G. V. Raja

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P. R. Godavarma Raja
Lt. Col. Goda Varma Raja.jpg
Native name
Karthika Nal Godavarma Raja
Born13 October 1908
Died30 April 1971
Cause of deathAir Crash
Home townPoonjar, Kerala
Spouse(s)Maharani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore (m. 1934)
ChildrenCrown Prince Rama Varma (died aged six)
Maharaja Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma
Princess Pooyam Thirunal Gowri Parvati Bayi
Princess Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi
Parent(s)Narayanan Nampoothiri of Puthusseri Mana (father)
Ambalika Thamburatty of Poonjar Royal House (mother)
RelativesMaharaja Chitra Thirunal (brother-in-law)
Maharaja Uthradom Thirunal (brother-in-law)

Lt. Col. P. R. Godavarma Raja (13 October 1908 – 30 April 1971) often referred to as G. V. Raja, was a sports and tourism promoter and administrator, pilot, sportsman and Sanskrit scholar . He took special care in inspiring the youth into sports and was instrumental in founding the Kerala Sports Council in 1953. G.V Raja occupied the post of Council President till he was killed in a flight mishap in 1971.[1] G.V Raja also played a key role in establishing the Thiruvananthapuram Tennis Club, Flying Club, and the development of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.[2][3]

G V Raja was the founder President of the Kerala State Sports Council as well as Kerala Cricket Association, and patron of a large number of sports clubs and associations.[4] The CricInfo website reports that Raja was the first Keralite to become the Vice-President of Board of Control for Cricket in India, and had he lived, he would have become President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.[5][6]

G.V Raja was also the President of Tourism Promotion Council of Kerala. He was the main architect in developing Kovalam as an international tourist spot. He died in an air crash near Kullu (Kulu) Valley on April 30, 1971.[7] Sports journalists, historians, experts and sportsmen consider him as the Father of Sports and Tourism in Kerala.[8] G.V Raja's birth anniversary, 13 October, is observed as "Kerala Sports Day".[9]

Background and early life[edit]

P. R. Godavarma Raja was born on 13 October 1908 at Poonjar in Kottayam district of Kerala, into the Royal House of Poonjar. He was the third son of Smt. Ambalika Thamburatty, a lady belonging to the Poonjar dynasty, and her Sambandam husband, Puthusseri Narayanan Nampoothiri. His mother belonged to the Nair caste and, as a member of the Poonjar dynasty, was of noble birth, while his father, Sri P.N. Nampoothiri, was a high-caste Namboodiri Brahmin.

In accordance with the Sambandam system and the matrilineal Marumakkathayam system then prevalent in Kerala, Godavarma Raja belonged not to the family and caste of his father, but to that of his mother; he was a member of the Poonjar dynasty, and similarly, his children would belong to the family of their mother, whatever that might be. The Poonjar dynasty traces its lineage to the Pandyan kings of the Sangam Age. The founder of the dynasty, Manavikrama Kulashekhara Perumal, was a Pandyan king whose mother was a Chera princess. In 1152 AD, he shifted from Madurai (the Pandya capital) to present-day Kerala due to incessant civil wars in the Tamil Country. Arriving in the land of his mother, Raja Manavikrama Perumal purchased the land that covers present day Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Idukki districts from the Thekkumkur Rajas and thus established a small fiefdom for himself. In his flight from Madurai, he and his family had carried with them one of the three idols of Meenakshi, their "Kula Devatha." This idol, which had been used in Madural as the "Utsava Murthy" during the annual car festival of Meenakshi Sundareswara, was now installed by Manavikrama Perumal as the "Pratishtha" (main idol) in the Meenakshi temple which he built on the banks of the Meenachil river. The family has thus lived in Poonjar for nearly a thousand years, and their lives have revolved around this temple and the small fiefdom which surrounds it. The town of Erattupetta was the commercial center of the Poonjar kingdom.[10]

G. V. Raja completed his school education at S.M.V. High School, Poonjar and MD Seminary Higher Secondary School,[11][12] Kottayam. He then went to Madras to pursue a degree in Medicine.[13]


Goda Verma's wife, Rani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi, Rani of Attingal and Travancore.

Goda Varma's elder brother, Rama Varma, was married to Bhawani Amma Tampuratti, whose sister Sethu Parvathi Bayi was the Amma Maharani (queen mother) of Travancore. It was Rama Varma and Bhawani Amma who suggested that Goda Varma may be a suitable husband for the queen mother's daughter. The royal family agreed and made a formal proposal of marriage to Goda Varma's parents.

When the marriage proposal from the Travancore Royal Family reached him, as a prospective bridegroom for Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi, the Queen of Travancore, G.V Raja was studying in Madras for attaining a degree in Medicine. He accepted the marriage proposal, discontinuing his education. On 24 January 1934, at the age of 26, he married the then 17-year-old Maharani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi with whom he had four children.

  1. Elayarajah (Crown Prince) Avittom Thirunal Rama Varma (1938-1944), died at the age of six of a rheumatic heart condition
  2. Pooyam Thirunal Gowri Parvati Bayi (born 1941)
  3. Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi (born 1945), Indo Anglian writer,
  4. Maharaja Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma Sree Padmanabha Dasa Vanchipala, Maharaja of Travancore (born 1949).[14][15][16]

After he settled down to royal duties with his wife in Trivandrum, G.V Raja started his military career in the Travancore State Force as a Captain of the Nair Brigade. The Maharajah entrusted him with the additional responsibility of receiving and dealing with foreign dignitaries and important state guests. He was also appointed as the head of the sports and tourism departments of the then royal government. He served in the military till 1949 and retired as a Lt. Colonel.


G. V. Raja practiced and promoted sports in Kerala. He was involved in sports promotion, tourism, the aviation industry, and establishing the necessary infrastructure for the promotion of all these varied fields.[17][18]

Tourism promotion[edit]

After their wedding, G.V. Raja and his wife had spent their honeymoon at Kovalam. During this time, G.V Raja had become smitten by the beauty of the place and in later tears, even referred to Kovalam as his "first love". Since he had a prominent place in public administration as the Maharani's husband, he decided to develop and promote Kovalam as a tourist destination, and then expanded his interest to other places of tourist interest within Travancore. He started Kerala Travels Limited to popularize various key tourist locations in the Travancore Kingdom. When Travancore merged with India, Kerala Travels Limited became a private (corporate) entity under his ownership. In the 1960s, KTL collaborated with Thomas Cook and started popularizing Kovalam in western countries, and this resulted in kick-starting the hippie culture in Kovalam Beach, something which he never wanted and never thought would happen. He invited many foreign dignitaries and promoted the place by organising parties at the Kovalam Palace, according to Kerala Tourism Development Corporation website.[19][20][21].He also took the initiative to develop the Trivandrum Airport.[22]

Sports promotion[edit]

The "Kerala for you" web site reports that G. V. Raja established the All India Sports Council in 1954, the first of its kind in the country. He formed the Golf Club Association in Kerala and also introduced Keralites to mountaineering and surfing.[23]

G. V. Raja invited Wimbledon champion Bill Tilden to play an exhibition match on 30 January 1938 to popularise Tennis in the state.[24] Following this, he founded the Trivandrum Tennis Club on 1 February 1938 at Shasthamangalam.[25][26][27] G. V. Raja was the president of Kerala Cricket Association from 1950 to 1963.[28] He became the first person from Kerala to become an office-holder for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) when he became its Vice President. He was the founder President of the Travancore Sports Council (renamed Kerala Sports Council) that was formed in 1954. The Council was formed as the result of a meeting of 11 sports organizations of Kerala. After the formation of the Kerala state, it became the Kerala State Sports Council. G. V. Raja remained the President of the Council till his death. The list of other organizations that he started includes Trivandrum Golf Club Committee,[29] Veli Boat Club, Roller Skating Ring, SreePaadam Stadium and Trivandrum/Kerala Flying Club[30] (re-named as Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology). He served as the Officer Commandant of the Travancore University Labour Core and was also the first Physical Education Director of the university. In 1953 he conducted the Thiru-Kochi Swimming Competition. He formed the Aquatic Association and was the President of Lawn tennis Association.[31] He was instrumental in organizing the Asian Cup qualifying round tournament involving Israel, Iran, Pakistan and India at the Maharaja’s College Grounds, Ernakulam in 1959 and had spearheaded a team of organizers in hosting the Santosh Trophy for the first time in Kerala in 1956.[32]


In 1971 he went to Patiala, to participate in All India sports Council Conference. He made an unscheduled trip to the Kulu Valley on 30 April 1971. With two others, G V Raja flew in a three-seater aircraft which nose-dived and crashed, killing all its passengers. He was aged 62 at the time of his death. His body was flown to Thiruvananthapuram and cremated at Poonjar.[33]


The sports school in Thiruvananthapuram was named G.V. Raja Sports School in his honour. A sports stadium in Thiruvananthapuram is named after him. Kerala State Sports Council instituted the G.V. Raja award, awarded yearly for excellence in sport.[34] The Kerala Tourism Department's award for lifetime achievement in tourism is also named after him.[35] Lt. Col. Raja's birth anniversary, 13 October, is observed as "Kerala Sports Day".[36]


  • Oru Theerthayathra by Uma Maheshwari


  1. ^ "KSSC President - President Details as on Lt.Col.Goda Varma Raja Founder President Kerala Sports Council 1954-1971". Kerala State Sports Council. Kerala State Sports Council. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  2. ^ http://www.ttc.org.in/history.php
  3. ^ "Trivandrum International Airport/History, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia"Trivandrum International Airport
  4. ^ "Kerala State Sports Council : KSSC Presidents". Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  5. ^ cricinfoIndia website : "The greatest figure who dominated Travancore - Cochin and Kerala cricket like a Colossus was the legendary Col.Godavarma Raja of the Travancore Royal Family. A Prince among sportsmen and a sportsman among princes, Col.Raja was responsible for putting Kerala on the sports and tourist map of India. It was under his inspiring leadership that a few members from the Trippunithura royal family and cricket enthusiasts from Trivandrum and Kottayam met in 1950 and formed the Travancore-Cochin Cricket Association. From this, emerged the Kerala Cricket Association. Calm must have been the middle name of Col. Raja. He possessed the Midas touch. He was the undoubted CEO of all sports and games organisations in the State. A keen sportsman himself he played all the games, but tennis and polo were among his favourites. An endearing personality, with a gentle smile always on his lips and mischievous, twinkling eyes, Col Raja was one of God's good men. He was the first from this part of the state to become a Vice President of the BCCI. Prof. MV Chandgadkar, a former secretary of the BCCI one told me how Col.Raja walked into the conference hall at Jaipur where the Board was in session, clutching his tennis rackets! The Raja was ever ready for a game of tennis once the day's business was over. Col.Raja's hospitality was proverbial. He played host to Vijay Merchant, Col.CK Nayudu and Lala Amarnath when he came as manager of the Railways athletic squad and the Kumararaja of Venkitagiri who led the Andhra side and scores of other worthies. For 13 years from 1950 he was the President of the Kerala Cricket Association and had he lived - he died in a tragic an crash, in an aircraft piloted by himself - he would have become President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Col Raja still lives in the memory of all lovers of the game and the GV Raja pavilion at the University Stadium is a fitting tribute to this great son of Kerala."
  6. ^ cricinfo, India. "History of Kerala cricket By Professor AS Balakrishnan". CricInfo 2000. Archived from the original on 4 May 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  7. ^ keralawindow, .net. "IMPORTANT PERSONALITIES - GODAVARMA RAJA (COLONOL)". keralawindow.net. keralawindow. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  8. ^ "G.V. Raja birth centenary". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 12 October 2008. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  9. ^ "Impressive function to mark Kerala Sports Day". Chennai, India: The hindu. 14 October 2008. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  10. ^ "Poonjar Palace".
  11. ^ "Sri. V J Itticheria (1919--1943) The buildings, ground were given to Baselius College were built during his tenure. During his time greats Olympian Abdul Salle, Col. Godavarma Raja studied here."
  12. ^ mdseminary, highersecondaryschool. "Heads Of MDSHSS (1893-till Date)". Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  13. ^ A. N., Ravindradas. "മറക്കരുത്, ഫുട്ബോളിന്റെ ഈ രക്ഷകനെ (Malayalam)". Deshabhimani (Malayalam Edition). Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  14. ^ "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."
  15. ^ HANEEF, MAHIR (2013-12-17). "'His Highness' isn't unconstitutional: Kerala high court". THE TIMES OF INDIA. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  16. ^ Express News Service (4 January 2014). "Moolam Thirunal Anointed Custodian of Temple". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  17. ^ In 1936, Queen, Karthika Thirunal choose Haylcon Palace for her honeymoon with newly wed husband, Prince Consort Lt.Col. Godavarma Raja/G. V. Raja. It was Prince Consort G.V Raja who found immense tourist potentiality of Kovalam and decided promote the region among state guests, by inviting Thomas Cook & Sons- UK to develop the region. The Maharajah of Travancore, Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, soon started hosting regular state banquets in Kovalam Haylcon Palace. Thus, the move helped to lay foundations of modern tourism industry in South India.
  18. ^ "Kovalam – Travel guide at Wikivoyage". en.wikivoyage.org. Retrieved 2018-12-30.
  19. ^ "Goda Varma Raja" (in Malayalam). Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  20. ^ "Kayikakelikalude Thampuran" (in Malayalam). Webduniya. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  21. ^ Maheshawari, Uma. "Maharani Karthika Thirunal:Witnessing History". Kerala 4u.in. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  22. ^ "Trivandrum International Airport/History, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia"Trivandrum International Airport 'The airport was established as part of the Royal Flying Club under the initiative of Colonel Goda Varma Raja, husband of H. H. Princess Karthika Thirunal of Travancore Kingdom.[8] Col G.V Raja, being a trained pilot, felt the need an airport to accommodate Travancore in the aviation map of India. In 1935, on royal patronage of Maharaja Chitra Thirunal, Tata Airlines made its maiden flight to the airport using DH.83 Fox Moth aircraft under command of India's first pilot Nevill Vintcent, carried two passengers Jamshed Navoroji, a Tata company official, and Kanchi Dwarakadas, commercial agent of Travancore to Bombay Presidency along with a special mail from Viceroy of British India, Lord Willingdon wishing birthday greetings to the Maharaja.[9] The first flight from the airport took off on 1 November 1935, carrying mails of Royal Anchal (Travancore Post) to Bombay. Soon in 1938, the Royal Government of Travancore acquired a Dakota aircraft as Maharajah's private aircraft and placed 1st Squadron of Royal Indian Air Force (Travancore) for protection of State from aerial attacks.'
  23. ^ Maheshwari, Uma. "G.V.Raja (The history of Sports and Games in Kerala)". Kerala 4u.in. Retrieved 22 January 2014. "He did mountaineering course in Switzerland, and enjoyed mountaineering at the Alps. He was a person with extraordinary ability to organize things. Amidst his busy schedule when Col. Thirumeni as he is called affectionately called reaches TTC other members would have finished their practice. He used to call the picker boys Maniyan or Thanakappan to play against him. And finally these two rose to the rank of State tennis players. He believed professional coaching is essential for sports too and brought A G Ram Singh to train cricket enthusiasts in Kerala."
  24. ^ "Trivandrum Tennis Club : About us / History". Archived from the original on 18 December 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  25. ^ "Sports and Games in Kerala". Information & Public Relation Department, Kerala. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  26. ^ Where tradition meets talent, THE HINDU, By GEETHIKA CHANDRAHASAN : 'Coach N.B. Vijayakumar also has a long association with the Club. He started off as a ball picker, learnt the game and ended up winning the State Championship thrice. He has fond memories of Col. GV Raja : "He used to take a special interest in boys who played well. Once, he took all of us ball pickers to the waterworks to watch a swimming competition and then dropped us back in his own car."
  27. ^ CHANDRAHASAN, GEETHIKA (22 January 2005). "Where tradition meets talent". The Hindu. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  28. ^ "Profile of Kerala Cricket Association". Archived from the original on 26 March 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  29. ^ "Thiruvananthapuram Corporation : About City" (in Malayalam). Thiruvananthapuram Corporation. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  30. ^ “Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology”, Thiruvananthapuram, originally established as the “Kerala Flying Club” by founder Lt.Col.G.V.Raja, was registered under the Indian Companies Act 1956 on 14.07.1959. In 1980, the name“ Kerala Flying Club” was changed to Kerala Aviation Training Centre and later in 1981 the Government of Kerala brought the institution under its direct control. Subsequently with the approval of the Director General of Civil Aviation, KATC was renamed as Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology a Society under the title Travancore Cochin Literary Scientific and Charitable Societies Act 1955.
  31. ^ Maheshwari, Uma. "G.V.Raja (The history of Sports and Games in Kerala)". Kerala 4u.in. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  32. ^ Kerala Football, Association. "About Kerala Football Association - KFA - A brief history of Kerala Football Association and the game in Kerala…". KFA. KFA. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  33. ^ Maheshawari, Uma. "G.V.Raja (The history of Sports and Games in Kerala)". Kerala 4u.in. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  34. ^ "G.V. Raja award for Renjith". The Hindu. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  35. ^ "Tourism award for Thankam Philip". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 20 January 2004. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  36. ^ "Impressive function to mark Kerala Sports Day". Chennai, India: The hindu. 14 October 2008. Retrieved 15 December 2009.

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