Travancore, CP and the Monazite sands

Many of you would have seen the Petromax or used one at home or seen it at the many festivals of Kerala on pole tops or ledges. Today its place has been taken by rechargeable lanterns and the such from the gelf, or the esteemed tube light. The gas lamp of these old times had what we know as a hanging gauze mantle. We pump the kerosene which creates a fine mist with air in the lamp, we then set it alight, the gauze catches fire and turns incandescent emitting a bright white light. Around which people sit and did various things, especially in Kerala like indulging in active gossip, creating intrigues and talking ill of others (paradushanam), drinking lots of toddy or other inebriating liquids and exchanging necessary & unnecessary banter, and after a while breaking out into impromptu tribal type dances singing thithitaro thithitai. But well, we are not going to talk about petromax gas lamps or toddy, we are going to get to the mantle, at least the mantles used around the late 19th century. 

As an old explanation goes - Everybody knows the mysterious 'mantle' that in the new lamp turns the long-familiar yellow flame of the gas into a dense, brilliant, white light. The 'mantle,' then, is a sort of stocking, loosely woven of cotton, and having the end tied up with asbestos thread. After being sewn, it is plunged into a bath of liquid the chief component of which is monazite, the leading virtue of which, again, is in the thorium it contains. In itself the skeleton or 'mantle,' as it is now, is infusible, and when placed over a properly prepared burner, instantly makes the gas-flame incandescent. 

So as gas lamps were in vogue and electric light was still a luxury (and still not bright enough), Monazite and Throium were an important commodity. At that time the main patents for mantle manufacture was held by a German scientist Welsbach (student of Bunsen – the Bunsen burner guy) and factories were erected in Europe. USA had Monazite supplies from North Carolina and had some issues with the US mantle patent that had lapsed, so the world monopoly was with the Germans. In addition the Throium was needed for filaments of lamps, an alloy of tungsten and thorium, which again was imported from Germany.

By then radioactivity was discovered and realization dawned that Thorium had destructive uses as well. And well, as things do get confounded and murky, war was soon to break out between the Germans and the others and the new fear of the use of Thorium for nuclear bombs was also foremost in the minds of scientists. With the sources and technology, it was not far from the reach of Germans, they thought. How would one cut off the German connections to Thorium? 

The only known deposits of monazite sand of any commercial importance at that time were those worked on the coast of Brazil and in Travancore, the latter sand being of considerably greater value because of its higher content of Thoria. For several years prior to 1914 the whole output of Travancore, amounting to 1300 tons per annum, and equivalent to 2300 tons of the best grade Brazilian sand, has gone to Germany for treatment. So as you can see one of the biggest suppliers of that period was Travancore, from where the Monazite was shipped out through the ports of Tuticorin.

And thus during the pre Independence days, Travancore rose to much prominence due to this Thorium link. But there was one person who tried to manipulate the situation to his master’s benefit and gain the maximum mileage out of it. The protagonist of that story was none other than the master Shakuni (or Chanakya if one wanted to chose that persona) – Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer. While this will not be a study of Sir CP, his role in this affair cannot be ignored and he almost played the game to perfection using the twin barbs of Thorium and communism (fear of – during those McCarthy years) with two nations USA and Britain in an attempt at keeping Travancore independent as a kingdom (or at least to get larger share of autonomy as his supporters maintain). The tug of war that followed, involving USA, Britain, India, Germany and the Kingdom of Travancore is very interesting.

First a small introduction to Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer. He was many things, a brilliant lawyer, administrator, politician and most of all Dewan of Travancore between 1936 and 1947. Ramaswami Iyer as Dewan is credited with having introduced social and administrative reforms as well as doing a lot of good things for the state of Travancore, when he was not quarrelling with others. His main bogey was the rising communist leanings in Kerala which started to shake the foundations of monarchy and entrenched feudalism. When the rebellions started (in 1946 the rebels established a government of their own at Vayalar village and declared independence from Travancore), he ruthlessly put them down (Punnapra Vaylar revolt with over a 1000 dead) and later stood firm in asking for an independent nation of Travancore from the British, to be established and ruled based on an American model.

Why did Travancore become a strategically important state at that time? As the furor over whether Travancore would join the union or not was raging, further fuel was spilled in the fire when a rumor started that Travancore had reached a private agreement with Britain over the Thorium deposits. Nehru was outraged and threatened to send the Indian air force to bomb Travancore. The Travancore rajah represented by Sir CP countered by stating that Travancore would not join India since India had sided with the Soviet Union (recall that the rajah and the CP had a number of issues with the communists at Punnapra Vaylar some months ago and were still shaken by it) and had formally deputed Mme Vijayalaksmi Pandit as Ambassador. Later CP stated that Travancore would become only a part of the United Nations and started secret negotiations with America & Britain. This set the tongues wagging in Delhi and blood pressures soaring.

Let’s for a moment get back to Thorium and Travancore. Before the 2nd world war, the German manufacturers of thorium nitrate exercised as close control over the monazite deposits of Travancore, India, as over those of Brazil. Only a limited quantity of the sand was sold to gas-mantle manufacturers and other consumers in the United Kingdom, and then at a price nine times the price paid by the German consumers. Such a monoply of the supplies of raw material made the German monoply of the thorium nitrate industry almost complete. When German manufacturers of gas mantles were securing the Travancore monazite sands for a price of four pounds a ton, manufacturers in England were paying £36 a ton.

As an old article on Travancore in an Russian trade journal explains - A lease for working the monazite deposits of Travancore was granted a few years ago by the Durbar, with the approval of the Government of India, to the London Consolidated Tin Mining Co., on condition that the concession should be transferred by that company, if at all, only to another British company. After the granting of the lease the Travancore Minerals Company was formed to work the deposits. The Minerals Company entered into a contract to sell the whole output to a German firm. Soon after the war broke out it was found that the whole of the preferred stock of the Minerals Company (the operating company) and 11,000 ordinary shares of the company, were held in trust for the Auer Company of Berlin, which, it is well known, has acted as one of Germany's most powerful and long-branched tentacles in reaching out all over the world for control of the greater metal deposits. 

The India Office acted promptly to change this state of affairs with regard to the Travancore sands. All the contracts with Germany were cancelled. It was required that thereafter all the directors of the Travancore Minerals Co. must be British-born; and that the company should hold itself ready at all times to sell monazite directly and at reasonable prices to British firms.

But we come back to the situation with Sir CP – Quoting Outlook An equally threatening problem was posed by the continuing defiance of the recalcitrant princes. Though relatively smaller, the coastal state of Travancore became more vociferous than others in demanding independence. Its veteran, authoritarian Dewan, Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyer, knew that with direct access to the sea (unlike Hyderabad and Kashmir) and a valuable export trade, a source material for the atomic fuel thorium ( and traces of Uranium) heightened his bargaining position. An export agreement with Britain for monazite had been signed.

As Guha says in a Hindu article -He established secret ties with senior Ministers of the British Government, who encouraged him in the hope that he would give them privileged access to monazite, a material Travancore was rich in and which could give the British a lead in the atomic arms race. Also egging on Travancore’s bid for independence was Mohammed Ali Jinnah. On June 20, 1947, Jinnah wired Iyer to say that Pakistan was “ready to establish relationship with Travancore which will be of mutual advantage”. The Dewan replied that since his State was taking steps to “maintain herself as an independent entity”, he proposed that a treaty be signed between the “independent Sovereign State” of Travancore and the Government of Pakistan. To further increase his influence, C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, allowed the minerals attaché of the US Embassy to survey the region's monazite sands in the hopes of attracting bids from US firms for concessions. 

As Ajit Bhattacharjea puts it - Aiyer rivaled US Senator McCarthy in his obsession with communism. He used it to oppose links with India, as evident from his letter to Attlee on July 14: "Travancore cannot be forced to join a dominion whose leaders have at this critical juncture in world history established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Republic. (Vijaylakshmi Pandit had been posted to Moscow.) This step cannot but be followed by the establishment of Russian embassies and consulates all over India with results that need not be detailed. Within 50 miles of Travancore are the main centres of communist influence in India." Nehru complained to Mountbatten about Aiyer's remarks about India's diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union. The basic problem with C.P., Nehru said, was that he had a very inflated opinion of his own importance. The Viceroy promised to persuade him to accede.

Aiyer sounded firm but less pugnacious after the British Parliament adopted the India Independence Bill. "In law as well as in fact, Travancore will become an independent country from (August 15)," he announced. But he was willing to "work in cooperation with the rest of India" on common facilities. However, Travancore would issue its own currency. 

Travancore's importance was underlined in a Cabinet note by Earl Listowel, secretary of state for India. He said its economic and geographical position enabled it to assert independence. It had a range of exportable products and its own ports. Listowel advised against Britain doing anything that could help Travancore assert independence. However, if the state was able to do so on its own, British policy could be reconsidered. 

The minister for supply, John Wilmot, differed. He noted that the richest deposit of monazite was in Travancore. And thorium was comparable to uranium as a source material for atomic energy. It would only be to Britain's advantage, therefore, for Travancore to be independent. "Our chances of getting monazite from Travancore," he concluded, "ultimately depend on the goodwill of the state government, and the dewan in particular." 

Now the interesting part in all this was the British request to USA for atomic bombs in the 40’s. USA refused stating that if indeed there was a need, it would be to protect itself against USSR, which case was already taken care of by USA. Well, as matters would have it and as you may have gleaned in one of the earlier paras, the Thorium shipments out of Travancore to USA had been stopped by Britain.

A columnist Marquis W Childs stated (quoting this Times article) - Childs also disclosed—"although it may have been no more than a coincidence"—that shipments of thorium to the U.S. from the state of Travancore, in southern India, had been stopped. Travancore, one of India's least backward states, used to supply three-fourths of the world's thorium (for gaslight mantles, radio tubes, carbon terminals, luminous watch dials). Was the stoppage of thorium shipments from Travancore to the U.S. a sign of British displeasure? Possibly. But the British pointed out that they could not give orders to Travancore's Maharaja, an independent ruler. The handsome, enlightened, 34-year-old Maharaja, who in 1937 established a university for technological research, has now said that he wants to build thorium refining plants, and perhaps even experiment with nuclear fission, in Travancore. That was a reminder that the great powers had no permanent monopoly on the atom.

Well as matters would go, the Dewan was summoned by the Viceroy, had his meeting with Mountbatten on 21st July, the famous one where he salaciously attacked Gandhiji’s morality and brought files of reports in support. Mountbatten after a patient listening, deputed VP Menon to try and wrangle an accession settlement with CP. VP and CP did not agree, and CP stated that he would discuss accession only with India and not Britain.

On 27th July, Aiyer went for the Swati Tirunal centenary celebrations at Trivandrum. Shri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer was singing and Hindu reported thusIt was the 39th birthday of Semmangudi, then the principal of the Swati Tirunal Academy. The year 1947 was observed as the death centenary year of the composer king and by a coincidence, the celebrations commenced on July 25, Semmangudi’s birthday. After the Maharajah had inaugurated the proceedings and left, Semmangudi commenced his concert. He must have excelled himself given the grandeur of the occasion. Shortly before the concert ended, Sir CP got up to leave. As he walked out, an assailant lying in wait attacked him with a sword-stick. The Dewan, a practitioner of yoga, was not an easy target and successfully parried most of the blows but suffered seven severe injuries on the face, the scalp and fingers. The lights suddenly went out and in the darkness the assailant vanished. There was little to be done when the lights came on. Sir CP was rushed to hospital and treated. Not many noticed what had happened and the concert ended smoothly. 

It turned out that Sir CP was knifed by one KCS Mani Iyer of the RSP party, knifed CP on his face and body (An interesting story – it appears CP in extreme arrogance even went and sat on the maharaja’s throne after the Raja had left). CP was carried off for emergency surgery, the Indian government turned on the heat soon after at the Maharajah of Travancore and CP advised him from his hospital bed ‘to follow a path of conciliation and compromise’. CP admitted that he himself had not followed it as he was in his own words ‘autocratic and over decisive’. On 30th the Maharajah sent a note to the viceroy confirming his agreement to join the Indian union.

CP Ramaswami Iyer after recovering resigned from his position on August 19th and left Kerala to retire and recuperate in Ooty and later travel extensively on various world tours. He returned his KCSI and KCIE to Mountbatten in Britain, went to Latin America, then toured USA, giving talks at Berkley, and met President Roosevelt in Washington DC. Later he served as VC at Annamalai and Benares universities. CP died in 1966 while talking to a reporter in the UK.

Travancore – Cochin then amalgamated with Malabar and Kasargode to form the Kerala state, the details of which I will recount another day.

To end it all, Defense minister AK Anthony unveiled the bust of KCS Mani in 2008. As the Hindu reports stated - A bust of K.C.S. Mani, who hacked Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer at the height of the movement for a free Travancore, will be unveiled by Union Minister for Defense A.K. Antony at the K.C.S. Mani Smarakam, Ambalapuzha, near here, on March 2. Admitting that several brave leaders of the RSP, including N. Srikandan Nair and K.C.S. Mani, did not have proper memorials in the State, Mr. Baby John said his party was setting right mistakes committed in the past by honoring these leaders. Thus unveiling the bust at Mr. Mani’s residence, near Thakazhi, Mr. Antony said Mr. Mani was one among those who could be counted along with Bhagat Singh as one of the great revolutionary leaders of the country.

To me this is ironic, for CP was certainly autocratic and heavy handed in many matters, irritating more people than earning friends, but he was not different from many of the others we consider great on the contrary, these days. He did a very large number of good things as well for Travancore compared to the many rajas and residents we had who did little or nothing for the common good. But that’s life.

Today Gas lamps are no longer in vogue and the heavy mineral is used mainly for nuclear purposes. As for the Monazite & thorium, the Indian rare earths Ltd IREL and KMML processes Thorium from Monazite and it is used in India’s domestic programs and hardly exported. The Kerala coastline, boasts of 31 per cent of the world's thorium, usable for applications like fast-breeder reactors. Travancore thus continues to have large strategic importance, in the scheme of things.

Political and commercial geology and the world's mineral resources - Josiah Edward Spurr
The Making of the Indian Atomic Bomb - Itty Abraham
Time, Hindu and Outlook articles hyperlinked above
India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy- Ramachandra Guha
Russia: a journal of Russian-American trade, Volume 1


Dear Friends & Readers –

Thank you for your patient reading of all the lengthy prose I doled out the last year.

 I will certainly continue in the same vein in 2011 and so for now, let me sign off for 2010 and wish you all a great year ahead, hoping it will be joyous and prosperous for you and your families.


Bernard said...

Thank you for writing this informative piece about CP. As a person from Cherthala, let me add some more things to this CPR Iyer Chapter.

In the heart of Cherthala, lie the 'Kocheri Maalika'- The place where CP's soldiers, stayed while they were assigned to crush the Vayalar rebellion, as a silent witness to those bygone days!

CP was not a person without vision about Travancore's development. He was the one who completed the A-S Canal, that connected Alappuzha to Shertallai(Cherthala), as it was written in those days. A-S canal was the aorta of trade in those days. Towards North, Cherthala was already connecetd to Cochin. A-S canal materialised the connection between The Venice of East and The Queen of Arabian Sea, via Cherthala, and CP was the creator of this wonderfull idea. Later governments and authorities failed to understand the importance of this route and now it is in a dilapidated condition!

Anonymous said...

Dear Maddy,
I have not read this piece as yet, but first wanted to wish you and your family all the best for a terrific new year ahead. I have to tell you, yours is one of the most amazing blogs I have come across. I may not always leave a comment, but I have read and enjoyed so many of your posts and am so grateful that you so generously share so much with your readers. I have said it before, and I am saying it again: when are you bringing out a book??

P.N. Subramanian said...

Well, I was not aware of Sir CPs connection with monazite sands. Very informative post. Thanks a ton. Wishing you and your family a very happy New Year.

Unknown said...

I second what Kamini says. Remember the excellent BBC TV series 'Connections' by Historian James Burke? Perhaps Maddy can write such a book, each chapter segueing into the next through a definite connection, but spanning a mind-boggling variety of subjects, but all related to the Kerala historical theme. Hope 2011 gives you enough time and resources to do something like this. Happy New Year!

Vijay said...

Wonderful post Maddy. I grew up in Ooty just down the road from CPR's house "Delisle".Question- is it possible that the attack by KCS Mani, that forced CP to "see the light", was instigated by the Home ministry aka Mr.Patel? Or am I being too much of a conspiracy theorist?

Maddy said...

Thanks Bernard..
Waterways like the AS canal were important concepts. I remember seeing it on a school trip while studying at Trivandrum, but I have not seen kacheri malika..

Maddy said...

Thanks Kamini..
I have been mulling over that thought for awhile now. Just may go for it this year..

Maddy said...

Thanks PNS...
Hope all is well with you

Maddy said...

Thanks Dev..

I have the matter, but the concept is yet to take shape. As I replied kamini possibly this year..

Maddy said...

Thanks Vijay..

Well, I do not think so though it looks possible on the face of it. One - Patel would not have got such an idea and the alternative of what happened in Hyderabad could certainly have easily been carried out in Travancore if CP had held on.

KCS Mani was a follower of the trade union movement and group led by Sreekandan nair. Apparently this attack was Mani's own idea.

Nitin Thomas said...

Thanks for the article.As always very interesting connections by joining seemingly random dots. Perhaps you like discrete math.
I had stumbled upon your blog while searching for early Malabar history and have been reading ever since.

Thanks for all the research that you put in vetting the facts presented in your articles. These days the line between fact vs fiction is getting blurred by individual perception based on the myriad of online content.

Writing a book would be interesting..I wish you good luck in finding a topic as intertwined for you to unravel each string.
Look forward to your future posts.

Happy Kitten said...

Only when I read you do I realize how little history I know! You have this way of kindling curiosity and throwing light on events and personalities...

Think CP would have created an independant Travancore at least for a while, with himself at the helm, if Mani had not intervened. Not sure if it would have been good or bad.

Let me wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year.

Maddy said...

Thanks HK..

The character of CP is one I do not want to get into, for he was certainly a difficult man and in his heydays very much interested in money and other lures. He was one of the highest paid dewans and when he left took immense wealth with him. Many years later, he gave much of it away.

in the Mani case and slightly before it, the fight was between him and KM Panikkar as well as VP Menon and the problem of a highly inflated ego. All interesting aspects..

He was a good administrator, but many a bad day, his ego & greed took over.

Maddy said...

Thanks Nitin..

oh! no I do not like discrete math...but I do enjoy connecting up bits and pieces and raveling or unraveling a story. sometimes it is all in front of you, but unconnected, sometimes it is mighty hard work..

thanks again. i will certainly start on a serious venture creating something book worthy..Until then there will be plenty more on these pages

akk said...

great and informative piece. I had read Guha's book earlier and was fascinated by CP. you really filled in a lot of details on the colourful character.

Maddy said...

thanks akk.
CP is well covered in various books and is indeed a terrific character. thanks for your comment.

Abhed Kiran Ravikumar-Pillai Kandamath said...

Repeating what Kamini said earlier about reading the posts...

But I believe since they are so many people interested on Sir CP (which is a great thing as far as I am concerned), it is well time that we '''see light'' with certain matters regarding this colourful personality.

I must say that I find Maddy's reason for making it clear that he doesn't wish to get into Sir CP's character, a bit disturbing.Wouldn't mind if Maddy could kindly elaborate on his sources regarding the Dewan's expenses.

And about the case of Independant Travancore-

It was HH The Maharajah's idea and not that of the Dewan,initially.He was even critical at times about the repercussions of the seemingly autarkic decision.He was doing his best as an advocate of the state befitting the honor of 'Sachivottama','Secretary/Servant Extra-ordinaire' , the title given to Hanuman swamy by Lord Rama.

The personality of the people involved including those like Lord Dickie Mountbatten,Sardar Patel,Vappala Menon,Pattom Thanu Pillai,Sardar Madhava Panicker and certain Travancore civil servants,
must be carefully studied to make out their relations.To an onlooker it may seem easily that this 'shrewd Pattar' in a Rasputin-style had been dominating the youngish chap whom he got on to the Musnud(throne).This was the view expressed by many including the Danish Professor Miss Ouwerkerk and can be directly seen as a result of the court around him much to the angst of many including the aspiring 'Savarna' members of the State Congress and the Communist Groups who aspired to become the big-fishes in the small pond that would be, if the Dewan were to quit hanging on to it. He is one of the most misunderstood persons in History probably second to none but Oliver Cromwell in a very similarly set early-modern circumstance.

The underlying-issue of caste-politics and lawlessness in the state of Kerala these days owe its origins to the matters dealt with by the Dewan whichever way you might wish to see it. To bring it to the topical issue surrounding Travancore today-the controversial comments made by the Communist CM Achutanandan reagrding the assets of the Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple- were based upon the ire and irk on his backside from the lathi lashings he might have earned as part of promoting lawlessness at Punnapra Vayalar Riots.

The British offered every support to Travancore including Military Aid in case the need arise. It is very unlikely that the Sardar would have used any of the tactics in his pocket with which he dealt,the vulgarly opulent Maharajahs of the North, in the case of the 'Hindu State' known to be the Best Governed one in the whole of Asia. Guha version is disingenuous which owes much to his generalisation and altogether lack of experience with Travancore and the south. And of course, circumstances post-1950(Dominion turned into Republic) are different!

I am of course biased,very much so, in favour of the late Dewan.But since the personality, is one I stumbled upon very early in my life,in my boyhood days,and have been seeking opinions from all those who knew him, the conclusion is very much founded in fact. As Prof Alappat Menon always said and in fact wrote on the Prefatory of his book bringing out in detail the annals of Sir CP's 16 years- Focus must be on 'History as it happened'!

Looking forward to comments/critical views from all those interested and from Maddy himself!

Maddy said...

Thanks Abhed..
will do one of these days..
I have been reading up on Sir CP quite a bit and the great things as well as the problem is how others see him and wrote about him. Much of what was written seems somewhat to the extreme - positives and negatives. So to filter out and get to the real character is a real tough task and takes much study which I have not done. Hence to comment on his character is difficult presently. pretty much like VKKM..

I will get to a couple more stories involving the dewan CP soon, still work in progress..

Abhed Kiran Ravikumar-Pillai Kandamath said...

Dear Maddy,

The comparison you have made to Krishna Menon's character and intentions, is an ideal one,indeed.

But I believe I am right in saying that Krishna Menon's expenses did go over the top especially the part that is not highlighted, which is his personal debts.And we have documentary evidence to substantiate it.When I meant I find your reasoning for not getting into Sir CP's character disturbing,I meant the fact that he embezzled wealth from the state.

Your efforts are great and is well -appreciated by many, I am sure. Looking forward to the ones especially on the late Dewan.

Take care

Maddy said...

sorry Abhed..
My mistake, I should have clarified that aspect in detail. When I said CP had a lot of wealth as he left, I did not mean any kind of embezzlement, that is a far fetched thought. He was highly paid, had lavish perks and his savings at the end were large according to his biographers..

Unknown said...

Travancore didn't stand a chance against India like HYD. Moreover general public was fully aligned with India concept and communism. If ever travancore managed to be independent , it would soon hv faced a communist upsurge n travancore would hv become like Cuba .

For Kerala was the first democratically elected communist gov and first to hv land reforms. My dad used to say many sold of their land believing gov will take over whatever land they had after reforms n d state owned land system of communists will come effect. Thankfully that didn't happen. But landreforms was a major factor to the healthy socio economic development in Kerala.

Sir CP indeed was a visionary but way too autocratic that the raja himself was worried at times. N public opinion was towards communists. Travabcore has a history of dalavas being sidelined or murdered

While he brought in things like the inland water ways or even wrote to Albert Einstein to head the state university, only a few if the upper castes benifited as education n things like temple access was denied even to middle castes who had their own temples under narayan guru. CP was against giving access but changed mind AMD asked to giv access after he realised people were getting aligned with congress n communists aiming for indepent india as they believed these rules will change once India is free country. Travancore while being the best kingdom when it comes to civil rights, it still had some bad n crude things like ' mula karam' female breast tax, where tax among commoners were collected based on the number of females with developed breasts and even middle caste women weren't allowed to cover their breasts in front of upper castes.

These things were eventually discontinued as travancore king n CP started to realise that people began to see mahatma n independence movement as their chance against British n that people now saw the king n British as one .

But it was too little too late . Apart from castism, travancore kings would be the most progressive aristrocatic rulers across the world.

As far as British allignment, as always British were just playing with CP. Travancore kings used to get a 19 gun salute while Rajput kings. Gwalior Baroda n hyd held 21 at Delhi. Travancore kings were given 21 gun salute only within his state. As gun salutes was primarily way of acknowledging relationship between princely states and British, travancore wasn't a prime favorite for British. Gun salutes continued till 1971.

If CP had the full trust of maharaja n people travancore could hv atleadt bargained for special rights like sikkim . It aceded without any demands

Unknown said...

Travancore didn't stand a chance against India like HYD. Moreover general public was fully aligned with India concept and communism. If ever travancore managed to be independent , it would soon hv faced a communist upsurge n travancore would hv become like Cuba .

For Kerala was the first democratically elected communist gov and first to hv land reforms. My dad used to say many sold of their land believing gov will take over whatever land they had after reforms n d state owned land system of communists will come effect. Thankfully that didn't happen. But landreforms was a major factor to the healthy socio economic development in Kerala.

Sir CP indeed was a visionary but way too autocratic that the raja himself was worried at times. N public opinion was towards communists. Travabcore has a history of dalavas being sidelined or murdered

While he brought in things like the inland water ways or even wrote to Albert Einstein to head the state university, only a few if the upper castes benifited as education n things like temple access was denied even to middle castes who had their own temples under narayan guru. CP was against giving access but changed mind AMD asked to giv access after he realised people were getting aligned with congress n communists aiming for indepent india as they believed these rules will change once India is free country. Travancore while being the best kingdom when it comes to civil rights, it still had some bad n crude things like ' mula karam' female breast tax, where tax among commoners were collected based on the number of females with developed breasts and even middle caste women weren't allowed to cover their breasts in front of upper castes.

These things were eventually discontinued as travancore king n CP started to realise that people began to see mahatma n independence movement as their chance against British n that people now saw the king n British as one .

But it was too little too late . Apart from castism, travancore kings would be the most progressive aristrocatic rulers across the world.

As far as British allignment, as always British were just playing with CP. Travancore kings used to get a 17gun salute while a few Rajput kings and Baroda gwalior n hyd had. So it wasn't a case where travancore was the prime favorite of British

Maddy said...

Thanks Arun..
CP was indeed an interesting character with a lot of good and bad about him...this was an article mainly explaining why Travancore was somewhat importatnt to the British then..

But then nobody knew about teh wealth in the temple vaults then....

Abhed Kiran Ravikumar-Pillai Kandamath said...

@ Arun Murlidhar

Ironically, the opening statement that you have made is exactly what Sir Ramaswami Aiyar said to HH the Maharajah in those days. Fact is though that he warned of their wanton behaviour(as noted in Russia and elsewhere followed by their murderous attitude) and not a substantial threat. It is not hard to put down a few people here and there especially when the state has an professional army together with support of the Congress party and prominent social organisations such as the Nair Service Society.

The reason behind women being half-naked is a theological one and not confined to women of the lower orders.In fact it was the norm that no lady, until the dawn of the last century, covered themselves in temples; especially at the 'Nirmalyam' ceremony during the early hours of dawn.

The 'Bosom-tax' only applied to the lower orders such as the Ezhavas, Pulayas and so on who lived on isolated areas in a village/township and hence the medieval way of calculating poll-tax. It is indisputable that it was fairer to charge a child rate fro women under puberty than charging at the adult rate!!! I agree this seems ridicuklous now, but we should put ourselves in the shoes of the bygone days.

Can you please provide references in favour of your arguments:

a)that the Maharajah was worried any time, about HH's Dewan?

b) The British ever 'played' with Sir Aiyar. He was seen as one of the most straightforward gentleman of his days!

Now talking of the relationship with the Paramount Power-

a) Most historians agree why the Nizam was what he was, his immense contribution to War Effort & the role in keeping Muslims toned down.

b) Sikkim was a Crown Protectorate and not a princely state, therefore it could negotiate terms. Travancore too had terms many of which the incompetent Indian Union government failed to carry out. The most important ones were the special status of the Temple and the status accorded to it(continues till date& includes the gun-salute!)& the appointment of Maharajah as HH the Rajpramukh for life.

And I do agree with you that land reforms were a major factor in the 'healthy socio-economic development of Kerala'- that it will STARVE TO DEATH if the lorries don't turn up from the neighbouring state bringing the staple food at exhorbitant prices for the same proletariat!

Parvathy Sukumaran said...

The communists[congress too] have destroyed the state in every possible way. Now achumaman & co is freely looting and their kith & kin enjoying all the capitalist previleges !!!! One cannot compare the rule of HH Sri Chithira Thirunal with that of the uncouth, hedonistic north indian "rulers". This state saw incredible development during the Maharaja's rule & Sir CP was a genius. Now look at our state. Every qualified person is leaving this state in order to make a living because of the ridiculous caste politics. During the rule of Regent Queen itself, the banning of appointing devdasis in temples, allowing women 2 cover their breasts, opened roads for all castes etc were done. So arun muralidhar's arguments does not have much validity. What has the current congress & communist govts done 4 this state other than making us become completely dependent on Tamils??? Also we r becoming the playground for islamic terrorists. If we go by muralidhar's argument, kerala should be a heaven after all these years. What r we now famous for ??? Record unemployment, stagnant economy, suicides, divorces, rapes [including of new born babies], different corruption & sex scandals, a good 4 nothing police force, mismanagement of the state's natural resources......... the achievements of our great democratic government is impressive indeed !!!

Parvathy Sukumaran said...

Regarding Travancore recieving only 17 gun salute, is a misinformation. We used to get 21 gun salute; was reduced to 19, when the Monarch refused to send the Travancore army for the world war efforts. Contrary to other rulers, here the gun salute was given to Padmanabhaswami & is still provided during Arattu & all.

Unknown said...

Get your facts right. Do we have have record unemployment ? 25L migrant workers are working in this state. Is it because of unemployment ? Its a sign of progress, just like we migrate to the gulf.. or the west.. people are migrating here.. which gives them a better pay.

Stagnant economy ?
Where do you see an economic issue in Kerala ?

Divorce rates ?
Divorce rates are an indicator of women empowerment. Go to north india.. females are slaves. here they dare to say enough is enough..

We have been.. and are a better state in India. Thanks to people like CP.. and EMS.

Parvathy Sukumaran said...

Dear Maddy,
Ur articles r well researched & thought provoking. The fruit of ur labour is clearly visible from the responses u r getting to ur works. Keep up ur good efforts.
@kenny jacob:
I made my comment after checking the facts. By the way, i never criticised Sir CP; called him a 'genius'.
1) If our economy is as safe as u r portraying it, then y did the Nitakhat ruling in the Middle East took away our sleep? We all know the reason, we have no industry based in our state. A major problem suffered by our state is brain drain. Can u tell me wat our govt is doin to solve this? About the 25L labourers, they r working here due to our preference for white-collar lobs & not bcoz of economic prosperity. There r numerous news reports about the abject exploitation experienced by those labourers in kerala. I don't c any techies migrating to kerala like in Bangalore, Chennai or other metros. Every day qualified people r leaving this state due to lack of opportunities. When ever som1 start a business here, the militant trade unions pop up with ridiculous demands (recent incident related to kochi metro).
2) With no new business ventures, our economy will only shrink. One cannot depend solely on tourism as all it need is a natural disaster to topple such an economy(Asian Tsunami, Uttarakhand disaster etc) . Our economy is referred to as "money order" based. What about those affected by Nitakhat? Wat vil they do wen they return back to their state? They wont even get manual labour as the employers prefer the hard working migrants. Thus with zero industries+zero work ethic of trade unions+brain drain=STAGNANT ECONOMY...
3) Kerala is at the top wen it comes to divorce rates. Sociologists consider this as a social malady & not as a sign of progress. Every day we read about the abuses suffered by kids from step parents(parents too). Brocken families will create serious psychological problems in kids. Abuse on women isn't the only factor for divorce. Adultery, lack of time(especially among techy couples),alcoholism in men & women etc.also leads to divorce. Wat about kids from brocken families? So divorce rates r not the sole factor of women empowerment.

Parvathy Sukumaran said...

@kenny Jacob
Sir CP's contributions r usually forgotten by politicians only on the basis of Punapra Vayalar. It is not at all fair to the great man. I have absolute hatred towards communists. They r a curse upon this land. I hope people will open their eyes b4 it is too late for our state. Even wen they curse America, their leader EK Nayanar's son working in US is not a problem at all. Wat about such blatant double standards? The left is quick to blame Sir CP & Sree Chithira Thirunal in the punapra vayalar incident. Wat about the Singur incident where the poor farmers were attacked(physically&verbally) by communists party workers? They r also mum about(except VS) SNC Lavalin case, cheer girls controversy, TP Chandrasekharan, mixing communism into textbooks, calling Jesus Christ a communist etc.
Wen Land reforms was introduced, it became the death knell of agriculture in our state. To fiil the lack of workers, farmers in 1970s brought tractors but it resulted in unprededented violence from trade unions. As a result, we r almost completely depended upon other states. Y couldnt communists bring in things like benefits & living quarters for the tillers, a wage structure for those workers etc, instead agricultural lands had to be divided to accommodate the homeless? Those creepy trade unions didn't even let the farmers use tractors nor where they ready to work hard. So the poor farmers could either suicide or sell watever land they had for a pittance of sum. How does all this look positive?
Instead of remedying our present problems,there is no point talking about past glories. Other states r fast catching up with us. We should bring in some new attitude 2wards work or we will end up like West Bengal.

Parvathy Sukumaran said...

Dear Maddy,
My question is regarding Sir C P's character.
Do u believe the rumoured affair btw Sethu parvathi bayi/Amma Maharani & Sir C P, to be true??? Or was it just another cheap communist propoganda to scandalise the Dewan & the Travancore Royal family ? My grandparents didn't had much good impression about Amma Maharani but had tremendous love & respect for Sree Chithira Tirunal! I just wanted to know if there was any truth to that particular rumour which added to the notoriety of CP.

Maddy said...

thanks jk47,
no i do not know if there is any fact in the so called affair. However i must say that there is one book which provides some 'perhaps untrustworthy' information.The book is Maharani: Love Adventures of Indian Maharanis and Princesses by Jarmani Dass, Rakesh Bhan Dass.

Parvathy Sukumaran said...

Hi Maddy,
Thanx for the reply.
When i read the title of the above mentioned book i felt awkward. Then again, i checked it out on Google, as i read the reviews for the book, i panicked, it was that bad !!! As u wrote, the writers concentrates solely on sex scandals/cheap gossips of those days, the book is truly untrustworthy. The language is crude & it goes somthing like this: "The Travancore Maharaja used to get 10 Gun salute" ??? "The Travancore's Queen Mother was a famed beauty (she never seemed like a beauty to me as she wore a perpetual frown on her face; the Regent was a beauty, so was Karthika Tirunal Thamburatti) ).Another sentence goes like this: "Sir CP was the great administrator who allowed women to wear brassieres " !!! The moment i read that , i just fled...
Anyways, thank u for giving me ur opinion. In a TV interview , Uthradom Thirunal said that once Sir CP flung a file at the Maharaja but Sree Chithira Thirunal calmly picked up the file, read it & signed. B4 the King gave the file back to CP, Uthradom, just a teenager then, took the file from the Maharaja's hand & flung it back at CP's face !!! If any body other than Uthradom had said that i wouldn't have believed it at all. So i am unsure about the whole affair thing. Then again Chithira Thirunal's calmness & reserved behaviour was misunderstood by many, including Mountbatten, as ineptitude, cowardice or shyness. I guess we will never know the truth...

Maddy said...

thanks jk47..
i have read that account. Though much of what this guy wrote strayed far away from fact, you can detect a core sometimes. The account of the rani and CP is apparently his eyewitness account, if i recall correctly and this man had nothing to do with travancore. let me see if i can access the book again & i will revert

Parvathy Sukumaran said...

Thanx maddy.
That will be a great help. I had also heard stories about the affair btw CP & Queen Mother from my grandmother. She wasn't the gossiping type either but i was small then & not that interested in her old Thiruvithamkoor stories! Besides my ammomma passed away some time back. If she was alive now, i could have asked her. If u come to know any details, plz do share. My amma hates CP primarily bcoz of that alleged affair, no matter what i say about his good works she is not at all convinced !

Maddy said...

pls mail me at umanmadhan@gmail.coim, i have the said section now

rudimentree said...

Thank you for this informative post.

Was researching on CPR and the monazite issue and found your blog. As always, whenever I search for anything to do with the history of Kerala, I always find your blog shows up and provides extremely useful and informative insights - including, most importantly - a lead to sources.

It so happens that I too have a blog for kids where I discuss Indian history, amongst other things. Would be great if you could visit when you have some time. its

Thanks once again! Your blog and writing and research - are such an inspiration!