T. Madhava Rao

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Rajah, Sir
Tanjore Madhava Rao
KCSI
Madhava Rao.jpg
Portrait of Sir T. Madhava Rao
Diwan of Baroda
In office
10 May 1875 – 1882
Monarch Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III
Preceded by Dadabhai Naoroji
Succeeded by Kazi Shahabuddin
Diwan of Indore
In office
1873–1875
Monarch Tukojirao Holkar II
Succeeded by R. Raghunatha Rao
Dewan of Travancore
In office
1857 – May 1872
Monarch Uthram Thirunal,
Ayilyam Thirunal
Preceded by Krishna Rao
Succeeded by A. Seshayya Sastri
Personal details
Born 1828
Kumbakonam,
Madras Presidency,
British India
Died 4 April 1891
Mylapore,
Madras,
British India
Relations T. Ranga Rao (father)
Children T. Ananda Rao
Alma mater Madras University
Occupation politician, administrator
Profession lawyer
Religion Hindu

Raja Sir Tanjore Madhava Rao, KCSI (c. 1828 – d. 4 April 1891), also known as Sir Madhava Rao Thanjavurkar, was an Indian civil servant, administrator and politician who served as the Diwan of Travancore from 1857 to 1872, Indore from 1873 to 1875 and Baroda from 1875 to 1882. He was the nephew of the former Diwan of Travancore T. Venkata Rao and the son of another Ranga Rao.

Madhava Rao was born in a Thanjavur Marathi family of Kumbakonam in the year 1828 and had his education in Madras. After serving for two years in the Madras civil service, Madhava Rao was appointed tutor to the princes of Travancore. Impressed with his performance, Madhava Rao was transferred to the Revenue Department in which he rose step by step to become Diwan in 1857.

Madhava Rao served as Diwan of Travancore from 1857 to 1872 bringing about developments in education, legislation, public works, medicine, vaccination and public health and agriculture. He was also responsible for clearing Travancore's public debts. Madhava Rao quit as Diwan of Travancore and returned to Madras in 1872. He served as Diwan of Indore from 1873 to 1875 and as Diwan of Baroda from 1875 to 1882. In his later life, Madhava Rao actively participated in politics and was one of the early pioneers of the Indian National Congress. Madhava Rao died in 1891 in Mylapore, Madras at the age of 63.

Madhava Rao was respected and regarded for his administrative abilities. British Liberal statesman Henry Fawcett called him "the Turgot of India". In 1866, he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India.

Early life and career[edit]

Madhava Rao was born in 1828 in a prominent Maharashtrian Deshastha Brahmin family. His Surname was Thanjavurkar or Tanjorekar. His great grandfather Gopal Pant and his grandfather, Gundo Pant, held offices of trust and power under the British as also various Indian princes. His paternal uncle Rai Raya Rai Venkatta Rao was a former Dewan of Travancore and later even his father Ranga Rao became the Premier of Travancore, although only for a short while. Madhava Rao had two older brothers.

Madhava Rao spent his early life in Madras city where he studied at the Government High School (later Presidency College, Madras). As a student, Madhava Rao was a diligent and careful and strong in mathematics and science. In 1846, he received his Proficient's Degree with high honours. Soon afterwards, Powell appointed him tutor of Mathematics and Physics at the High School. However, Madhava Rao quit in a short while to take up a job in the office of the Accountant General. In 1848, he was appointed tutor to the princes of Travancore at the recommendation of the English Resident which he accepted. Madhava worked for four years as tutor to the Travancore princes. Impressed with his performance, he was offered a position in the Revenue Department of Travancore. In a short time, Madhava Rao rose to be Diwan Peishkar of the Southern Division.

During this time, Travancore was facing a severe financial crisis and the treasury was empty. A large amount of subsidy due to the Madras government remained unpaid. Not long after promulgating his infamous Doctrine of Lapse, Lord Dalhousie was looking forward to annexe Travancore too under this pretext. At this juncture, the Raja of Travancore Uthram Thirunal chose Madhava Rao to negotiate a deal with the British government which he did successfully. As a result, Madhava Rao was appointed next Diwan of Travancore.

Dewan of Travancore[edit]

Madhava Rao with (from left) the heir-apparent Visakham Thirunal and the Maharaja of Travancore, Ayilyam Thirunal

At that time the entire administration of the state was in a disorganised state, public treasuries were empty and large arrears of payments in way of salaries and otherwise were pending. The Maharajah had already taken a loan from the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple of Trivandrum and adding the subsidy to be paid to the British Government, the state of affairs was bad enough to deter anyone from taking up the post of Dewan. Soon after Madhava Rao's appointment the Shanar agitations took place in Travancore which added to the problems of the state.

In 1860 however, the orthodox Maharajah died and Madhava Rao's own pupil, the late Maharajah's nephew, Ayilyam Thirunal succeeded. Under the new and relatively less orthodox Maharajah Madhava Rao's administration started its progress. Monopolies, numerous petty taxes and cessations were abolished and land tax was reduced. By 1863 the debts of the Travancore Government were cleared and the Dewan proudly declared that "Travancore has no public debt now". Salaries of public servants were raised by more than 50 percent and its morale and efficiency was improved. Madhava Rao's progressive financial measures were testified by the fact that when he assumed the office of Dewan he had an indebted and empty treasury whereas when he left the state in 1872 the state had a reserve fund of forty lakhs of rupees, a great amount in those days.

While Madhava Rao is described essentially as a financier, he also brought a great deal of development in Education, legislation, public works, medicine, vaccination and public health, agriculture etc. Year after year his work was commended by the Madras Government. He also drew up State papers on special subjects such as Boundary disputes, trade reports and so on and started maintaining records of every department. In recognition of his services, by public subscription, a bronze statue of Madhava Rao was erected in Travancore.

However due to misunderstandings which arose between the Dewan and the Maharajah, Madhava Rao retired in February 1872. The Maharajah, however, respected his work and granted him a pension of Rs. 1000, a princely amount in those days. His initial plan was to retire to Madras but instead there was great demand for his services among the Princes of India, because of his having secured for Travancore the appellation of "Model State of India" by the British Government. Henry Fawcett described, on hearing of his retirement in 1872, Madhava Rao as:

Madhava Rao was instrumental in recognising and employing Chattampi Swamikal at the Trivandrum secretariat.[1]

Indore and Baroda[edit]

Group portrait of Madhava Rao and ministers of Baroda (circa 1880)
Tanjore Madhava Rao (C.1880)

In 1872, at the request of Tukojirao Holkar II of Indore, the Government of India persuaded Madhava Rao out of his retirement to take charge as the Diwan of Indore. Madhava Rao served as Diwan from 1873 to 1875, during which he commenced the drafting of the Indian Penal Code and wrote minutes on the opium question and the extension of railways in Indore. Shortly afterwards, the Government of India requested Madhava Rao to take over as Diwan-Regent of Baroda whose ruler Malhar Rao Gaekwad had been deposed for mal-administration.

Madhava Rao reformed the revenue administration of Baroda and curbed the power of revenue officials called Sirdars. The land rights of the Sirdars were cancelled and their lands were annexed by the state. During his tenure as Diwan-Regent, Madhava Rao also effectively re-organized the army, schools, courts of law and libraries. He also introduced a lot of town-planning measures.

Madhava Rao resigned in September 1882 due to disagreements with the new Maharaja Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III. He retired to his home in Mylapore on pension.

Indian National Congress[edit]

Madhava Rao involved himself in politics in the later years of his life. He joined the Indian National Congress in 1887, two years after its formation. He served as the President of the Reception Committee during the 1887 Madras session. In 1888, he was offered a seat in the Imperial Legislative Council by the then Viceroy of India Lord Dufferin but Madhava Rao declined the offer on ground of health.

While delivering the inaugural address during the 1887 session, Madhava Rao described the Indian National Congress as

..the soundest triump of British administration and a crown of glory to the great British nation.

However, at the same time, he warned that

The great experience of Europe has shown that representative government contains mucnh good and much evil. In introducing it into India, therefore, responsible British statesmen have to exercise great care and caution, that the good is produced and evil is excluded. In these circumstances it might be wrong to introduce that system into India at once, mereley because the Congress asks for it. It is absolutely necessary to take measures gradually, and tentatively

Madhava Rao resigned from the Standing Committee in 1889 due to differences with other members over the resolution passed on reformed legislative councils.

Later life[edit]

In his later years, Madhava Rao strove to reform the educational system. Even while serving as Diwan of Baroda, Rao was made a fellow of the Madras University. He campaigned in support of women's education and attacked child marriage. He also criticised the literal interpretation of Hindu shastras. However, Madhava Rao was, till the end, a pacifist and was moderate and unreactionary in his views on social reforms.

In 1885, at the request of the then Governor of Madras, Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff, Madhava Rao presided over the Malabar Land Tenure Commission. In 1887, he presided over the convocation of the Madras University. In December 1887, Madhava Rao presided over the inaugural session of Indian National Social Conference

Madhava Rao took a liking for British sociologist and political theorist Herbert Spencer and spent the last days of his life studying his works. He contributed articles to newspapers on a variety of topics ranging from politics and religion to astronomy. Under the pseudonyms "Native Thinker" and "Native Observer", Madhava Rao wrote opinion pieces on the German occupation of Africa and on the dress code to adopted by Hindu women in public. He forwarded his article on the German occupation of Africa to the German chancellor Bismarck who replied with a letter of acknowledgement and appreciation. In 1889, he published a pamphlet titled "Hints on the training of native children by a native Thinker" which was translated into various Indian languages as Gujarati, Marathi and Malayalam. He also composed a few small poems in Tamil.

Towards the end of his life, Madhava Rao was affected by health problems. On 22 December 1890, he suffered a stroke at his Mylapore home. Madhava Rao died three months later, on 4 April 1891 at the age of sixty-three.

Family[edit]

T. Ananda Rao, the eldest son of Madhava Rao, served as the Diwan of Mysore from 1909 to 1912. Madhava Rao's cousin R. Raghunatha Rao, served as the Diwan of Baroda and was also an early leader of the Indian National Congress.

Titles and awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Raman Nair, R and Sulochana Devi, L (2010). Chattampi Swami: An Intellectual Biography. Trivandrum,. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies, Trivandrum
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Travancore State Manual by V. Nagam Aiya, Vol II, pages 559–568
  • Govinda Parameswaran Pillai (1897). Representative Indians. Routledge. pp. 101–113. 
  • The Indian Nation Builders, Part II. Madras: Ganesh & Co. pp. 332–358. 
  • [1]ChattampiSwamikal. KristumataChedanam,. p. 165.