Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma

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Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma
Maharajah of Travancore & Rajpramukh Of Travancore-Cochin
King Of Travancore sct.jpg
Reign 1924 - 1991 (1971-1991 titular)
Coronation August 7, 1924
Predecessor Moolam Thirunal
Regent Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (1924-1931)
Successor Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma (titular)
Spouse no
Issue no
Full name
Sree Padmanabhadasa Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma
Regnal name
H. H. Sree Padmanabhadasa Vanchipala Sir Balarama Varma III, Kulasekhara Kiritapati Manney Sultan Maharajah Raja Ramaraja Bahadur, Shamsher Jang, Maharajah of Travancore, GCSI, GCIE
[[Dynasty|Kulasekhara]] Venad Swaroopam
Father Pooram Nal Ravi Varma Kochu Koyi Thampuran of Kilimanor
Mother Amma Maharani Moolam Thirunal Sethu Parvathi Bayi
Born (1912-11-07)November 7, 1912
Died July 20, 1991(1991-07-20) (aged 78)
Occupation King(Maharajah) of Travancore, Heriditary Trustee of Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Governor(Rajpramukh) of Travancore-Cochin State, Chairman of Aspinwall Ltd.
Religion Hinduism

Sree Padmanbhadasa Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma ( GCSI, GCIE ) (November 7, 1912–July 19, 1991), popularly known as Sree Chithira Thirunal, was the last ruling Maharaja of the Princely State of Travancore, in southern India till 1949 and later the Titular Maharajah of Travancore till 1991. Sree Chithira Thirunal was the eldest son of Junior Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bayi and Sri Pooram Nal Ravi Varma Koyi Thampuran of the Royal House of Kilimanoor. He was privately educated, and became the ruler of Travancore, at the age of 12, upon the death of his maternal great uncle, the then Maharajah of Travancore Sree Moolam Thirunal, on August 7, 1924. He reigned under the regency of his maternal aunt, Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (1924-1931), until he came of age and was invested with full ruling powers on November 6, 1931.[1]

Upon India's independence from the British on August 15, 1947, Sree Chithira Thirunal initially chose to keep his domain an independent country. As this was unacceptable to the Govt. Of India, several rounds of negotiations were held between the Maharaja and the Indian representatives. Finally an agreement was reached in 1949 and Sree Chithira Thirunal agreed to merge Travancore officially as a part of the Union of India. In 1949, Travancore was united with Cochin, and Sree Chithira Thirunal served as the first and only Rajpramukh (Governor equivalent) of the Travancore-Cochin Union from July 1, 1949 until October 31, 1956.[2] On November 1, 1956, the state of Kerala was created by uniting the Malayalam-speaking areas of the Travancore-Cochin Union with Malabar, and Sree Chithira Thirunal's office of Rajpramukh came to an end.[3] After the Constitutional Amendment of 1971, he was stripped of his political powers and emoluments from the privy purse by the Indira Gandhi government.

The period of Sree Chithira Thirunal's reign witnessed many-sided progress. He enacted the now famous Temple Entry Proclamation in 1936, established the University of Travancore (now the University of Kerala) in 1937. The Women Studies Journal Samyukta reports that, 40% of the Travancore's revenue was set apart for education, during the reign of Sree Chithira Thirunal.[4] Historians like A. Sreedhara Menon credit him for the industrialization of Travancore as well.[5] According to historians, the Punnapra - Vayalar incident in 1946 which led to the death of hundreds of Communist Party workers, the declaration of an independent Travancore in 1947, and allowing too much power to his Prime Minister, Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer, would represent the negative aspects of Sree Chithira Thirunal's reign.[6] He was an Hon. Major General with the British Indian Army and the Colonel-in-Chief and the Supreme Commander of the Travancore Military and of the Travancore-Cochin State Forces, for the period 1924-1956. He became an Hon. Colonel in the Indian Army since 1949, as the Travancore Military was integrated by him into the former, as the 9th (1st Travancore) and the 16th Battalion of the Madras Regiment(2nd Travancore).[7][8] At the age of 78, after suffering a stroke, he fell into a coma for nine days and died on July 20, 1991.[9] Sree Chithira Thirunal also sponsored the higher education of a young K. R. Narayanan who went on to become the 10th President of India. .[10][11][12]

Early years[edit]

Amma Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bayi - Mother of Maharajah Sree Chithira Thirunal

Sree Chithira Thirunal was the eldest son of Sethu Parvathi Bayi, popularly known as "Amma Maharani", the Queen Mother of Travancore, by her consort, Ravi Varma Kochu Koyi Thampuran of Royal House of Kilimanoor, a Sanskrit scholar and the great-nephew of the celebrated painter Raja Ravi Varma. He was born on a Deepavali day on November 7, 1912, as the Heir Apparent to the throne of Travancore. His siblings were Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi and Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma. Sree Chithira Thirunal's mother, Sethu Parvathi Bayi, was distantly related, by birth, to the royal house of Travancore in the direct female line. In 1900, following the absence of heirs in the Travancore Royal Family, she had been adopted by her maternal great-aunt. According to the matrilineal traditions of the Travancore Royal Family, Sree Chithira Thirunal, at the time of his birth, was proclaimed the Heir Apparent of Travancore with the title of : Sree Padmanabhadasa Maharajkumar Sree Balarama Varma III, Elaya Rajah of Travancore.


At the age of 6, Sree Chithira Thirunal began his education under tutors specially chosen by his uncle, Maharajah Sree Moolam Thirunal, in subjects like Malayalam, Sanskrit, Tamil, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, General Literature, Art and Culture. His early education in Malayalam and Sanskrit was imparted by the eminent scholar, Sree Atoor Krishna Pisharady and in English by Mr. Dowel I.C.S and T. Raman Nambeeshan. Later he had his higher education under Captain G. T. B. Harvey, and Mr. Dutt I.C.S (India Civil Service). At the age of 16, also began his training in State Craft and Administration, for two years, in Bangalore. Sree Chithira Thirunal lived in Bangalore till 1st July 1931 and also acquired knowledge in practical administration for 15 months, under the guidance of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the Maharajah of Mysore. The head tutor of Sree Chithira Thirunal, Captain. Harvey, quoted in his report to the Travancore government that : His Highness is an intelligent and willing pupil and his educational progress has been quite satisfactory. His mental equipment and the present standard of his knowledge in English, Malayalam and other subjects like Mathematics, History and Geography are higher than those laid down by the 'Committee Ruling Minor Ruler's Education and Training' in administration. His Highness continued to make very satisfactory progress in his studies and that mental progress and expansion of personality have been marked and rapid. The establishment of a separate household, has resulted in much greater self-reliance, initiative and power of decision. Opportunities for studying the laws and institutions of a progressive State have greatly broadened His Highness‘ experience and enlarged His Highness’ sympathies and interests. By the time he reached the majority age of eighteen, Sree Chithira Thirunal, had finished his administrative training in Mysore and returned to Travancore.[13]

Maharajah of Travancore[edit]

Maharaja Sree Chithira Thirunal after his investiture ceremony in 1931

Even after turning eighteen, Sree Chithira Thirunal's investiture ceremony wasn't done and his accession to full power looked unlikely, as rumors were spread about him that he was not mentally stable and hence not qualified to occupy the throne. His mother, Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bayi, contacted Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, a family friend, who then presented Sree Chithira Thirunal's case to the then Viceroy of India, Lord Wellington, and arranged a meeting between the two. After meeting the young Monarch, the Viceroy was highly impressed and found the rumours baseless, and thus all the obstacles, in Sree Chithira Thirunal's accession to power, were removed. As Sree Chithira Thirunal was quite young, and because of the amount of controversy that had been swirling around him, Viceroy Lord Wellington insisted that Sir C.P. must become the Legal and Constitutional Adviser to the young Monarch.[14] Sree Chithira Thirunal attained full ruling powers on November 6, 1931, with the title : Major General His Highness Sree Padmanabhadasa Vanchipala Sree Chithira Thirunal Sir Balarama Varma III, Kulasekhara Kiritapathi Manney Sultan Maharajah Raja Ramaraja Bahadur, Shamsher Jang, Maharajah of Travancore GCSI, GCIE. As was customary, he took the regnal name Sree Chithira Thirunal as he was born under the Chithira nakshatram or star. ln his speech, after assuming full power as the Maharajah of Travancore, he declared : "It is my hope that I shall be enabled by God’s grace to earn the affection and esteem of all communities and classes amongst my people whose advancement in every department of life will be my perpetual pre-occupation and my sole aim."[15][16]

All Travancore Maharajahs including Sree Moolam Thirunal conducted Hiranyagarbham ceremony. Sree Chithira Thirunal is the only Maharajah of Travancore not to have conducted Hiranyagarbham or Tulaapurushadaanam as he considered these as extremely costly ceremonies.[17] Sree Chithira Thirunal was able to secure the services of eminent statesman, Sir C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar, who initially served as his Legal and Constitutional Adviser and later as his Prime minister, for several years. Sree Chithira Thirunal went abroad, on a foreign tour, commencing on 8 April 1933 and visited England, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy etc. He had met with King George V in London and Pope Pius XI at the Vatican. Sree Chithira Thirunal also had a beautiful palace built for him named Kowdiar Palace, finished in 1934 prior to the wedding of his sister Maharani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi with Lt. Col. G. V. Raja. It was previously an old Nalukettu, given by Maharajah Sree Moolam Thirunal to Sree Chithira Thirunal's mother Sethu Parvathi Bayi in 1915.[18]

Bicameral Assembly[edit]

In 1932, Sree Chithira Thirunal conducted a Constitutional Reform by forming the first Bicameral Legislature there by reducing some of his political powers. The Legislative Council of Travancore and Sree Moolam Popular Assembly were replaced with a formal bicameral system consisting of an Upper House - the Travancore Sree Chitra State Council, and a Lower House - the Sree Moolam Assembly. It was specified that not less than 55% of the members should be elected and no more than one third should be officials. In the case of the Assembly, not less than 48 members were required to be elected. Of not more than 24 nominated members, 12 should be officials. The Assembly had 72 members while the Sri Chitra State Council had 37 members. This bicameral system continued to function till September 1947, until it gave way to a constituent assembly that later led to the merger of Cochin state and the eventual joining into the Indian Union. The new bodies started functioning from January 1, 1933. The Assembly could vote on the budgetary demands for grants with powers to reduce and omit items. For the first time, a Public Accounts Committee was created making the executive increasingly accountable to the legislature. The Prime Minister (Dewan) was the President of both the Houses. The Assembly elected its own Deputy President and the term was four years. But Ezhavas, Christians and Muslims feared that the new reforms would secure for them only a few number of seats in the enlarged legislature than the Nairs. They demanded dividing the seats on the basis of population and they decided to abstain from voting and thus Abstention movement began in Travancore. The government finally acceded to protesters demand and introduced Communal Reservation on appointments in the Travancore Government Service.[19]

Important Regulations[edit]

In 1932, Sree Chithira Thirunal passed The Travancore Kshatriya Regulation (excluding Travancore Royal Family), for the first time, to define and amend laws related to succession, marriage & or its dissolution, property management and maintenance. The same year, the Travancore Muslim Succession Regulation was also passed to amend and define rules of succession among Muslim community. Another important bill passed in 1932 was The Jenmi-Kudiyaan Regulation. This bill proclaimed that the landlord(jenmi) will not have any right, claim or interest in the land holding except the right to receive land dues(jenmi karam). The right to review or enhance the jenmikaram rested with the government. This bill gave complete freedom for tenants(kudiyaan) over the tenant land, for the first time in history, without the interference of the land lords(janmi). It also stated that the tenant should pay the land dues to the government, in order to prevent exploitation and the government will then remit the dues to the land lords. Sree Chithira Thirunal also concentrated on improving the condition of women and children. In Travancore, women were held in high respect due to the matrilineal law of inheritence, and widow remarriage was prevalent in majority of the communities. But widow re-marriage was prohibited among certain communities like Vellalas, Nambuthiris, Potties, and many Brahmin communities in Travancore also. For Brahmin communities, other than Nambuthirs and potties, pre-pubescent marriage was also compulsory. So in order to stop the sufferings of widows and to prevent child marriages and other similar social evils and for the betterment of women, several new Bills were passed were passed by the King : The Travancore Hindu Widows Remarriage Regulation (1938), The Travancore Child Marriage Restraint Act & The Travancore Supression Of Immoral Traffic Act (1941), The Travancore Maternity Benefit Act (1943) etc. aimed at the betterment of women and children.[20]

Educational Reforms[edit]

Sree Chithira Thirunal established the University of Travancore (now the University of Kerala) in under The Travancore University Regulation in 1937. The need for a separate University for Travancore had been felt for long. Two Committees were appointed to enquire into the question of establishing a separate University, in 1919 and 1924. After considering their recommendations, on 1 November 1937, Sree Chithira Thirunal issued the University Act. Special emphasis was given to vocational education to meet the requirements of modern conditions. The administration of the Government Colleges and the control of all the Private Colleges in the Kingdom were transferred to the University. The Institute of Textile Technology, an Engineering College and a Central Research Institute to carry on research in Pure and Applied Sciences, were also started. A Department of Marine Biology was another significant addition. Institutions like the Observatory, the Public Library and the School of Arts were also placed under the University. He also formed a new form of University Training Corps, viz. Labour Corps, preceding the N C C, in the educational institutions. The expenses of the University were to be met fully by the Government. The College Of Engineering, Medical College Hospital at Ulloor, Trivandrum's SAT hospital were created at Sree Chithira Thirunal's behest.The Travancore Primary Education Act by which Sree Chithira Thirunal introduced Free, Universal and Compulsory Education irrespective of caste, gender etc. The Act also prohibited child labour and also prohibited relegious instruction in schools, thus making education completely secular.[21][22]

Industrial and Infrastructure Development[edit]

According to historian, A. Sreedhara Menon, Sree Chithira Thirunal also initiated industrialization and increased the role of the public sector in Travancore. He introduced heavy industry in the State and established giant public sector undertakings. As many as twenty industries were established, mostly for utilizing the local raw materials such as rubber, ceramics and minerals. A majority of the premier industries running in Kerala even today were established by Sree Chithira Thirunal. Travancore Rubber Works, Kundara Ceramics, Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore(FACT), Travancore Titanium Products Ltd, Travancore-Cochin Chemicals, Punalur Paper Mills etc. are some of the industries started by him. Historian A. Sreedhara Menon referred to the administration of Sree Chithira Thirunal as 'enlightened' as his reign saw remarkable progress in the fields of education, economy, defence & society as a whole.[23] Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, Public Transport Department(renamed Kerala State Road Transport Corporation), Pallivasal Hydro-electric project etc. was begun by him.[22][24]

Art, sports and Culture[edit]

Sree Chithira Thirunal patronized musicians, artists, dancers and Vedic scholars. He appointed, for the first time, an Art Advisor to Government, Dr. J. H. Cousins. He also inaugurated an art gallery named Sree Chitra Art Gallery, features a unique collection of traditional and contemporary paintings, including the works of Raja Ravi Varma, Nicholas Roerich, Svetoslav Roerich, Jamini Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, V. S. Valiathan, C. Raja Raja Varma, and K. C. S. Paniker.[25] Sree Chithira Thirunal also started efforts to popularize Carnatic Music, especially the works of his ancestor & Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma. He assigned musicians Muthiah Bhagavathar and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer for this task. In 1939, Sree Chithira Thirunal started Sri Swathi Thirunal Music Academy(renamed as Sree Swathi Thirunal College of Music in 1962) with the primary objective of popularizing the Maharajah Sree Swathi Thirunal kritits(compositions).[26] Nellikkampatty Game Sanctuary(renamed Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (PNP)) was also created under his instructions. Sree Chithira Thirunal supported the vision and untiring works of his brother-in-law, Lt. Col. G. V. Raja, in the fields of Sports and Tourism. Lt. Col. G. V. Raja was synonymous with the establishment of Royal Flying Club, renamed Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and development of tourism in Travancore as well as Kerala.[22][24] However, The Travancore Dramatic Performances Act in 1939 is considered by researchers as an attack on freedom of expression, as it prohibited materials that criticized the British Emperor or the government.[27]

Temple Entry Proclamation[edit]

Sree Chithira Thirunal in 1932 appointed a committee, the Temple Entry Enquiry Committee, to examine the question of Temple Entry for the dalits and as a result all roads were opened for the use of dalits as well.[28] The committee expressed their opinion that a panel of learned persons, well versed in the theory and practice of Hinduism, should be summoned, and that the reform might be effected by the ruler with their approval. They also suggested certain methods by which the rigour of the custom excluding the dalits from the temple might be softened. But the study done by Mahatma Gandhi University researchers, published in the website, Shodhganga, has stated that, Sree Chithira Thirunal was indeed in full favour of a proper temple entry even when, the Maharajah of Cochin and British Malabar's Zamorin, opposed it vigorously.[29] With an outlook which no Indian ruler had been able to entertain for thousands of years, Sree Chithira Thirunal signed the Proclamation. Thus the Proclamation issued by Maharajah Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma in 1936 abolished the ban on Dalits from entering Hindu temples in Travancore (now part of Kerala, India). The proclamation was a milestone in the history of Travancore and later in rest of Kerala as well. It was published on the eve of Sree Chithira Thirunal's birthday in 1112 (1936 A.D.). The Proclamation was received throughout India with delight and admiration.[15]

H. H. Maharajah Sree Padmanabhadasa Sree Chithira Thirunal on his way to Padmanabhaswamy Temple
The full edict of The Temple Entry Proclamation by Maharajah Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma is as follows:

Sir C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar, the Prime Minister of Travancore, referred to the day of the Proclamation as "a unique occasion in the history of India and specially of Hinduism". It was Sir CP's skill that ironed out all the practical difficulties before the Proclamation. He foresaw all the objections that could be raised against Temple Entry and dealt with them one by one. He was also able to ensure that the actual declaration was known beforehand to only very few people. To the people of Travancore, it came as a momentous announcement. The Prime Minister of Madras described the Proclamation as the "greatest religious reform in India after the time of Asoka". The Universities of Andhra and Annamalai conferred D.Litts on the Maharaja. A life size statue of Sree Chithira Thirunal was erected in Madras by the citizens of Madras which was unveiled by Lord Erstine, the then Governor of Madras.[30]

Mahatma Gandhi in an open letter addressed to Sree Chithira Thirunal wrote:

"People call me as Mahatma and I don’t think I deserve it. But in my view, you have in reality become a Mahatma by your proclamation at this young age, breaking the age old custom and throwing open the doors of the Temples to our brothers and sisters whom the hateful tradition considered as untouchables. I varily believe that when all else is forgotten, this one act of the Maharajah- the Proclamation- will be remembered by future generation with gratitude."

And expressed the hope that:

"All other Hindu Princes will follow the noble example set by this far-off ancient Hindu State."[31]

Political Unrest[edit]

Despite all the development and prosperity attained by his reign, Sree Chithira Thirunal's ruling period saw severe political unrest due to the then ongoing Indian freedom struggle. The Haripura session of the Indian National Congress February 1938 resolved that in the Princely States by independent organisations may be encouraged to carry on internal struggles in these states. Gandhi's view was that the demand made by the people of princely states for responsible government was just and proper added fuel to their works. Thus, the Travancore State Congress with Pattom Thanu Pillai, a lawyer and public figure of Travancore as its first president. The Travancore State Congress started an active campaign for the creation of responsible government in Travancore. Sir C. P. tried every possible measure to curb the congress activities but the party had become one of the major critics of Prime Minister(Diwan), Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyar. Meetings and demonstrations were banned and A. Narayana Pillai was arrested on a charge of sedition. Acoording to Shodhganga website, "the Dewan soon started a reign of terror to supress the State Congress." The State Congress presented a memorandum to Sree Chithira Thirunal making him aware of the immediate need for the grant of responsible government and also bringing to his notice the repressive policies of his Prime Minister's administration. Sir C. P. retaliated by declaring State Congress and its ally 'All Travancore Youth League' as disloyal and subversive bodies. The Diwan cancelled the licences of news papers, Malayala Manorama and Kerala Kaumudi which published news relating to the activities of the State Congress. On 26 August 1938, the State Congress started a widespread Civil Disobedience Movement but leaders like Pattom Thanu Pillai and T. M. Varghese were arrested in Trivandrum. Then the congress organized a massive rally under the leadership of Akkamma Cherian on the birthday of the Maharaja on 12 November 1938. After understanding the seriousness of the situation, Sree Chithira Thirunal announced the withdrawal of the ban on the State Congress and the unconditional release of its leaders. But Sir C. P. put forward the condition of withdrawing the earlier memorandum which contained personal allegations against him which the Youth League opposed and left the Congress and strengthened the ranks of the Youth League whereas some formed radical group with Communist leanings and K. Krishna Pillai as its leader. The radical wing of the Youth League, consisting of the Communists, had decided to cooperate with the government in its war efforts following the entry of the USSR in the Second World War. But after the war, the Communist staged a violent protest against Sir C. p. which came to known as the much disputed Punnapra-Vayalar uprising. What ever be the aim or motive of the Communists for conducting Punnapra-Vayalar uprising, the government action which led to the death of hundreds of Communist Party workers, marred the otherwise progressive reign of Sree Chithira Thirunal. The image of Sir C. P. was destroyed irreparably, and has been since cast into the light of a 'villain' by the entire political class in Kerala. The State Congress' long struggle for a responsible government finally became a reality in 1948 when Sree Chithira Thirunal announced the first public election, after the exit of Sir C. P. from Travancore.[32]

Accession of Travancore to India[edit]

On June 3 1947, British announced the date of their withdrawal from India & creation of two dominions. The Indian Independence Act 1947 provided that the suzerainty of the British Crown over the princely states would simply be terminated, with effect from 15 August 1947, that would leave the princely states completely independent. After British India became independent as two dominions in 1947, British Suzerainty was lifted from Travancore and in essence Travancore became Independent. The Instrument of Accession was a legal document created in 1947 to enable each of the rulers of the princely states under British suzerainty to join one of the new dominions of India or Pakistan created by the Partition of British India. Thus on July 11, the Travancore Prime Minister, Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyar announced, at the behest of Sree Chithira Thirunal, that the Kingdom of Travancore will neither join India nor Pakistan but will remain an Independent Country. This led to protests in Travancore mainly from Congress and other political parties who feared that it only sought to perpetuate the autocratic rule of Diwan Sir C. p. Family sources indicate that Sir C. P., himself, was not in favour of independence but only greater autonomy and that a favourable agreement had been reached between Sir C. P. and the Indian representatives by July 23, 1947 and accession to the Indian Union could not be carried out only because it was pending approval by the Maharajah. Nevertheless, an assassination attempt was made on Sir C. P. by a Brahmin youth named K.C.S. Mani on July 25, 1947 during a concert commemorating the anniversary of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal.

As Sree Chithira Thirunal's decision to keep Travancore independent of India was unacceptable to the Indian government, several rounds of negotiations were held between the Maharaja and the Indian representatives. After holding discussions with Mountbatten, Sree Chithira Thirunal agreed to enter into a Stand-still Agreement with the Indian Union on August 10, 1947. And according to the Stand-still Agreement, Travancore’s domestic sovereignty will be accepted by the Indian government even though foreign policy & defence will be in Indian government’s hand. But Travancore could indulge in foreign trade without India’s permission; also that there won’t be any interference in internal matters of Travancore by the Indian govt. But Louis Mountbatten withdrew all his assurances regarding maintaining Travancore's sovereignty with the exit of Sir C. P. from Travancore and another round of discussion started between Sree Chithira Thirunal and Indian representative, V. P. Menon. In 1948, Sree Chithira Thirunal announced first public election in Travancore to create responsible government with the Maharaja as the Constitutional Head of State.[33]

At the same time, negotiation with the Indian union was ongoing and finally Sree Chithira Thirunal agreed to accede his state to the new Dominion of India in 1949. The neighbouring Cochin state was united with the Kingdom of Travancore. According to V. P. Menon, Sree Chithira Thirunal came close to refusing the post of Rajpramukh because he could not give oath to the Indian government as he had already taken the oath in front of his family deity Sree Padmanabha. He stated that he "would rather abdicate his position and stand down for the welfare of his people." Sree Chithira Thirunal's conditions were accepted by the Indian representatives and V. P. Menon, the chief Indian negotiator, put forward the suggestion that as Sree Chithira Thirunal was unwilling to take the oath, he should write a letter to the Indian government assuring them his full co-operation and commitment to the post of Rajpramukh. Thus Sree Chithira Thirunal became the Rajpramukh of the newly created United States of Travancore-Cochin and his ancient Travancore Kingdom merged into the Union of India. He was an Hon. Major General with the British Indian Army and the Colonel-in-Chief and the Supreme Commander of the Travancore Army and of the Travancore-Cochin State Forces for the period 1949-1954. He became an Hon. Colonel in the Indian Army as the Travancore Army was integrated by him into the former, after 1949, as the 9th (1st Travancore) and the 16th Battalion of the Madras Regiment(2nd Travancore).[34][35]

Rajpramukh of the United States of Travancore-Cochin[edit]

The Maharajah with V. P. Menon inaugurating the Travancore-Cochin Union

Following the national policy of integration, the State of Kochi and Travancore were merged into Travancore-Cochin State under a Rajpramukh. The rulers of Travancore and Cochin had entered into a Covenant to unite their States into one, with a common Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. The new entity was named the "United State of Travancore and Cochin", better known as "Thiru-Kochi" inaugurated on July 1, 1949. Sree Chithira Thirunal became the Rajpramukh, Governor equivalent, of the newly formed United State. A Council of Ministers was to advice him in the exercise of his functions. They were to comply with the directions of the Government of India. Questions of disputed succession in regard to the State were to be decided by the Rajpramukh after referring it to the High Court of the United State and in accordance with the opinion of the latter. According to Article XI of the Covenant, Rajpramukh Sree Chithira Thirunal promulgated an ordinance which declared that the laws existing in the two states should continue to be in force in their respective territories and the courts, both civil and criminal. They would continue to enjoy their existing jurisdiction and powers conferred on them. The courts were to eliminate conflicts arising from the application of laws by interpretation. Another Ordinance led to the creation of the High Court of the United State of Travancore-Cochin. Sree Chithira Thirunal was empowered to appoint the Chief Justice and other judges of the High Court whose number was fixed at not less than five. The Ordinance prescribed the powers and jurisdiction of the High Court including the superintendence over all subordinate courts. All appeals pending before the High Courts of Travancore and Cochin were to be heard by the High Court of the United State. The seat of the new High Court was decided to be at Ernakulam. Sree Chithira Thirunal had already executed an "Instrument of Accession" under section 6 of the Government of India Act, 1935, thereby accepting the supremacy of Dominion Legislature. He served as the first and only Rajpramukh of the Travancore-Cochin Union from July 1, 1949, to October 31, 1956, which was the entire duration of the existence of that political entity.[36] The movement for a united (Aikya) Kerala gathered momentum with the attainment of independence. The first concrete step in this direction was taken on July 1, 1949. The next step came with the reorganization of States on a linquistic basis in the light of the report of the States Reorganization Commission. It was decided to add Malabar district and the Kasargod taluk of south Canara district to Travancore-Kochi and to separate the Tamil-speaking southern region of old Travancore from Travancore-Kochi for inclusion in Madras State. On November 1, 1956, the state of Kerala was created by uniting the Malayalam-speaking areas of the Travancore-Cochin Union with those of neighbouring Madras State, and Sree Chithira Thirunal's office of Rajpramukh came to an end. Thus, after a hectic public life of 25 years, Maharajah Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma retired from active public service in 1956.[3][37]

Criticisms and Allegations[edit]

Maharajah Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma with the Cochin Maharaja

V. P. Menon, the chief Indian negotiator, alleged in his book that, Sree Chithira Thirunal was against the prospect of the Maharajah of Cochin becoming Uprajpramukh, as both Travancore and Cochin Kingdoms had long standing rivalry from early times itself; Cochin used to be a tributory of Travancore before the arrival of the British. Also when Sree Chithira Thirunal did the Temple Entry Proclamation in Travancore, allowing dalits or the so-called untouchables to enter all Travancore Hindu temples, the ruler of Cochin[38] refused to accept it and also banned all Travancore citizens from entering temples in Cochin declaring every single Travancore citizen as an 'untouchable'. This caused a further strain in their already shaky relation.[39] Lakshmi Raghunanadan (a grand daughter of Senior Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi) alleged that Sree Chithira Thirunal initiated a move to overtake her grand mother's summer estate at Peermade in 1938 which however did not happened due to the intervention of the then British Resident of Travancore. A division of royal properties and estates were done, after the cancellation of Privy Purse by the Indian government, in 1971. The properties were divided between the branch of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and Sethu Parvathi Bayi, the Senior and Junior Maharanis of Travancore. The terms of division of properties was accepted by all members of both branches. But later Balagopal Varma(Revathi Nal), (the grandson of former Senior Queen Sethu Lakshmi Bayi) who at the time of property division was a minor, accused that Sree Chithira Thirunal had taken away a property, Poojappura Stalemond Palace, that rightly belonged to his grandmother, the Senior Maharani. Sree Chithira Thirunal had given away this Palace to the Government of Kerala to construct a new Medical Centre, the now famous, Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology, in 1974. Balagopala Varma(Revathi Nal) also accused that Chithira Thirunal had unlawfully taken away the traditional holdings of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi as Senior Rani of Attingal. Her case was presented to the then Viceroy of India in the 30's but was dismissed by him, as former Travancore Maharaja Marthanda Varma had already removed all the powers of Attingal Queens in 18th century itself.[40][41] Revathi Nal Balagopala Varma took his grievance first to the High Court of Kerala and later to the Supreme Court of India. However, at both courts, the verdicts came in favour of Sree Chithira Thirunal and the appelant Revathi Nal's case was dismissed in the final judgement of 1991 by the Supreme Court of India.[42]

Later Years[edit]

After retiring from active public life in 1956, Sree Chithira Thirunal turned his attention towards business and acquired some shares in the spice trading company "Aspinwall Ltd". In the early 1970s, when the English owners decided to withdraw their investment, major portion of the company's shares was bought by Sree Chithira Thirunal, and after his demise, his legal heirs in the Travancore Royal Family hold the controlling interests of the company till date. As part of the agreement during Travancore-Cochin Union formation, the control of Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple was also left to Sree Chithira Thirunal. When Privy Purse was cancelled, according to his niece and writer Aswathy Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, in one stroke, he lost 18 Lakhs (per year), the majority of which he was using to support the Padmanabhaswami Temple, despite this, he supported the temple from his own private funds.[43] As Padmanabhadasa and heriditary head trustee, he conducted the Murajapam and Lakshadeepam ceremonies in Padmanabhaswamy Temple, more times than all his predecessors. He also decided to use electric lights for the first time for the Lakshadeepam when there was scarcity of oil and cost escalation. Under his decision, Padmanabhaswami Temple was electrified except inside the Sreekovil. He also brought forth Pension system for the employees of Padmanabhaswami Temple.[24]

On December 28, 1971, Sree Chithira Thirunal lost his privy purse when the Government of India de-recognized the status of the Maharajahs of the erstwhile princely states, as rulers and was thus politically stripped. However the titles as well as other clauses of the agreements signed between the Government of India and the Maharaja in 1947 legally still hold. He thus became the Titular Maharajah of Travancore from 1971.[44] The famous Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology was created with the personal funds of Sree Chithira Thirunal, after Privy Purse was cancelled by the Govt. Of India. Sree Chithira Thirunal established many charitable trusts for helping the needy financially in medical, educational and cultural fields.[24] Sree Chithira Thirunal also sponsored the higher education of a young K. R. Narayanan who went on to become the 10th President of India. .[45][46][47]

Personal Life[edit]

Sree Chithira Thirunal is believed to be unmarried. But through out his life time, there were rumours of him having a secret wife and child. As this is yet to be proven, Sree Chithira Thirunal is officially considered a bachelor. Sree Chithira Thirunal was famous for his devotion and piety towards his family deity Sree Padmanabha and many has often compared him to his ancestor Maharaja Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma in terms of devotion to the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.[48] According to his niece, Pooyam Thirunal Gauri Parvathi Bayi, Sree Chithira Thirunal led a simple life as Padmanabhadasa and that he had a tremendous sense of humour, love for painting and drawing, fondness for knowledge about Puranas, religion, politics and history.[49]


By the early 90's, according to niece Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, Sree Chithira Thirunal's health had deteriorated rapidly. But against the warnings of his doctors, he led the Arattu Procession of Padmanabhaswamy Temple on March 31, 1991. Despite his weakened body, he led the procession by walking barefoot with four and half kilogram sword in his hand, escorting the deities to the Shankumugham beach as well as back to the Padmaanabhaswamy Temple, which the common people considered as the symbol of Sree Chithira Thirunal's devotion to his Tutelar deity, Sree Padmanabha. After 15 days, he was hospitalized and was discharged after 4 days. On July 11, 1991, while getting ready for his daily morning visit to Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Sree Chithira Thirunal fell down unconscious. It was diagnosed that he had suffered a stroke and was admitted to the Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology, aged seventy-eight. He remained in a state of coma for nine days and finally passed away, early morning on July 20th, the same year. After his death, there was a massive out pouring of public grief, he was a widely respected and much adored figure of Kerala. He was given full military as well government honours, as he was a former Maharaja as well as the former Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the 9th and 16th Battalion (formerly the 1st & 2nd Travancore Infantry) of the Madras Regiment. The Indian Army oversaw and controlled the public proceedings of his cremation. He was cremated at his official residence, Kowdiar Palace, based on the rites and rituals of Kshatriyas. Adhering to Marumakkathayam Law, his funeral rites were done by his younger brother, Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma & his only nephew Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma who are the legal heirs of Sree Chithira Thirunal. He had ruled Travancore for 67 years and at his death, was one of the last surviving rulers of a first-class princely state in the old Indian Empire. He was also the last surviving Knight Grand Commander of both the Order of the Star of India and of the Order of the Indian Empire. The Government of India issued a stamp in 1991, commemorating the reforms that marked the reign of Sree Chithira Thirunal as the Maharaja of Travancore. He was succeeded, as head of the Travancore royal house as well as the Titular Maharajah of Travancore, by his younger brother, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma.[24]

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



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arun, Mohan. "Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma Maharaja Travancore History". Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Royal Contributions to Education in Travancore" by SAMYUKTA A Journal Of Women Studies
  5. ^ The State forged ahead in industrialization and had several industries—cement, fertilizers, chemicals, ceramics, paper, etc. THE STORY OF THE INTEGRATION OF THE INDIAN STATES by V. P. Menon, Page189
  6. ^ Manorama Yearbook 2011, ISSN 0970-9096
  7. ^ Christopher, Buyers. "TRAVANCORE". Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Special, Correspondent (Aug 1, 2010). "Army celebrates anniversary of Colachel battle". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Gauri Lakshmi Bai, Aswathy Thirunal (July 1998). Sree Padmanabha Swamy Kshetram. Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala: The State Institute Of Languages. pp. 278–282, 242–243, 250–251. ISBN 978-81-7638-028-7. 
  10. ^ celebritiesinfos, .com. "President K R Narayanan". Retrieved 14 ജൂൺ 2014. 
  11. ^ "The kingdom paid for the education of a poor Dalit [untouchable] boy called KR Narayanan and funded his scholarship to London School of Economics. Mr Narayanan became the first Dalit president of India in 1997." BBC News SOUTH ASIA
  12. ^, .uk. "The feisty Indian kings and their temple treasure". BBC News SOUTH ASIA. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  13. ^ Raghunanadan, Lakshmi (1995). At the turn of the tide : the life and times of Maharani Setu Lakshmi Bayi. 
  14. ^ Sir C. P. Remembered, Pg 83
  15. ^ a b Supreme Court, Of India. "GOOD GOVERNANCE: JUDICIARY AND THE RULE OF LAW". Sree Chitira Thirunal Memorial Lecture , 29 December 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  16. ^ The Royal family of Travancore followed the Marumakkathayam system of matrilineal succession like the Nairs of Kerala.
  17. ^
  18. ^ thiruvananthapuram, updates. "UthradomThirunal Marthanda Varma at 90". Sourced from “Malayala Manorama”. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  19. ^ Of Kerala, Government. "HISTORY OF KERALA LEGISLATURE". Dept. Of Information &Public Relations. Govt of Kerala. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  22. ^ a b c Menon, A. Sreedhara (1967). A Survey Of Kerala History. Kottayam: D C Books. p. 273. ISBN 81-264-1578-9. 
  23. ^ "During his rule the revenues of the State were nearly quadrupled from a little over Rs 21/2 crore to over Rs 91/2 crore." - 'THE STORY OF THE INTEGRATION OF THE INDIAN STATES' by V. P. MENON
  24. ^ a b c d e Gauri Lakshmi Bai, Aswathy Thirunal (1998). Sree Padmanabhaswamy Kshetram. Thiruvananthapuram: The State Institute Of Languages, Kerala. pp. 242–243. ISBN 978-81-7638-028-7. 
  25. ^ Wikipedia, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "Sree Chitra Art Gallery". Wikipedia. Wikipedia. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  26. ^ IT Division, IHRD Headoffice, Trivandrum. "Swathi Thirunal College of Music, Thiruvananthapuram". Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  28. ^ Keith E. Yandell Keith E. Yandell,, John J. Paul. Religion and Public Culture: Encounters and Identities in Modern South India. 
  29. ^ Digital Concepts Cochin, BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for; Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam. "TEMPLE ENTRY FREEDOM IN KERALA". CHAPTER VI: 1–46. Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  30. ^ G., MAHADEVAN. "Temple Entry Proclamation the greatest act of moral freedom: Uthradom Tirunal". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  31. ^ Of India, Supreme Court. "GOOD GOVERNANCE: JUDICIARY AND THE RULE OF LAW". Sree Chitira Thirunal Memorial Lecture, 29 December 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  32. ^ shodhganga., "FREEDOM STRUGGLE IN KERALA: HISTORICAL DIMENSIONS". shodhganga. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  33. ^ shodhganga., "FREEDOM STRUGGLE IN KERALA: HISTORICAL DIMENSIONS". shodhganga. Retrieved 13 June 2014. 
  34. ^ Christopher, Buyers. "TRAVANCORE". Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  35. ^ Special, Correspondent (Aug 1, 2010). "Army celebrates anniversary of Colachel battle". The Hindu. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  36. ^ shodhganga., "THE HIGH COURT OF TRAVANCORE-COCHIN". Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  37. ^ kerala., "The movement for a united (Aikya) Kerala". Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  38. ^ 'The Casabianca of Travancore', on March 26, 2002, THE HINDU - "Incidentally it came as a surprise to many at the time that the then Maharaja of adjacent Cochin State who was later applauded by Nehru for being the first princely ruler in 1946 to constitute a responsible government was a staunch opponent of temple entry."
  39. ^ Digital Concepts Cochin, BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for; Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam. "TEMPLE ENTRY FREEDOM IN KERALA". CHAPTER VI: 1–46. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  40. ^ "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
  41. ^ Supreme Court, of India; N Ojha (28 November 1991). "Revathinnal Balagopala Varma vs His Highness Shri Padmanabhadasa ... on 28 November, 1991". 
  42. ^ indiankanoon, .org. "Revathinnal Balagopala Varma vs His Highness Shri Padmanabhadasa ... on 28 November, 1991 Equivalent citations: JT 1991 (5) SC 301, 1991 (2) SCALE 1142 Author: N Ojha Bench: S Ranganathan, M F Beevi, N Ojha JUDGMENT N.D. Ojha J.". Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  43. ^ V.P., Menon (1955). THE STORY OF THE INTEGRATION OF THE INDIAN STATES. pp. 188–202. 
  44. ^ "Though by the 26th amendment to the Constitution, Article 363 was repealed whereby the rights and privileges of the rulers of Indian states were taken away, still the name and title of the rulers remained as such and unaffected in so far as names and titles were not contemplated as rights or privileges under the repealed Articles 291 and 362 of the Constitution."
  45. ^ celebritiesinfos, .com. "President K R Narayanan". Retrieved 14 ജൂണ്‍ 2014. 
  46. ^ "The kingdom paid for the education of a poor Dalit [untouchable] boy called KR Narayanan and funded his scholarship to London School of Economics. Mr Narayanan became the first Dalit President of India in 1997." BBC News SOUTH ASIA
  47. ^, .uk. "The feisty Indian kings and their temple treasure". BBC News SOUTH ASIA. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  48. ^ V.P., Menon (1955). THE STORY OF THE INTEGRATION OF THE INDIAN STATES. pp. 188–202. 
  49. ^ 'I remember ...' In Memoriam Pooyam Tirunal Gouri Parvathi Bayi reminisces about her uncle Sri Chitra Tirunal Balarama Varma, the ruler of erstwhile Travancore, The Hindu, November 10, 2012

External links[edit]

Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma
Born: 7 November 1912 Died: 20 July 1991
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Moolam Thirunal
Maharaja of Travancore
Succeeded by
Monarchy abolished
(Merge within the Republic of India)
Political offices
Preceded by
Post created 1 July 1949
Rajpramukh of the Travancore-Cochin Union
Succeeded by
Post abolished by the Government of India 31 October 1956; succeeded by that of Governor of Kerala
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Maharaja of Travancore
Reason for succession failure:
Monarchy abolished in 1949
Succeeded by
Uthradom Thirunal