Cochin, renovated Padmanabhapuram Palace and built Krishnapuram Palace. He also made village as the most basic sector in the Kingdom and created a post called Mandapathu Vathilkkal, similar to today's Thasildar. Marthanda Varma paid special attention to improving agriculture in the kingdom. The southernmost district of present day Tamil Nadu, Kanyakumari was the southernmost part of Travancore. The portions of land lying east of Nagercoil town,called Nanjil Nadu was considered the granary of Kerala due to the extensive cultivation of paddy there. The fertility of this area was only due to the irrigation facilities introduced by Marthanda Varma. His edicts on the subject of irrigation issued between 1729 and 1758 A.D,fill several pages in the Travancore Land Revenue Manual by R.Mahadeva Iyer.Only due to the digging of new canals for irrigation during his reign, the single-crop paddy fields of that area became double-crop fields, almost doubling their production. Pallikondan Dam,Chattuputhoor Dam, Sabari Dam,Kumari Dam and Chozhanthitta Dam, all on the River Pazhayaru in the vicinity of Nagercoil, were constructed by him and are still operational. Near Bhoothappandy, Chattuputhoor dam was constructed and a new channel named Puthanaaru was dug from it to irrigate the Thovala areas. Puthan Dam, built by him near Padmanabhapuram, provided drinking water to that area.[9]

Cultural Scene[edit]

The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple was re-created as the gigantic structure of today and new state ceremonies such Murajapam, Bhadra Deepam etc. were introduced by Sree Anizham Thirunal. The main idol of the shrine, which was mostly destroyed in a fire during his predecessor's time, was also re-construted using saalagramaas imported from Nepal. Also created Ottakkal Mandapam as well as the Sheevelippura. Out of the seven floors of the temple- gopuram, five were finished during his reign. As a result of the annexation of neighbouring places, the artists and scholars from these places migrated to Trivandrum, turning it into a cultural centre. Maharajah Anizham Thirunal gave patronage to different temple art forms like Koothu, Paadhakam, Kathakali, Thullal, Koodiyaattam etc. Famous artists like Ramapurathu Warrier, Kunjan Nambiar etc. were his court poets.[10]


Maharajah Sree Anizham Thirunal dedicated the Kingdom of Travancore to his family deity Sri Padmanabhaswamy in 1750 January 3 and after that he was referred to as Sree Padmanabhadasa Vanchipaala Maharajah Sree Anizham Thirunal Veerabaala Marthanda Varma Kulasekharaperumal. The Kings of Travancore, taking the title of Sree Padmanabhadasa, ruled the kingdom as the servant of that deity. This important donation of the Kingdom to the Temple was known as Thripadidaanam.[citation needed] Travancore as a whole, thus became the property of Sri Padmanabhaswamy, the deity of the Travancore Royal family or in other words "God's Own Country". The title of Sree Padmanabhadasa is prefixed to the name of every Travancore King while the women were Sree Padmanabhasevinis. In order to get the eligibility for attaining the title of "Sree Padmanabhadasa", certain rituals must be completed. On the first birthday of every royal male members would be put on the 'Ottakkalmandapam' of the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple and holy water from the temple will be sprinkled on the baby and only after completion of this ceremony, the royal child is proclaimed as "Sree Padmanabhadasa". This ritual is called 'Adimayidal'. The female members also have a ritual called 'Padiyettam' which is conducted only after their 'Pallikettu'. Only those male and female members who complete these ceremonies are allowed in the temple affairs and are also provided respect as well as the titles associated with temple as well as the royal family[11]


The death of Ramayyan Dalawa in 1756 caused great pain to Marthanda Varma as the former was not only his minister but also his friend. The king's health started deteriorating since then till he died two years later in 1758 after a brilliant military career. Before his death, Marthanda Varma summoned his nephew and successor and gave his final instructions. The main instructions were concerning the maintenance of all the poojas, ceremonies etc. in the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple without attempts to meddle with them. Another main instruction was that the expenses of the state should never exceed its revenue. No infighting in the royal family was to be ever allowed. Within a short time of these final instructions, the king passed away at the age of 53.[12] He was succeeded in 1758 by his nephew Maharajah Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma Dharma Raja, who consolidated the kingdom further.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Srinivasan, Rajeev. "The Battle of Colachel: In remembrance of things past". Rediff On The Net. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "Kerala". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013 [1].
  3. ^ a b "India". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013 [2].
  4. ^ a b "Thiruvananthapuram". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013 [3].
  5. ^ Menon, A Sreedhara. Survey of Kerala History. Kottayam: National Book Stall, 1967. Print.
  6. ^ "Early in his reign Marthanda Varma assumed direct control over the so-called Attingal 'Queendom'. This was not an annexation or conquest, but "the amalgamation of Travancore with Attingal". The theory that the Ranis of Attingal exercised sovereign powers is incorrect. The fact is that in political matters, the Ranis exercised no sovereign rights. Any grant of rights over immovable property by the Ranis required the King's previous assent or subsequent confirmation for its validity. The so-called Queendom of Attingal had its origin in the 5th century when two Princesses were adopted into the Venad family and the revenues from certain estates in and around Attingal were assigned to them. Since then, the female members of the ruling family of Travancore had come to be known as Attingal Ranis. It was only the male children of these Tamburatties who could inherit the throne. When Marthanda Varma decided to assume direct control over the estates of Attingal, he was not interfering in the affairs of a sovereign State. As the head of the royal family and the ruler of the State, he had every right to interfere in the affairs of a part of his kingdom. The Rani had neither territory nor subjects. What she possessed was nothing more than the control over the revenues of the estates, powers she exercised were delegated to her by the sovereign of the State."Kerala District Gazetteers Trivandrum by A. Sreedhara Menon, pages 190 to 192
  7. ^ Supreme Court, of India; N Ojha (28 November 1991). "Revathinnal Balagopala Varma vs His Highness Shri Padmanabhadasa ... on 28 November, 1991". 
  8. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara. A Survey Of Kerala History. pp. 224–228. 
  9. ^ Menon, A. Shreedhara. A Survey Of Kerala History. pp. 225–227. 
  10. ^ Gauri Lakshmi Bayi, Aswathi Thirunal (1998). Sreepadmanabhaswami Kshetram. Thiruvananthapuram: The State Institute Of Languages. pp. 152–168. ISBN 978-81-7638-028-7. 
  11. ^ Aswathy Thirunal, Gauri Lakshmi Bai (1998). Sree Padmanabhaswamy Kshetram. Thiruvananthapuram: The State Institute Of Languages, Kerala. pp. 168–170, 179–180, 595–602. ISBN 978-81-7638-028-7. 
  12. ^ Gauri Lakshmi Bayi, Aswathi Thirunal (1998). Sreepadmanabhaswami Kshetram. Thiruvananthapuram: The State Institute Of Languages. pp. 178–179. ISBN 978-81-7638-028-7. 
Marthanda Varma
Born: 1706 Died: 1758
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Rajah Rama Varma
(as Raja of Venad)
Maharaja of Travancore
Succeeded by
Dharma Raja