The Veluthampi Revolt 1807-1809

Was Veluthampi a Hero or a Victim?

 At the Sainik School Kazhakootam, students were divided into various resident halls named after freedom fighters and I belonged to the Veluthampi house, but at that time I hardly knew the persona behind the name. True, we covered a fair number of his heroic acts as narrated in text books, of course retold with a lot of patriotic fervor, and I let the story pass by all these years, since Travancore was somewhat outside my periphery of studies. In fact I was researching the Paliayth Achan family, but seeing the connections with Dalawa in the 19th century, I decided to go over that portion first and then get to the story of the Palaiyath family. While a number of books cover Veluthampi to a certain extent, the story lines seem to have originated from one or two accounts, perhaps those of Shangoony Menon or Nagam Aiya, of the TSM fame.  Anyway let’s take a look at the known versions, the linkages to the Zamorin and the Cochin kingdom as well as the less talked about Ringletaube-Vedamanickam Christian angle and Macaulay’s involvement, in conclusion.

 Velayudhan Thampi Champakaraman Pillai - that was the young man’s real name, hailing from a noble family in Kalkulam, a few miles away from Nagercoil (note that the Travancore kingdom covered areas now in Tamil Nadu). Champakaraman Pillai incidentally an order akin to Knighthood, started from the previous sovereign’s (Kulashekara Varma) rule which provided such a title and many attached benefits. Velu shot to fame during the not so stellar reign of the boy king Bala Rama Varma as the Kariakkar or Thahsildar of Mavelikkara. Before we get to Veluthampi, let us take a look at the sad situation the Kingdom of Travancore was in. As the story starts, Veluthampi was as seen in some accounts, no longer a Kariakkar. How he lost the position is not yet clear to me and perhaps he had a chip on his shoulder due to that.

 Balarama varma as an ineffective boy king, started his reign in 1798, and was fully under the control of one
Oodiary Jayanthen Sankaran Nambudiri. By hook and crook, this avaricious man rose to the Dewan’s post - the Valia Sarvadhikariakar (prime minister), but was thoroughly untrained and unfit for such a post. He selected for his council Chetty Sankaranarayanan (finance minister), and Mathoo Tharaken, an influential Syrian Christian from the north, who controlled the salt, tobacco and other businesses. These two men according to the Menon, Aiya & other historians were also as unprincipled as the Numboory himself.

 One of the first things they did was levy compulsory contributions on a list of people. Those who did not pay were flogged or put into prison. One such person who was ordered to pay Rs 3,000 was Veluthampi, the ex Thasildar of Mavelikkara. He refused to pay outright and asked for three days’ time instead, which he got. During this time, he went to Najenad and exhorted the populace to rise against the monarch, and the ministry. The Nair military of the King joined forces with Velu Thampi’s march to Trivandrum. The alarmed Bala Varma immediately agreed to negotiate with Veluthampi who put three demands, dismiss and banish Namboodri, that the King will not ever recall him back, and finally that he would publically arrest and flog the other two persons - Sankaranarayanan and Mathoo, and have their ears cut off. After all this was done, a new ministry was formed and Velu Thampi was made the Mulakumadeseela Sarvadhikariakar (commercial, minister). Ayappan Chempakaraman Pillay was appointed Valia Sarvadhikariakar and he ruled wisely, but met an untimely death 14 months later. The next prime minister was one Padmanabhan Chempakaraman Pillay, but he lasted only 8 months. Velu thampi who was camping on the periphery finally got the nod (a lot of intrigue took place in between and you can read them in Menon’s accounts, if interested) and took over the reins of the kingdom as the Dalawah, with formal recommendations from the new resident Colin Macaulay in Cochin, who saw Thampi as an energetic administrator with a good feel of the pulse of the larger populace..

The period that followed was strict and authoritarian if put in a milder term and Velu Thampi brought control to the disturbed kingdom using an iron hand. The penal codes he instilled were stricter than Hammurabi and corporal punishment the norm. Velu Thampi’s constant inspection tours around the state brought terror to the people’s doorsteps. Nevertheless, The Dalawah administering from Quilon (not Trivandrum) was severe and strict but also impartial and no partiality was shown to his family as well.

 Some years passed and it was 1803 when the first of the revolts occurred as the military and the others of the palace rose up against Velu Thampi, and asked the king to remove and execute him for his excesses. Velu Thampi quickly met Macaulay his benefactor, at Cochin and apprised him of the situation. Macaulay then came over to Trivandrum with his forces and arrested the kingpins among the rabble rousers and they conveniently died in confinement soon after. The alarmed king, worried over reports that the British were going to take over his kingdom next, complained formally to the British high command in Calcutta, asking that they withdraw Macaulay, but Governor General Marquis Wellesley, a personal friend of Macaulay would not budge. Velu Thampi continued his governance, this time focusing on Alappuzha, living at and improving the situation there. But one aspect that still remained to be cleared was payment of some old debts to the British. To do that, the Dalawa hit upon an idea of curtailing the allowances to the large army. While the Dewan was away in Alleppey, they mutinied and again with Macaulay’s help, Velu Thampi brought the situation under control ruthlessly killing and maiming many a key person involved. The situation was at best despotic.

Following this a revised treaty was suggested by the British for the defense of Travancore should untoward situations arise. While the Dalawa was agreeable to the treaty, he was not happy about paying extra monies (Rs 4 lakhs) demanded by the British for its sustenance, as the treasury was impoverished. The tribute was in return for British protection, which was promised to the Raja, when he accepted British suzerainty in 1805.The maharaja and his advisers were also totally against it. With Velu Thampi’s help and many other pressures brought upon to bear on the king, the treaty was finally signed in 1805, but it placed the Dalawa on one side with the British and the people of the state and the Raja as the affected party on the other. To somehow produce the extra amounts, Velu Thampi this time, devised upon a scheme of disbanding the Carnatic brigade. As Shangoony Menon states – With that, the subordinates of Dalawah lost all confidence in him, while almost all the influential officials turned against him.

 When the time for payment of arrears came, the treasury defaulted. They assumed that the Dalawa would obtain a postponement with his Macaulay connections, and in any case they had little money in the coffers. The indignant Macaulay shot off many letters of complaint to Velu Thampi, who was hurt and irritated with the tone used by his onetime friend Macaulay. One letter even arrogantly said that the Dewan "is a temporizing, equivocating, prevaricating and marauding boy".

 The hurt Dewan offered to resign from his post and Macaulay seized upon it, but at this juncture came a ghost from the past, none other than Mathoo Tharakan, the person who was the victim of the very first salvo from Veluthampi Dalawa in 1799. Mathoo a very wealthy landowner continued to avoid taxes and was during the period of troubles in 1805 or thereabouts, taken to task again by Velu Thampi and asked to payout a huge amount. Now this man (who had in the meantime cultivated a good friendship with Macaulay) complained to Macaulay. Macaulay wrote to Velu Thampi “I will not allow you, from motives of base enmity to crush any man (though your subject or dependent) if I can possibly and honorably prevent it. What need I say more?”

 Veluthampi was in a quandary. He had offered to resign, but Macaulay was intent on humiliating him which he could not tolerate. So he decided to go against the British. He went to the maharaja and convinced him that Macaulay was going to force the King to pay all the arrears and take over the kingdom, adding that the story of getting the Dalawa out of office was in reality, secondary. On the other side Macaulay kept up the pressure of inducting the ouster, he even stated the departure terms that “Valu Thamby should retire from public life, and take up his residence in Chirakkal (Tellicherry), on a pension of 500 rupees per mensem, which he was to receive from Mr. Baber, the Collector of Malabar.

 Shungoony Menon explains - His Highness tried his best to bring about reconciliation between the Dewan and the Resident, but without success, as Colonel Macauly was a man of a vindictive nature, fond of command, of an imperious temper, and one who could ill-brook contradiction. On the other hand, Valu Thamby was of a haughty and arrogant disposition, of great resolution, and so sensitive that he would put up with insolence and affront from no man. His Highness was sadly disappointed, but it was not a matter for surprise that the attempt to reconcile two men who were so bitterly opposed to each other failed.

The Raja wrote to Madras that they preferred another resident, thus taking the attack to Macaulay. In addition he paid off a good amount of the arrears after selling or pledging some crown jewels. The situation eased until the next payment window came up when the same situation repeated with Macaulay firing his letters off at the Dalawa and the Raja asking the British to recall Macaulay. During this period, another event occurred, that of the death of Suba Iyen , the Raja’s emissary, who was considered by Dalawa to be somewhat against him, during his visit to meet the Dalawa at Aleppey. All fingers pointed at the Dalawa, but a snake bite in the garden was attributed eventually to the man’s death and the case closed.

While all this intrigue and acrimony was going on between the British and Travancore, the situation at Cochin was no better. Here is when the Paliayth Achan comes into play. For those who are not in the know, the powerful Paliayth family were virtually half owners of Cochin and the Perumbadappu Swaroopam had to involve them in all major decisions. They possessed a lot of power and majority in Nair numbers. In some cases they hedged their bets by aligning with the Zamorin of Calicut against the Cochin king, the Dutch or the Portuguese as well, as we will study in a forthcoming article.

Anyway, during the period we were in, the Paliyath Govindan Achan was made a chief minister with Velu Thampy’s recommendation. The Achan was also friendly with Macaulay, so the King had no hesitation in elevating the Achan to ensure harmony. The Paliyath Achan however usurped the King quickly and took over the reins of the state, banishing the soft king to a hamlet in Vellarappali near Alwaye. After this was done, he apparently executed the prime minister and commander in chief by drowning them. His next target was a young and upcoming chap, the right hand of the king, one Nadavarampathu Kunju Krishna Menon. The king, who was very fond of Menon, decided to shield him and hid him in his bedroom at Vellarapalli. Paliayth Achan on the other hand was hell bent on finding this boy and killing him. The king approached Macaulay for help. Macaulay gave Menon asylum in the British bungalow, further incensing the Paliyath Achan who took a vow to execute both Macaulay and Krishna Menon. But waging war against the British was no easy matter and the wily Achan decided to get the support of both the Zamorin of Calicut (the letter sent to The Zamorin was handed over to the British by the Zamorin’s Dewan) and Velu Thampi, in this matter. The CSM differs here in stating that the Achan was pulled into the fracas by Thampy.

 Veluthampi agreed to the plan and got his band of armed men together. He wrote a letter to Macaulay that
he was going on exile to Tellicherry and that he needed a well-armed escort for the same. The intention was to draw away Macaulay’s best troops out of Cochin and Quilon while he and the Paliyath Achan attacked the resident’s home. He planned a second attack on the British detachment in Quilon. He sought the help of the French in Mauritius and received vague assurances from them. Some historians have remarked that Velu Thampi had some communication even with the Americans, basing this on an Asiatic journal report. It appears however that communications had taken place between the Dewan and some Armenians, who had recently arrived from Persia.

All this culminated in violence. Velu Thampi’s forces supported by the Paliath Achan’s Nairs, attacked Macaulay’s home on 28th Dec. What happened was the following - As Shungoony Menon explains - They surrounded Colonel Macaulay’s house and opened fire. The sudden report of musketry, at an unusual hour, surprised Colonel Macaulay, and with the assistance of a confidential Portuguese clerk, he managed to conceal himself, and in the morning got on board a pattimar at first, and subsequently on board the British ship " Piedmontese" which had just reached the Cochin roads, Kunju Krishna Menon also effected his escape uninjured, and joined Colonel Macaulay on board the ship. The Travancore sepoys overpowered the few British sepoys who formed the Resident's escort, killing many who resisted, and afterwards entered Colonel Macauly's residence, ransacked the house, murdered the domestic servants and others whom they found in the house, and afterwards returned considerably chagrined at not finding the Resident and Kunju Krishna Menon. Valu Thamby quitted Alleppey at once and proceeded to Quilon. One Chempil Arayan figured prominently in the attack on the bungalow.

However during the post attack phase a group of 3 British officers, 12 soldiers, a lady and 33 sepoys were on the route from Quilon to Cochin. They were accosted by Velu Thampi’s forces and confined. Following the Dalawa’s order, three officers were butchered in cold blood at the sea-beach at Porakad, and the European soldiers and sepoys were drowned in the Pallathurthee River, on the eastern side of Alleppey. The lady was allowed to proceed to Cochin, unhurt.

As the British rose against the Dalawah, VeluThampi himself reached Quilon and made a vehement, strongly worded and patriotic proclamation from Kundra asking everybody to rise in revolt against the treacherous British. A number of skirmishes took place and the Dalwa +Achan forces could not hold their own, they lost both at Cochin and Quilon. In the meantime, a large British contingent moved into Travancore through the Arambooly pass (see my article on the Poole‘s ghost).

 The responsibility for the losses was taken personally by Velu Thampi in his personal meeting with the King following which he fled to the jungles with the British in pursuit. The British forces were too strong for the Travancoreans and soon prevailed and ran over Trivandrum. The British then issued orders for the arrest of Velu Thampi with a reward of Rs 50,000.Velu Thampi meanwhile fleeing through the jungles reached Munnady, and took refuge in a vacant house belonging to a Potti Brahmin. Valu Thamby who needed money sent out his servant to sell his gold & silver and this man was picked up by the British. Upon interrogation, he revealed to them Thampi's hiding place. Thampi on seeing the pursuers then fled to the Bhagavathi temple at Mannady near Adoor, with his brother Padmanabhan Thamby and decided to end his life. He asked his brother to stab him, but his brother did not want to do it, following which the Dalawah stabbed himself. As Menon explains - But as the self-inflicted wound did not prove mortal, he cried out to his brother ‘cut my neck,' which request, the brother complied with, and in one stroke severed the neck from the body. By that time, the pursuers reached the pagoda and forced open the door when they found the lifeless body of Valu Thamby and his brother standing close to it with a drawn sword.

 The brother was seized and the body removed to Trivandrum, where it was exposed to the public on a gibbet at Kannamoola. Padmanabhan Thamby was also hanged. Thampi’s house was razed to the ground and plantain and castor trees planted thereon. Most of his relatives were transported to the Maldives, but enroute, at Tuticorin, some appear to have committed suicide, some died in the prison, while the rest were flogged and banished elsewhere. All these excesses were carried out by Velu Thampi's successor Ummany(i) Thamby. Ummani proved to be as unreliable as the others from whom Veluthampi took over and Ummani too was intent on enriching himself. The same situation continued with Macaulay, but this time Macaulay chose to complain about the Elaya Raja and not the minister. In the meantime palace intrigues continued with the Elaya raja challenging the older one. The British wanted him out, but as luck would have it, Macaulay finally retired in 1810 and went back to England. Col Munro took his place. A tough man, Munro took tough measures and soon enough Ummani plotted against Munro only to get caught and imprisoned in Chingelput. Munro reinstated the Nair brigade of Travancore.

 Ok, so for now we have covered the ‘usually detailed’ story of Velu Thampi and Paliyath Achan. How about the other aspect we talked about? What really brought about the estrangement between Veluthampi and Maculay? Was it really Mathoo Tharakan’s intrigues? Or was it something else? Here is where another character enters the story, a convert to Christianity named Vedamanickam, and yet another, a Prussian missionary named Ringeltaube.

 The role of Tatchil Mathoo (Mathew) Tharakan of Paravur was not really detailed in the Menon accounts or by the British, but came to light much later and it certainly was one of the main ingredients of the boiling cauldron. In fact he may have precipitated the whole issue out of revenge, so let us take a look at that angle too. As it appears, Mathoo Tharakan retired to his vast estates after Velu thampi came to the fore and had his ears cut off. But how did he, a non- Hindu rise up in the Raja’s esteem in the first place? One, he had Eustachius De Lannoy the Dutch lieutenant as a good friend, and it comes to light that he had advanced large sums of money to both the kingdom and the British during and before (during the Pandipada attack) the Tipu Sultan incursions into Travancore. The British did return the loans, but the situation with the king is not clear. Anyway it helped him get a seat in the powerful corridors of governance as commerce minister. But as we saw he utilized the situation badly, perhaps goaded on by the Namboodri, and had a great fall and the loss of both ears, in return.

Somewhere along, the king realized his folly, perhaps when he found that he could ask Mathoo for more loans and forgave him by gifting him ‘golden ears’. Mathoo being close to Aleppey and being the founder of the port there was also foremost in salt, spice and timber export and built up a solid relationship with the British, especially Macaulay. Due to his pepper control, he was also known as Mulaku Madiseelakkaran. This relationship helped him get his own back at the Dalawa, and he retaliated through Macaulay when the Dalawa tried to take over his holdings and wealth.

 But how did he forge a strong relationship with Macaulay? Here is where the politics of money & religion manifest. Let’s take a look. Mathoo hailed from the Canai of Thoma family and had been trying to unite the Christians of Travancore under the umbrella of Catholicism. He was actively involved in organizing the historic journey of certain priests to Rome in 1782 for representing before the Pope the grievances of the Syro-Malabar Catholics. So much so that even the pope even wrote to thank the king of Travancore for his benevolence. Mathoo Tharakan was thus virtually the head of the Syrian Catholics and figures in the execution of the famous Angamali padiola attacking the Carmelites (That however resulted in their estrangement from the papacy).

 Now comes to light the interesting monetary links between Macaulay & Tharakan, as detailed in the book Christianity in Travancore - Gordon Thomson MacKenzie - about sums to the tune of some 6000 star pagodas which were invested in the EIC at 8% interest and its proceeds which were to go equally for the upkeep of some Syrian and Roman Catholic churches. The contentions vary that they belonged to either Macaulay or Mathoo Tharakan or both and that the amount found its way into this account in 1808, just as the crisis blew up! In addition, during Macaulay’s tenure in Cochin, it appears that Macaulay did get into the crosshairs of EIC auditors who felt he was making more money thus questioning the means (Asiatic journal Vol 16). Anyway we find out that Macaulay was firmly committed on Tharakan’s side during the intrigues against Velu Thampi and that they had a great relationship. We also see from Ruby’s book that there was a legend about the gold amassed by Macaulay and how he used them to make an escape once and how some of that gold found its way to making a new crown for the Cochin raja.

But who is Ringeltaube? The first Protestant missionary of the London Missionary Society to enter Travancore was Rev. William Tobias Ringletaube, a native of Prussia or Denmark. Vedamanickam, a recent convert invited him to Travancore and with support from Colonel Macaulay, who obtained permission from the Raja, Ringletaube settled at Mailadi, near Cape Comorin and wanted to establish a church there. Permission was not forthcoming and it appears that concerted efforts of evangelists Kerr, Buchanan and Ringletaube cast some alarm in the mind of the Caste Hindus of Travancore, since they believed (JOKS 1973 – RN Yesudas) that the new converts would never obey the King, but would obey only the British and act against them. They were subsequently persecuted against in some ways according to the works of RN Yesudas. Some Ezahava (Malitti Panikkars) conversions in Mavelikkara were further opposed by the Dewan. Macaulay and Ringletaube met the Dalava at Quilon and requested the redressal of the grievances of the Christian converts of South Travancore, and again for permission to build a church at Mylaudy and he states that the Dewan flatly denied his request (but other records show that he had actually granted permission (Rev Sydney Smith Vol 3-p50)). Various books by Yesudas provide conflicting information, in some he mentions that the Dewan did not reply and in another he states that the Dewan agreed to do so, but only after the Raja went on a pilgrimage to Suchindram.

 But why did Dewan get upset with Ringeltaube? Shungoony Menon explains - This can be seen from a fact connected with the founder of the London Mission in Travancore, the Reverend Mr. Ringeltaube, who, on paying a visit to the then Dewan Valu Thamby, for the express purpose of endeavouring to obtain a footing for the London Mission in Travancore, in 1806, being asked by the minister what religion he professed, the Reverend gentleman answered "Colonel Macaulay's Religion" .Let the reader note the severe rebuke implied in the following remark which that great Hindu Statesman made on hearing what Mr. Ringeltaube said about his professing " Colonel Macaulay's religion," "I never knew that there was such a religion" said the Dewan, meaning of course, a religion invented or professed by a private individual, for Christianity was in existence in Travancore for more than a thousand years before that period. Nevertheless, the Dewan was indeed alarmed and against the conversions carried out by Ringletaube and party, as we can read from his Kundra proclamation that all this culminated in.

 So we see some potential reasons for the rift and eventual conflict, with money, internal politics and religion driving a solid wedge between the Dalwa and Macaulay. Colin Macaulay by then had broken all bridges between him and Velu Thampy and no patch up was possible. But was Col Colin Macaulay really swayed by religion? Yes, we can confirm that for we see that since his retirement, he did take up seriously to religion as an active supporter of the British Bible Society. Colin’s strong relation with the Christians of Travancore is also confirmed in Iain Whyte’s book on Zachary Macaulay, Colin’s brother. With the help of the Travancore Evangelists, he even managed to meet with the Pope in 1818. Anyway in the end, the revolt happened and Veluthampy was dead.

How did the others fare after this revolt?  The Paliath Achan was forced to surrender during the key stages of the revolt, and defected to the British side, thus upsetting the Dalawa and his plans greatly. After the rebellion, the British deported him to Madras, where he was imprisoned at Fort St. George for 12 years and then taken to Bombay where he remained a prisoner for another 13 years, finally passing away at Benares 1832. The failure of the revolt of Paliyath Achan in 1809 led to the installation of his rival Kunhi Krishna Menon as Dewan of Cochin who was later fired for mismanagement of the affairs of the State; in 1812 (It will be also of interest to know that this Kunju Krishna Menon’s daughter later married a Rajah of Travancore).

 As for Ringletaube, in the year 1816 he suddenly left Travancore, "no one seemed to know why, only that something appeared to have come into his strange head of other more hopeful work somewhere to the eastward. At Madras he called on the Rev. M. Thompson, with whom he spent an evening in a very ordinary costume, for even then he had no coat, although about to undertake a sea voyage: the only covering for his head was something like a straw hat of native manufacture: yet, wild as was his appearance, Mr. Thompson was greatly interested in his conversation and helped him on his way. Thus did poor Ringletaube close his missionary career, no one knew whither he went, nor was he ever heard of again." Ringletaube apparently went to Ceylon in 1816, already a sick man and then moved on to Malacca where he succumbed to a liver ailment while on a voyage to Batavia (LMS R Lovett). Vedamanickam continued the missionary work near Nagercoil and was well supported by Munro.

 In conclusion, was the Dalawa a patriot? Was he a good man? Well, he certainly had a terribly large ego and this came in his way all the time. He saw law order and justice only in two colors, black and white. No shades of grey were allowable in his mind, such was his firmness. Perhaps that was needed to shake up the somewhat laid back Travancore peasant or the slumbering bureaucracy of the Kingdom, but it did not bode well for him in the long run. He did try to play both sides for a good amount of time, but ended up more with a fascist caricature and less a benevolent one. Personally he was above avarice and never siphoned riches for himself or his family, though he certainly lived well. But then he did not create and keep lasting relationships with the people of power and influence, so very much needed in politics, and that was his downfall.

 But as we discussed the involvement of Velu Thampi, Paliath Achan, Macaulay and a few others in the Travancore revolt, precipitated primarily by the delay or nonpayment of arrears ( and perhaps a British desire to usurp control over the kingdom formally) to the British and secondarily by religion and the conflict of personalities, we also see a strange anomaly. All this forced the Travancore kingdom into signing a humiliating treaty with the English. This begs a question; the temple vaults of Padmanabha contained billions in treasure all these years. That the king and his courtiers knew about it is clear for not only were they were filling it on a regular basis, but Balarama Varma used it at least once as we saw, so why did they not pay off the small arrears, instead of signing the treaty that went against them? One could answer saying that the wily Veluthampy forced the Balarama Varma to sign the treaty, but would that not then make Velu Thampy a traitor? Some would argue that the royal family did not want to lay a trail for the British to discover and loot the vaults. But then again another question comes up, if the Kingdom had so much money in the vaults why did they borrow from Mathoo Tharakan and the British during the wars with the Pandi pada and Tipu? Logically the only answer in such a case is that the vaults were filled up with billions after the 1810 time period!! Hmm….Food for ample thought!!

 So to summarize and tie up all loose ends, Velu Thampy died in 1809, Bala Rama Varma the king passed away in 1810, the Paliyath Achan spent ages in jail afterwards, Kunju Krishna Menon took over from him, to mess up the administration and Macaulay went back to England, a rich man. Not much is known about the fate of Mathoo Tharakan, but I assume he did well. The people fared none the better. The Shanar converts, rose up again during the days of the blouse revolt which I will cover another day. Sree Padmanabha, the deity of the Travancore kingdom lies in state, in the anantha shayana, serenely smiling on at the silly antics of his subjects, and continues to do so. Trivandrum is still what it always was, a place where politics is at play with the players continuing to master their game.


The Travancore State Manual - V. Nagam Aiya
History of Travancore - P. Shungoonny Menon
The Land of the Perumauls - Francis Day
The Asiatic journal and monthly register - Volume 30
A History of Tinnevelly - Bishop R. Caldwell, Caldwell R. Bishop
A hundred years in Travancore, 1806-1906: London Missionary Society
Zachary Macaulay 1768-1838- Iain Whyte
Cochin State manual – C Achyutha Menon
Ruby of Cochin – Ruby
JOKS paper - Travancore rebellion 1809 RN Yesudas
A people's revolt in Travancore: a backward class movement for social freedom - Yesudas, R. N
The history of the London Missionary Society in Travancore, 1806-1908 - Yesudas, R. N
British policy in Travancore, 1805-1859 - Yesudas, R. N


  1. About the Church funds, GT Mackenzie of ‘Christianity in Travancore’ opines- Exact information about the origin of the earliest endowments is not forthcoming, because in December 1808 the records of the Resident's office were burned by the rebellious Travancore troops, but such information as can be obtained is here noted. Three thousand Star Pagodas were invested with the East India Company at 8 %interest in 1808 for the benefit of the Syrian Christians and a like sum at the same interest for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Mission at Verapoly. These investments remain to this day. The Roman Catholic Archbishop at Verapoly draws the interest on one fund. The interest on the other fund is claimed both by the Jacobites and by the Reformed Syrians and this dispute is now before the district Court of Trivandrum in the form of an interpleader suit by the Secretary of State as the stakeholder. Mar. Dionysius says that the money was the amount saved by the Syrian bishop in those days, that Colonel Macaulay, in the troublous times of the revolt of 1808 borrowed this sum from the bishop and that instead of repaying the cash the money was thus invested. This suggestion does not seem likely. The fact that a like sum was invested for a Roman Catholic Mission is against it. Another story is that these two sums were the forfeited property of a wealthy Christian named Mathu Tharakan. Yet another surmise is that these two sums were the private monies of the Resident, Colonel Macaulay, given as a thank offering when he escaped with his life in the revolt.
  2. Another report suggests the following - In 1808 Marthoma VI (Mar Dionysius I) made an attempt to raise funds from among the community and was able to collect, 840 poovarahans (star pagoda gold coins = Rs 2,940 of that time) from the Malankara Syrian Christian community.  To this amount the British resident in Travancore, Col. Macaulay added another 2,160 Poovarahans (Rs 7,560) a contribution from the government of Travancore from money collected as fines from Hindus by the Travancore government for their crimes against the Syrian Christians - a total of 3000 Poovarahan equivalent to Rs 10,500/-  a large amount at that time.   Marthoma VII deposited this money at annual interest of 8% which was to be paid to the Church annually.  This investment was called Vattipanam (interest money).
  3. Some other reports suggest that Macaulay was rescued by a Cochini Jew named Naphtali Rothenburg (Henry Baerlin - Travels without a passport V2) during an attack by the natives and the grateful resident donated two silver lamp chandeliers to the Jewish Synagogue. A little confusion here as the dating is 1806/1807, so it may have been an earlier attack. This is possible as Ruby’s story mentions an attack on Macaulay by the Kings men, not Veluthampi. So this must have occurred in 1807. More on this another day after I get additional information. Another report suggests that the raja’s gold crown mentioned was also gifted by Macaulay. All surprising considering that Macaulay’s gross remuneration including all allowances was apparently 9,600 Pagodas or Rs 33,600 p.a.
  4. Colin Macaulay had further problems with his own administration. According to his bio - He had his knuckles rapped four years later for making an ‘unguarded’ and ‘imperfect statement’ of a transaction concerning tobacco, but Wellesley was anxious that such ‘an honest and deserving servant of the public’, who subscribed to ‘good principles of government in India’, should not be made to suffer unduly for this indiscretion. He was further involved in the controversy surrounding the dismissal of George Vaughan Hart, commissary of grain to the army of Mysore, for alleged peculation, and later sought to vindicate his conduct in two Letters to Lord Harris (1816). He left India for the sake of his health in April 1810.


Happy Kitten said...

That was a long one!so much treachery, exploits hidden in our history. Have a frnd from the Paliath family..will forward this to him.

Maddy said...

thanks HK..
I was initially planning a smaller one, but 90% of the stories out there were incomplete, so felt it worth the efforts to add a few more paragraphs.Hope it was not too daunting..

Anonymous said...

Nice one. Interesting story, had heard it before in parts, but this is complete. People from history, be it anybody, are not perfect. Have both good & bad faces.

Maddy said...

Thanks Nidheesh..
It took me a while to get all the facts,the interesting thing is that the Maculay aspects are still a bit murky, though tangential to the story..

Anonymous said...

"Sree Padmanabha, the deity of the Travancore kingdom lies in state, in the anatha shayana"

"Anatha" shayana, Maddy? Freudian slip?

Maddy said...

oops G..
got me there. have corrected it.
but well anatha....does make some sense !!

Matter of Choice said...

Hi Sir,

I am a veluthampian myself (1990) at sskzm.

Accidentally came by this blog and when i read the opening sentence i had to leave a comment!.

Great writings!


Maddy said...

thanks anish..
wow i was 849 (though in the 500-600 1974 passing out group) ...what a chasm between the two veluthampians!!

Gauri Pillai said...

Dear Maddy,
Simply wow!
This is an incredible article from u. I had read about Velu Thampy's hand in British domination of Travancore but ur article is crystal clear about the whole incident. Our history books blamed the not so brilliant King for the act. But in reality we were singing praises of the real antagonist all these years.
About the temple wealth, it is pointed out by many researchers that the wealth of the Temple increased to gigantic proportion during the reign of Sree Padmanabhadasa Swati Tirunal Maharaja. He is said to have donated the largest amounts of wealth to the Temple.
The British also knew about the wealth. I read that during the reigns of H.H Swati Tirunal's mom & aunt, Col Monroe(due to his insistance) was taken into one of the Vaults, which didn't contained much wealth. These 2 Queens cleverly misinformed about the extent of the wealth in the Temple. The British govt also requested H.H Sree Chithira Tirunal Bala Rama varma to contribute to the World War efforts by granting access to the Temple wealth. The reply from the King was a firm 'NO'. This shows that the British couldn't loot the wealth like in other Princely states.

Maddy said...

thanks JK 47..
The veluthampi story, like many others was not completely told....
hope fully this will be of some help to those interested in gleaning more details
Regarding Swati Tirunal Raja, I am not too sure. During his reign, wealth was not generated, no new taxes or trade occured, and the the family was not awash in wealth for him to transfer it to the vaults. Agreed that he was a just man and came up with a lot of wise proclamations.
I will have to study the temple vault story better to come up with conclusions...

Unknown said...

Kundara Proclamation shows how Velu Thampi could twist history to gratify his selfish cravings. The British was used by Velu Thampi to suppress Nair soldiers' just demands. That was the first selfish act which gave the British an opportunity to interfere in the internal affairs of Travancore. He was responsible for signing a treaty with the British and made them real authority to rule Travancore. Kundara Proclamation was issued to divide Travancore citizens - division on the basis of religion, caste and customs. It is a reactionary document which wanted to check the progress of Travancore in cultural, political, economic and social fields. It is a communal manifesto. It is good it was not put into action, for Thampi committed suicide and Travancore was saved to march on the path of progress and plenty..The other characters such as Vedamanickom, Tharakan Rigeltaube did not play any major role in this episode. Actually, Vedamonickom and other Christians were hiding in mountains during the rebellion. Ringeltaube lived in very poor circumstances, but awakened the Nadar community by largescale conversion, which even Velu Thampi could not stop. In today's survey, the Nadars who were once oppressed by Thampi and his caste, they are the highly advanced community in business, education and social status. Most colleges and schools are owned by them. In medical profession, there is no dearth even for FRCS. Boards displayed in hospitals will show the social status they enjoy in South Travancore..In economic status, they monopolize fireworks, litho printing and commerce having branches in most North India cities. Shiv Nadar is listed in the Forbes. This community raised by poor Ringeltaube even control politics in five districts of Trivandrum taluk. They own a medical college, two engineering colleges, a law college, a training college and a postgraduate Artsd and Science College in Kattakkada.Although Ringelataube left the shores of Kerala a beggar, his work has been richly rewarded by the blossoming of a very strong community.

Seeker said...

Hello Maddy
Would you kindly tell me where you got that super map of Travancore from, in the 2013 post on Veluthambi Dalawa? I wonder if I could get a similar one on the old State of Kochi as well from the same source, or a similar composite one. In the art and science of cartography we Indians are yet to go a long way , don't you think? .
with many thanks for the excellent post

Maddy said...

hi sarah
thanks - I got my map from wikimedia..

there are plenty of maps on Cochin - just type 'Cochin India old map' on google and look under images. I saw a good one on the Cochin state here

Maddy said...

try this link