Raja Rama Varma 1805 - 1809

Rama Varma, eldest son of Chittamma Thampuran succeeded his nephew Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran as the next Raja  according to  the matrilineal tradition.  This Raja was a spiritual and religious scholar and totally disinterested in ruling the State. He and his brother had embraced the Dwaita sidhanta a departure from the traditional Smartha sidhanta of the Cochin Royal Family much to the consternation and displeasure of the Raja Sakthan Thampuran. They had accepted as their Guru,  a Swamiyar from Udipi in Karnataka where the Madhwa cult originated.  The Madhwa teachers were willing to impart Vedic teachings to the Raja as against the traditions set by the Namboodiri spiritual heads. This Swamiyar was present at the installation of Raja Rama Varma.

At the insistence of Resident Macaulay and the then popular Minister of Travancore, Velu Thamby Dalawa, the Raja appointed the Paliath Achan as the Minister of Cochin. In the beginning, both these Ministers were bosom loyalists of the Resident.

In 1806, the British vandalized the magnificent warehouses of the Dutch East India Company which bewildered the natives of Cochin and Travancore. This act was perpetrated with the connivance of the Court of Directors Of East India Company, who were afraid that the British Government will restore the Dutch colonies to the Dutch again after Napoleon was defeated and also since the chief Stratholder Prince Orange of Netherlands was afforded sanctuary in London.

In Cochin, the Minister, Paliath Achan,  became the virtual ruler and some  murders and reprisals against the previous Raja's supporters were committed. Raja Rama Varma lived a secluded life in a village called Vellarapilly protected by special guards provided by Velu Thamby as a courtesy and friendship.  Raja realized that a young man under his tutelage was next on the list for elimination by his enemies and  sent him to the Resident Macaulay for safe keeping. He was Cheruparambil Kunjikrishna Menon.

Affairs in Travancore after the fall of Tippu Sultan

Travancore also had a weak ruler in Bala Rama Varma. His original Ministers were replaced due to corruption and maladministration by Velu Thamby Dalawa. In 1805, Velu Thamby was applauded by Macaulay. To quote  Macaulay:   Velu Thamby carried on  “the general administration of the concerns of the State with his usual ability and address, grounded on the firmest integrity”, “regulated his conduct by principles of rectitude and probity in every measure connected with finance”, and formed “a very singular and Honourable exception to the general depravity”. However, two years later Macaulay described him as “temporizing, equivocating, prevaricating and marauding” and characterized his proceedings as “dictated by a spirit of the most base treachery and tyranny”.

   Marquis of Wellesley, the Governor General, had hand-picked Colnel Macaulay in order to make Travancore and Cochin as full-fledged subsidiaries of
the British. The subsidiary alliance demanded dismantling of the state native militia and the English Forces controlling the native forces were to  safeguard the State. Abolishing the long standing Nayar Brigade in Travancore was very unpopular and resulted in a minor mutiny. The mutiny was quelled with the total support of Velu Thamby, which was gratefully approved by Macaulay. This was the time the revised treaties to implement the subsidiary alliance was sought by Resident Macaulay and was fully endorsed by the Ministers of Travancore and Cochin.

The heavy subsidy in lieu of the new treaties strained the treasuries of both States.

Macaulay started demanding the payment of arrears, and soon the relationship soured. Covertly the Ministers organized a powerful hostile confederacy against the British, culminating in a rebellion.


The confederates made plans before the rebellion. Both the Rajas were against such an act. They ( the confederates ) communicated with the French in Mauritius and even the Samudiri of Calicut to collaborate against the British. In 1808, on the 18th of December the insurgents attacked the Resident’s quarters in Cochin. However,  Resident Macaulay and his ward Kunjikrishna Menon escaped by a secret passage into a British ship anchored at the port. This frustrated the Ministers. Subsequent attack against the subsidiary forces in Quilon also was repelled. Re-enforcements for the British from the north and the South arrived and took control of both the States.  In Cochin, the rebellion was very short lived.

In due course, Velu Thamby, the Minister of Travancore, tried to whip up the anti-British feeling of the masses by his great oration at Kundara:         “ It is the nature of the English nation to get possession of countries by treacherous means, and should they obtain ascendancy in Travancore, they will put their own guards in the Palaces, Sircar buildings, and the fort gates, destroy the Royal seal, do away with honorific palanquins, and other distinguishing marks, suppress the Bhraminical communities and worship in Pagodas, make monopolies of salt and every other thing, measure up and assert themselves absolute, owners of waste lands, impose exorbitant taxes on paddy lands, coconut trees,&c; get low caste people to inflict heavy punishments for slight faults, put up crosses and Christian flags in Pagodas, compel intermarriages with Brahmin women without reference to caste or creed, and practice all the unjust and unlawful things which characterize Kaliyuga.”

“ Let us therefore exert ourselves to keep off impending calamities, such as those we have sketched above, and endeavour so far as lies in our power that no disparagement or discredit may be implied to us in guarding our homes, the charitable institutions, and the manners and customs of our land. The rest of course, we must leave to the divine will. These measures which we have enumerated are incumbent upon us to adopt to defend ourselves against the action taken by the English.” –

To quote Nagam Aiyya in Travancore State Manual:        “Velu Thamby was of course playing a desperate game, but the arguments used and the exhortation urged were such as would, in any case and in any country and age, enable an ambitious and unscrupulous man like himself to create racial animosities, to widen the gulf between rival communities and stir up a whole nation of law-abiding, ignorant and agricultural folk into a sudden flood of mutiny. The whole country rose like one man. Their religious susceptibilities were touched, which in a conservative country like Travancore is like smoking in a gunpowder magazine. Their caste rights and privileges were threatened, their domestic and religious rites were invaded, and in one word their vital interests were jeopardized. Even the quiet and the peace loving Maharajah felt for once in his life that he had suffered grievous wrongs at the hands of the English Company and their local agent , the Resident, and that Velu Thamby was his only true friend and counsellor who at the hour of need nobly stood by him and championed his country’s cause. So great a spell had been cast by ‘the dangerous Minister’ on the people as well as on their Prince. Even the Governor in Council felt it necessary to assure the inhabitants of Travancore, in his proclamation of the 17th January 1809 that “particular orders will also be given to the British troops to give no disturbance to the Brahmins and the religious establishments throughout the country”.

Soon after the fiasco in Cochin, after the Resident escaped, the Cochin Minister Paliath Achan sued for peace and took full responsibility for the action and absolved the Royal Family of any role. Mcaulay banished him from the State of Cochin and he spent the rest of his life in Kashi ( Benares). The Cochin Rajah died suddenly and suspiciously.

Velu Thamby did not lose heart and made a valiant attempt again at the subsidiary force in Quilon, but in vain. He also attacked Cochin once again to be repelled by the British fire power. The Minister also committed wholesale murder of Europeans trying to leave the town.

By this time, the Madras Government swung into vigorous action. Forces moved from every direction encircling the Travancore State. The Government of Madras issued the following Proclamation to the inhabitants of Travancore dated 17th January 1809.

It is known to the inhabitants of Travancore that during many years the closest alliance has subsisted between the British Government and the Government of the Travancore country; that the British troops have long been employed in defence of Travancore, and that it was by the exertion of the British armies, that Travancore was saved from subjection to the power of Tippu Sultan.
The Honourable the Governor in Council has reason to believe that these unprecedented outrages have proceeded from the desperate intrigues of the Dewan of Travancore, who has been also endeavouring by injurious insinuation to excite rebellion in the territories of the Honourable Company; in order that the daring plans of the Dewan may“  be defeated, the Honourable the Governor in Council has directed a large body of troops to move into Travancore, who will, in a short time, put an end to the power of the Dewan, and restore order and peace in the country of Travancore. The Honourable the Governor in Council thinks it proper at the same time to make known to the inhabitants of Travancore that the approach of the British troops need occasion no alarm in the minds of those inhabitants who conducts themselves peaceably. The British Government has no other view in directing the movements of the troops than to rescue the Rajah of Travancore from the influence of the Dewan, to put an end to the power of that dangerous Minister and to re-establish the connection of the two Governments on a secure and happy foundation."

The Honourable the Governor in Council calls on the inhabitants of Travancore to co-operate in accomplishing these objects; and such of the inhabitants as shall not oppose the advance of the British troops may be assured of the entire protection of their persons and property; particular orders will also be given to give no disturbance to Brahmins and religious establishments throughout the Travancore country”.

By the end of February 1809, the British had total control of Travancore. Velu Thamby realized that all was lost and eventually committed suicide. His body was brought to Trivandrum and was exposed on a gibbet in a public place at the insistence of Resident Macaulay.

Lord Minto, the Governor General, condemned this vengeful act of the Resident:      “The ends of justice and purposes of public security were attained by the death of the Dewan; and prosecution of a vindictive policy when the object of it had ceased to exist was repugnant to the feelings of common humanity and the principles of civilized Government.”

In Cochin, Raja Rama Varma  died while at Vellarapilly.  He is remembered to this day by our family for composing the Sundarakandam Pana in Malayalm which is part of the epic Ramayana and in the month of Karkidakam, it has become a tradition  to read the Pana.   Records indicate that he was married to one Williyavattathu Nangyar of Ambalavasy Household.   He was  succeeded by his brother Vera Kerala Varma.

Ekameva adwitiyam, A short film on This Raja and his religious beliefs....CLICK HERE