Travancore royal family
|Kingdom of Travancore|
|Part of History of Kerala|
|Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma||1729–1758|
|Gowri Lakshmi Bayi||1810–1815|
|Gowri Parvati Bayi‡||1815–1829|
|Sethu Lakshmi Bayi‡||1924–1931|
|Chithira Thirunal||1931–1939, 1939-1991 (Titular)|
|Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma||1991-2013 (Titular)|
|Moolam Thirunal Rama VarmaVI||2013- (Titular)|
|‡ Regent Queens|
The Travancore Royal Family is a Chera dynasty that ruled over the Indian princely state of Travancore until 1949. The family descended from the Venad line of the Chera kings and holds the dignity of being Samantha Kshatriya. Sree Padmanabhaswamy is the chief family deity. The Royal family is alternatively known as the Kupaka Swaroopam, Thripappur Swaroopam, Venad Swaroopam, Vanchi Swaroopam etc. It has its seat today at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, India. The last ruling Maharajah of Travancore was Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, died on July 20, 1991 after a stroke. Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the younger brother of the last ruling monarch of the Kingdom of Travancore, Maharajah Chitra Thirunal Rama Varma, died at a private hospital in the early hours on 16 December 2013. He was succeeded by Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, son of Maharani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi and Lt. Col. G. V. Raja. Next in line is Revathi Thirunal Balagopal Varma.
- 1 Recorded history of the dynasty
- 2 Merger Of Attingal
- 3 Thrippadidaanam and Sree Padmanabhadasas
- 4 Adoption
- 5 Titles and precedence
- 6 Marriage and other customs
- 7 The Royal Family Members
- 8 Palaces
- 9 List of Maharajahs of Travancore
- 10 See also
- 11 Further reading
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Recorded history of the dynasty
According to one existing version, the founding members of the Travancore royal family are said to have come to Kerala, from the banks of the Narmada river. Another belief is that Parashurama himself crowned the first official ruler in the dynasty. Officially, their lineage can be traced definitively to at least 820 C.E, which is based on the claim of descent from the Later Cheras of the three southern Indian Mandala Kingdoms namely Chera Mandalam, Pandya Mandalam and Chola Mandalam. According to another legend, a branch of the Chera family was sent to the extreme north of the then Kerala, where they settled and came to be known as the Mooshika Royal family, or the later Kolathiris, while another branch was deputed to go south to grapple with the Pandyan invasions.
One of the two branches of the Chera dynasty shifted to Venad/Quilon where it merged with the Ay kingdom. Ravi Varma Kulasekhara was the last rulers of this Chera Ay dynasty. Ravi Varma Kulasekara described himself as Ay as well as Komaravarmaan as his mother was a Pandya princess. Numerous places are named after this Tamil Cherai dynasty. Ravi Varma Kulasekhara (1299-1314) invaded the territories of the Pandyas and Cholas and performed imperial coronations at Madurai and Kanchipuram and thus threw of the Pandyan hegemony in the region. However his success was short lived and after him his successors could not hold on to these acquisitions of the Pandyas and Cholas. After 1310 the last Chera-Ay King Veera Udaya Marthandavarma was forced to abdicate in favour of the princesses sent from the Kolathiri kingdom called Attingal and Kunnumel Ranis. But they adopted the titles of Chera-Ay rulers. The line of kings after Ravi Varma continued through the Marumakkathayam law of matrilineal succession of Nairs, from whom most of the royal house hold of Kerala comes. Soon after Ravi Varma's death two princesses were adopted from the Kolathiri Royal family and installed as Ranis or Queens at Attingal. The Venad Royal family continued thus in the female line. Whenever there were no females to take forth the line, princesses were adopted from the Kolathiri family, the latest adoption being in 1994. Umayamma Rani who reigned towards the end of the 17th century was a prominent ruler. Marthanda Varma, the "maker of modern Travancore" and Dharma Raja were powerful rulers who re-established the power of monarchy in the state and destroyed that of the nobles. By the early 19th century the kingdom became a princely state under the British. Swathi Thirunal was one of the most popular rulers of the 19th century. The reign of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma brought about revolutionary reforms like the Temple Entry Proclamation, Free and Compulsory education for all etc. and Travancore had become one of the most prosperous Princely States in the British Empire. The British government accorded the Maharajah of Travancore a high 19 gun salute outside Travancore, whereas locally and for all temple festivals, the highest salute of 21 guns were fired.
Merger Of Attingal
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 Sree Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, 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.
"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."
Thrippadidaanam and Sree Padmanabhadasas
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. 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". It is erroneously believed that use of the title "Sree Padmanabhadasa" before royal male members' names came into being after Thrippadidaanam, but this title was in use even in 16th century. During the first birthday ceremony of Maharajah Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma(Dharmaraja) in 1725, he is referred to as "Sree Padmanabhadasa" which was much before the Thrippadidaanam(1750) by Maharajah Anizham Thirunal Veerabaala Marthanda Varma. The title of Sree Padmanabhadasa is prefixed to the name of every Travancore King while the royal women are 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 (wedding of Travancore Princesses). 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.
. The females of the royal family are styled as the Queens of Attingal with the titles of Attingal Mootha Thampuran(Senior Queen of Attingal) and Attingal Elaya Thampuran(Junior Queen of Attingal) and Attingal Kochu Thampuran(First Princess). The first adoption to the Travancore Royal Family was in the early 14th century from the Kolathiri family because the Kolathiris are the first one to get kshtriyahood during 13th century. This adoption resulted in the branching of the Royal family into four families namely the branch at Trivandrum, another at Kottarakara known as Elayadathu Swaroopam, the Peraka Thavazhi branch of Nedumangad and the Quilon branch. The later two branches died out into the 18th century whereas the last Rani of Kottarakara fled after battle with Maharajah Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma. In 1630 two males were adopted from the Cochin Royal Family  sowing the seed of dissension between the branches of the Royal family. Later in 1684 one male and two females were adopted from the Kolathiri family, from which family all subsequent adoptions were made, by Umayamma Rani. In 1688 two males, including Rajah Rama Varma, and 2 females were adopted and the famous Travancore King Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma was born to one of these princesses. In 1718 a princess was adopted, whose son was the later King Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma Dharma Raja. In 1748 again four princesses were adopted and Balarama Varma (1798–1810) belonged to this line. The next adoption of 1788 brought forth the famous Maharanis, Gowri Lakshmi Bayi and Gowri Parvati Bayi and all the male rulers up to 1924, the last ruler in this line being Maharajah Moolam Thirunal. In 1857 two princesses, including Rani Lakshmi Bayi, were adopted from a branch of the Kolathiri family residing at Mavelikara since the 1790s, but by 1901 both these princesses and all their issue died. In 1900 again two princesses were adopted from Mavelikara, granddaughters of Raja Ravi Varma, Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and Sethu Parvathi Bayi (gave birth to the last ruling monarch of Travancore, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma). The latest adoption occurred in 1994 by Princess Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi who adopted a princess named Lekha Parvathi Bayi.
Titles and precedence
All members of the ruling family receive two names, an official personal name and a name associated with the 'star' or 'Thirunal' under which they are born,(eg: Maharajah Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma).
- The senior most male or the Valiya Thampuran is the head of the Royal family, born in the female line, to a Queen of Attingal, becomes King with the title of Sree Padmanabhadasa Vanchi Paala (Personal Name) Varma Kulasekhara Perumal Kiritapathi Manney Sultan Maharajah Raja Ramaraja Bahadur, Shamsher Jang, Maharajah of Travancore.
- The Heir Apparent is known as the Maharajkumar (personal name) Varma, Eliya Raja of Travancore.
- The senior most female of the Royal family is the Attingal Mootha Thampuran and is known as Sree Padmanabhasevini Vanchidharma Vardhini Raja Rajeshwari Maharani (personal name) Bai, Senior Maharani of Travancore, with the style of Her Highness.. The Junior Maharani is the Attingal Elaya Thampuran and if mother of the ruling prince is known as Sree Padmanabhasevini Vanchipala Dyumani Raja Rajeshwari Maharani Maharani (personal name) Bai, Junior Maharani of Travancore, with the style of Her Highness. The First Princess is known as Kochu Thampuran and is known as (personal name) Sree Padmanabhasevini Vanchidharma Vardhini Attingal Kochu Thampuran.
- Prince Consorts of the Senior and Junior Maharani are known as the Valiya Koyi Thampuran and Kochu Koyi Thampuran respectively, selected from one of four or five royal houses (or 'palaces') who were closely related to the ruling family .
- Consorts of the Maharajahs are usually Nair women and is ranked as nobility, and not royalty, is known as Kochamma or Ammachi and holds the title of (mother's house name) Ammachi Panapilla Amma Srimathi (personal name) Pilla Kochamma.. The Maharajahs are only allowed morganatic marriages so as to maintain Marumakkathayam. The Travancore Maharajahs' children do not succeed to the throne under the Marumakkathayam Law, as they belong to their mother's family, and instead get a title of nobility, namely Thampi and Thankachi. The sons of the ruling Kings are known as Sri (mother's house name) (personal name) Thampi. The daughters of the Kings are known as (mother's house name) Ammaveetil Srimathi (personal name) Pilla Kochamma. 
The Travancore Royal Family follows the Matrilineal inheritance.
- The surviving younger brothers of the Maharajah, according to age, and by the same mother.
- The sons of the sisters of the Maharajah, according to age. The sons of elder sisters succeeded before those of the younger sisters.
- The sons of the eldest maternal aunt of the Maharajah, according to age.
- The sons of the daughters of the eldest maternal aunt of the Maharajah, according to age. The sons of elder daughters succeeded before those of the younger sisters.
Marriage and other customs
The marriages of the princesses are known as Pallikettus  while those of the Maharajahs are known as the ceremony of bestowing the Pattum Parivattavum Chaarthal. The form of marriage is Sambandham and the consorts of the Princesses are from certain select families of Koyi Thampurans came from one of four or five royal houses (or 'palaces') who were closely related to the ruling family whereas the consorts of the Maharajahs belong to four houses known as Ammaveedus. The spouses of the Maharajahs and Maharanis are not considered members of the royal house owing to the prevalent Marumakkathayam Law. However they received many royal dignities and privileges owing to their position as consorts.  An exception to this rule of selection and status of Prince Consort was made when Sree chithira Thirunal chose Colonel Godavarma Raja of Poonjar Royal House (not from the normal select royal houses) as the Consort for his only sister, Maharani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi in 1934. Col. G. V. Raja went on to become a resourceful ally of King Sree Chithira Thirunal, made pivotal contributions to Kerala's infrastructure development as well as sports and tourism.
Cessation of the practice of mahādanams
The kings of Thiruvithamkoor had been conditionally promoted to Kshatryahood with periodic performance of 16 mahādānams (great gifts in charity) such as Hiranya-garbhā, Hiranya-Kāmdhenu,and Hiranyāswaratā in which each of which thousands of Brahmins had been given costly gifts apart from each getting a minimum of 1 kazhanch (78.65 gm) of gold. In 1848 the Marquess of Dalhousie, then Governor-General of British India, was appraised that the depressed condition of the finances in Thiruvithamkoor was due to the mahādanams by the rulers. Lord Dalhousie, instructed Lord Harris, Governor of the Madras Presidency, warn the then King of Thiruvithamkoor Martanda Varma (Uttram Tirunal 1847–60) that if he did not put a stop to this practice, the Madras Presidency would take over his Kingdom's administration. This led to the cessation of the practice of mahādanams. All Travancore Kings including Sree Moolam Thirunal conducted Hiranyagarbham and Tulapurushadaanam ceremony. Maharajah Chithira Thirunal is the only King of Travancore not to have conducted Hiranyagarbham or Tulaapurushadaanam as he considered these as an extremely costly ceremonies.
The Royal Family Members
The eldest son of Amma Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bayi was the last King Of Travancore, Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, who signed the instrument of accession and amalgamated his Kingdom into the Union of India in 1949. The Royal family consists, in the line of Sethu Parvati Bayi, the last Maharajah Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma (unmarried), his brother Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, and of their late sister Maharani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi (married to Col. Godavarma Raja/G. V. Raja of the Poonjar Royal Family). Princess Karthika Thirunal and Col. Godavarma Raja had two daughters (Pooyam Thirunal and Aswathi Thirunal) and two sons (Avittom Thirunal(died at the age of six) and Moolam Thirunal) (current Head of the Royal Family and Titular Maharajah). Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma married Shrimathi Radha Devi Panampillai Amma Kochamma (the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Krishnan Gopinath Pandalai, MB, CM, FRCS, LRCP, Madras), and has a son, Ananthapadmanabhan Thampi and a daughter, Parvathi Devi Thankachi. He used to reside at Pattom Palace, Trivandrum, till his death in 16 December 2013. The current head of Travancore Royal family is Sree Padmanabhadasa Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, born on June 12, 1949 at Kowdiar Palace, as the youngest son of Maharani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi by her husband, Lieutenant-Colonel P.R. Godavarma Raja/G. V. Raja of Poonjar Palace. He became the Heir Apparent with the title of Elaya Rajah on July 20, 1991, after the death of Sree Padmanabhadasa Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma. He is a Physics graduate from Mar Evanios College and also studied business management in London. After his education, he joined Aspinwall and Co Ltd in Mangalore 1971, and served as a consultant and in various executive positions like Additional Director 2004-2005, Director of Planning 2005-2007, Executive Director Aspinwall & Co (Travancore) Ltd since 2005, Member of Aspinwall Promoter Group since 2005, Managing Director of Aspinwall and Co Ltd in Mangalore since 2008. He married Shrimati Dr. Girija Devi Panapillai Amma Kochamma and is issueless. Princess Pooyam Thirunal Gowri Parvathi Bayi is married to Sri Chembrol Raja Raja Varma and has two children, a son and a daughter, Prince Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma and Princess Thiruvathira Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi. Princess Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi was married to Late. Sri Sukumaran Raja Raja Varma (died from injuries after a car accident, at the Ochira District Hospital, Kerala, December 30, 2005) and has three children, two sons and one adopted daughter, Prince Pooruruttathi Thirunal Marthanda Varma, Prince Avittom Thirunal Aditya Varma, and Princess Bharani Thirunal Lekha Parvathi Bayi. Prince Pooruruttathi Thirunal Marthanda Varma married Kalaimamani Srimathi Gopika Panampillai Amma Kochamma alias Gopikavarma, the famous Mohiniyattam dancer as well as Director of Dasya Dance School, Member Advisory Board of the Ability Foundation in Chennai etc. They have a son, Sri Vishnu Thampi. Prince Avittom Thirunal Aditya Varma married Srimathi Reshmi Thamburatty of Mariapalli Palace, Kottayam. They have twin daughters, Gowri Varma and Prabha Varma. Princess Bharani Thirunal Lekha Parvathi Bayi was adopted by Princess Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi in 1996. She married Anoopkumar Varma and has a daughter Princess Swathi Thirunal.
Maharani Pooradam Thirunal Sethu Lakshmi Bayi had two daughters, Princesses Uthram Thirunal Lalithamba Bayi and Karthika Thirunal Indira Bayi. Revathi Thirunal Balagopala Varma, the grandson of Maharani Pooradam Thirunal, is the titular Elayarajah of Travancore.
The Constitutional Amendment of 1971 terminated the status of the Maharajahs of the erstwhile princely states as rulers and abolished their rights to receive privy purses. However the other clauses of the agreements signed between the Government of India and the Princes in 1947 legally still hold. The Royal Family of Travancore has no administrative authority since 1971. Till 1956 Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma served as Rajpramukh of Thiru-Kochi. Later in 1971 while the family lost their privy purse and other privileges, the rights of the family in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple were respected and the current head of the family, Sree Padmanabhadasa Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, fulfills his duty towards the temple as the Titular Maharajah of Travancore and as the Supreme Guardian or Custodian of Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple, Trivandrum. The allowances of all the family members born prior to 1949 are also still paid by the Government of Kerala.
Some prominent members of the Travancore royal family today include Princess Bharani Thirunal (Rukmini Varma), Princess Aswathy Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, Prince Punartham Thirunal Shreekumar Varma, Princess Makam Thirunal (Dr Lakshmi Raghunandan) and musician Prince Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma (disciple of Vechoor Harihara Subramania Iyer and Dr. Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna).
The Padmanabhapuram Palace was the main residence of the Travancore Maharajahs whereas the Ranis of Attingal resided at that place in their own palaces. Later the royal family moved to Trivandrum wherein the females resided at the Sree Padam Palace and the men in many other Palaces like Thulsi Hill Palace, Rangavilaasom Palace, Kuthiramalika Palace etc.
The branch of Sethu lakshmi Bayi had sold all their properties in Kerala in the late 1940s and early 1950s itself and moved outside the State. Most of them are settled at places like Chennai, Bangalore, also in foreign countries like United States of America, Australia, South Africa etc. They don't take part in any royal rituals or temple ceremonies, and is not in touch with Sethu Parvathi Bayi's family in Trivandrum.
After the Constitutional Amendment of 1971, the properties and estates of the Royal Family were partitioned and divided into two equal halves among the branches of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bayi. However certain legal disputes continued between Balagopala Varma (the grandson of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi) and Maharajah Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, regarding the ownership of the Stalemond Palace in Poojapura. The King had donated the Stalemond Palace for the creation of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology, Trivandrum The case was won by Maharajah Sree Chithira Thirunal after the final verdict given by the Supreme Court Of India in 1991.
Presently only the descendents of Sethu Parvathi Bayi live at Kowdiar Palace as it belongs to her legal heirs and their descendents. They are all based in Trivandrum and are also the ones who keep alive the traditions and rituals of their ancient dynasty including the upkeep of the famous Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple.
List of Maharajahs of Travancore
- Anizham Thirunal Veerabaala Marthanda Varma 1729–1758
- Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma (Dharma Raja) 1758–1798
- Avittom Thirunal Balarama Varma 1798–1810
- Gowri Lakshmi Bayi 1810–1815 (Queen from 1810–1813 and Regent Queen from 1813–1815)
- Gowri Parvati Bayi (Regent) 1815–1829
- Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma 1829–1846 (coronation in 1815, Ruling Maharajah from 1829-1846)
- Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma 1846–1860
- Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma 1860–1880
- Visakham Thirunal Rama Varma 1880–1885
- Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma 1885–1924
- Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (Regent) 1924–1931
- Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma 1931–1991 (coronation in 1924, Ruling Maharajah from 1931-1971 and Titular Maharajah from 1971-1991)
- Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma 1991-2013 (Titular)
- Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma 2013- (Present Titular Maharajah, Head of the Travancore Royal Family and the Supreme Guardian/Custodian of Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple)
- Menon, P. Shungoonny (1879). A History of Travancore from the Earliest Times. Higginbotham & Co., Madras.
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