Overview: The role of 'wealth' in the Royal Family
The Perumpadappu Swaroopam, over a period of centuries evolved into the Cochin Royal Family. It was a unique Royal Family which existed for centuries until the independence of India in 1947. The family, unlike other Royal Families, has never created material wealth of any significant degree, though it survived for centuries. This Family has always prided in the motto ‘Honor Is our Family Treasure’. Simple living and high thinking has been the philosophy. Spirituality and charitable spending has been the mainstay for generations. Present day, nuclear family structure may challenge the traditional philosophy. Being less and less interconnected, it is possible that the old traditions may be lost forever, particularly, if the traditional institutions at Tripunithura are not preserved. How far-sighted it was to have kept these properties as undividable and to continue in perpetuity. This Family’s heritage will be at risk if something is not done to preserve these institutions.
THE WEALTH OF THE COCHIN ROYAL FAMILY
The first King of Cochin is believed to be the son of the sister of the last Perumal of the Chera kingdom and Perumpadappu Namboodiri. The large feudal holdings of Perumpadappu Illom were inherited by his son as there were no members in the Perumpadappu Namboodiri Family. When Perumal divided his kingdom, the predominant entity was Perumpadappu Swaroopam and its King was Veera Kerala Varma.
This King had several sisters and this was the basis for the Mutha, Elaya, Chazhiyur, Palluruthy and Muringur or Madathingal Tavazhis. Traditionally, the oldest male member of all these branches would be the King. These branches all had their own separate wealth and followers. Disputes and dissensions often occurred amongst these branches and the enemies of the Perumpadappu Swaroopam took advantage of the power politics from time to time. With the advent of the foreign powers the old traditions were sometimes discontinued.
'The kingdom of Perumpadappu or Cochin came into existence on the division or dismemberment of Kerala around sixth century A.D. According to tradition, the first King of Cochin was the son of a sister of the last of the Perumals, and was therefore his direct heir under the Marumakkathayam
law of succession.The name of the first King is said to have been Veera Kerala Varma, probably 'the king of kings Veera Kerala Chakravarthi' of the Syrian copper plate, and it is in consequence of this that Veera Kerala became a standing appellation of the Kings of Cochin. Nothing however, is definitely known about the early history of Cochin, and it will probably have to remain forever involved in obscurity.'
[Page 51, Cochin State Manual]
The Cochin Royal Family gained another tract of land from Eddapalli Namboodiri, who married a Cochin Princess and whose son became the King of Cochin. The Namboodiri Raja of Eddapalli gifted the tract of land occupied by the present Cochin and Mattanchery. This occurred in the early fifteenth century. The later Rajas of Eddapalli protested this deed and with the help of Samudiri, tried over and over to regain the land with no success.
Gaining Cochin and Mattanchery was huge, considering the fact that this new Vaipin era created the natural harbor of Cochin.
'Of all the ports on the Malabar Coast, Cochin was by far the best, though it was comparatively modern, as is the island of Vaipin that had been thrown up after a great land flood in 1341 A.D.'
[Page 11 RS Whiteway]
'No traveler or writer of any importance makes mention of the port-town of Cochin before the fourteenth century. It turned out to be a convenient rendezvous of vessels after the great flood in 1341 A.D., which opened wide, the entrance from the sea to the lagoons and paved the way for the emergence of a suitable natural port.'
[Page v Matthew]
'The meaning of the word Vaipin is, 'a place which has arisen from a swamp' and there is an era called Puthu
Vaipin or new Vaipin, corresponding to 1341 A.D.'
[Page 7 Francis Day]
When the Portuguese arrived on the scene around 1500 A.D. to 1504 A.D. , Cochin existed as a vassal of the mighty Samudiri. The tract of land namely Perumpadappu Swaroopam had vanished and was under the control of the Samudiri. The Naduvazhi
feudal land lords were subservient to the Samudiri instead of the Perumpadappu Moopil, with the exception of a few land lords.
Collaborating with the Portuguese and forming a remarkable alliance, the fortunes of the Cochin State exalted to a degree and ushered in great prosperity and power. Cochin Raja’s supporters --namely Porakad or Chembakassery, Vadakkamkoor, Quilon, Kayamkulam, Kolathiri and others made deals withthe Portuguese King, Dom Manuel.
The main income of the Raja of Cochin was through customs duties levied through the Cochin port. The natural formation of the Cochin Harbor as a result of the Vaipin era became built in income for the Raja. In addition, the Portugese paid kappam or ‘Copa’ annually of 640 cruzados (gold coins).
'The first Viceroy of Portuguese India, Dom Francisco de Almeida, was instructed by his King to present a golden crown and conduct the ceremonies of coronation for the King of Cochin in 1505 A.D.. An annuity (Copa) of 640 cruzados was also to be given regularly to the King of Cochin as the compensation for the loss suffered in connection with the fight between the Zamorin and the King of Cochin for the sake of the Portuguese.'
[Page vi Mathew]
'The Portuguese Viceroy approved the right of the King of Cochin to collect customs duties at the Port of Cochin through his own Customs House. He was to collect duties on all commodities entering into Cochin either by land or water. The unmarried persons in the service of the King of Portugal were asked to pay 6% as lagimas(exit tax) to the officials, as customs duties. The married settlers were to pay to the King of Cochin 3.5%, which was only for the entry and not for exit. Both the married and unmarried Portuguese should pay 1% more to the City of Cochin for its upkeep. The Hindus, the Muslims, the Jews, the Armenians, the fishermen, then Christians, the Venetians, the St.Thomas Christians, local Christians from the South and the Niranam Christians should pay the usual customs duties.'
[Page xxvii Mathew]
It was alluded to earlier that the descendants of the Perumpadappu Swaroopam, the different branches or thavazhis,
often disagreed and even entered into war-like postures very often. The prevailing tradition was broken soon after the first Raja Unni Goda Varma Koil Thirumalpad (Trimumpara, as he was referred to in early Portuguese records) entered into ascetic life in 1504. The first Portuguese Viceroy coronated Unni Rama Koil from Elaya Thavazhi, disregarding seniority and the Portuguese continued to favor this Thavazhi there, after alienating the other Thavazhis. The letters written by the Raja of Cochin to the King of Portugal, Dom Manuel were signed by Unni Rama Koil.
In 1635, the Muringur branch of the Royal Family merged with Elaya Thavazhi though, at that time, there were only three members in that Thavazhi, including a princess. Adoptions did take place from other collateral Thavazhis. However, when Raja Goda Varma died in 1645, an inevitable scramble occurred. The Portuguese expelled two of the Mutha Thavazhi Princes and preferred a Palluruthy Prince to be the King of Cochin. This King died in 1650, and was succeeded by a Chazhiyur Prince adopted to Elaya Thavazhi. He died in six years and finally the Mutha Thavazhi seemed to be the undisputed choice. The Portuguese preferred the Rani, the only surviving Elaya Thavazhi member (Rani Gangadhara Laxmi). They also coerced her to adopt four Princes from Tanur or Vettath family. A civil war broke out. The Chazhiyur Thavazhi joined the Mutha Thavazhi. Their supporters included the Paliyam family, the Jews and even the Samudiri. The civil war lasted for almost two years. Bitter battles were fought in Cranganore, Mattanchery and Cochin between the Dutch and the Portuguese until the latter capitulated in February of 1663.
Prince Veera Kerala Varma of Mutha Thavazhi was installed as the King of Cochin by the Dutch General Hustaart and a treaty was concluded on 22nd
It was soon obvious that the Cochin Treasury was significantly depleted after the civil war. Samudiri had helped the Dutch and the Mutha Thavazhi Princes in the war against the Portuguese and the Vettath Princes. He claimed war expenses and also kept certain territories in between Cranganore and Trichur, including Vanneri, which was the ancestral origins of the Perumpadappu Kingdom. In 1662, Van Goens, the Dutch Commander, had been ordered to promote peace between Cochin and Calicut, and to leave to the Samudiri, all the lands that he had already possessed.
'Thus, the relations between the VOC, as the protector and Cochin as the protégé, were burdened from the start by the different perspectives of the two parties: the Raja of Cochin wanted an offensive policy towards the Zamorin while the VOC wanted a defensive one.'
[Page 42 The Rajas of Cochin]
Revenue of the Raja of Cochin under the Dutch
This was very different from the period of Portuguese domination. Though basically the same customs duties were charged, the pepper monopoly that was enjoyed by the Dutch was not fully utilized by them. The Dutch procured pepper from Malaya and Sumatra after they had beaten the Portuguese in Malacca in 1641. Moreover, during the Dutch period there were less number of independent exporters compared to the Portuguese period. So, there was a diminution in the duties collected. The Raja of Cochin did not collect tolls, and hence added to his expenses. Political power in Cochin was highly fragmented. The Raja had to maintain a good relationship with the Nayar Chiefs. When they supplied the Nayars for wars, the Raja had to pay them. Periodic wars could easily deplete the treasury. Even the Dutch administrators were critical of the royal expenses for ceremonies and charities.
'The State treasury had been exhausted by the civil wars of 1658-63; after that collection had fallen into arrears. In addition, the VOC had behaved in an unhelpful manner towards Cochin. Money ammunition and gun powder were very important commodities, but the VOC did not provide sufficient quantities of these to Cochin. The Raja stressed that the fortunes of the Company in Malabar depended greatly on the power of Cochin; therefore, it had to be supported by the Dutch. It is obvious that the causes of Cochin’s distress put forward by the Company and the Raja were well-founded, but each side mentioned those that suited it best.'
[Page 91 The Rajas of Cochin]
Raja Rama Varma, who ruled from 1702 – 1721, was the strongest of the Rajas of Cochin during the Dutch Period. He had manipulated the VOC to take an offensive approach against the Samudiri and retaking most of the land that was lost to the latter. This certainly helped the finances of Cochin. But this was short- lived.
Raja Marthanda Varma was rising in Travancore and the Dutch had to fight Travancore to help out Elayadathu Rani because of treaty obligations. Cochin also joined the Dutch in a lukewarm effort. The war was concluded by a treaty of peace between the Dutch and Travancore. The neutrality of the Dutch allowed Travancore to consolidate power by defeating the friendly neighbors of Cochin and ultimately invading parts of Cochin. At this weak moment, Samudiri also progressed southwards to hold and consolidate his position.
'Never had the fortunes of Cochin been at such a low ebb since the time of Pacheco. The major portion of the present Kanayannur Cochin Taluk and a small portion of the Trichur Taluk was all that remained to her, and the PaliathAchan, the CheranellurKartha and the other lords of Anjikaimal were the only notable chiefs that still adhered to the Raja’s fortunes.'
[Page 146 Cochin State Manual]
In 1761, a new treaty was signed with Travancore under the guidance of Komi Achan, who was the Minister of Cochin. Travancore was to help Cochin recover lost lands to the Samudiri. By concerted military action this was achieved in three years. Travancore kept possession of Alangad and Parur to defray the cost of the war. Samudiri signed a peace treaty with Travancore promising not to be hostile anymore with Cochin.
'All the conditions of the treaty between the two States were satisfactorily fulfilled by the respective parties in the course of another year except that the Zamorin still remained in possession of Perumpadappu and other Cochin villages in Vanneri, and the Travancore Army withdrew from Cochin early in 1764. A treaty of peace was concluded with the Zamorin, by which he agreed to pay a war indemnity to Travancore and to desist from hostilities against Cochin in the future.'
[Page 149 Cochin Sate Manual]
Cochin learned a very valuable lesson on political reality from Travancore. Marthanda Varma had consolidated power by defeating feudalism in Travancore. A benevolent dictatorship was found to be preferable. The next important Raja, Rama Varma learned this and earned the name, Shakthan Thampuran of Cochin.
Northern Malabar was invaded by Hyder Ali of Mysore in 1766. With tact and diplomacy, the Raja of Cochin decided to become a tributary to Hyder to avoid war and destruction in Cochin. Cochin had to pay almost twenty percent of its State revenue to Mysore. This continued on for almost twenty years. It was no longer tolerable for the Raja of Cochin to saty diplomatic with the growing fanaticism of Tippu Sultan of Mysore. He preferred to stay in subsidiary alliance with the British East India Company as early as 1789 when the Dutch power was stating to wane.
'These atrocities decided Cochin to free herself from the yoke of Mysore, and towards the end of 1789 the Raja approached Mr. Powney, the Company’s agent in Travancore, with proposals for a subsidiary alliance with the English Company, but the treaty was finally concluded only after the English declared war against Tippu.'
[Page 163 Cochin State Manual]
The Raja of Cochin, Rama Varma (Sakthan Thampuran) signed the treaty with George Powney, the Representative of the British East India Company on the 6th
of January,1791. Articles IV and VII are paraphrased below:
'That upon signing, Rama Warma Raja being in possession of the above mentioned districts, he shall become tributary to the Honourable United English East India Company, and shall pay to the Representative or Delegate to the Honourable Governor in Council of Madras a yearly tribute, in the following manner : for the first year he possesses the aforementioned districts, seventy thousand Rupees, the second year, eighty thousand Rupees, the third year ninety thousand Rupees, and the fourth year, one hundred thousand Rupees and ever after, the last mentioned sum( Rupees 100,000) shall be annually paid by him. The yearly tribute shall be made in equal quarterly payments.'
'That the Raja Rama Warma shall exercise a complete and uncontrolled authority over the aforementioned possessions, under the acknowledged sovereignty of the Honourable English Company.'
[Page 92 WL]
This was the beginning of Sakthan Thampuran’s sovereign rule. He controlled the power of traditional feudal landlords who had supported the Raja of Cochin in the past. Was this the reason for a drift with the Paliyam Family? One can merely wonder. From 1791 to 1805. the Raja of Cochin enhanced the wealth of the State as well as the Family.
The fortunes of the Cochin Royal Family came tumbling down after Sakthan Thampuran's death. His successors, Raja Rama Varma and Raja Veera Kerala Varma, were disinterested and indifferent. The rebellion incited by the Ministers of Travancore and Cochin, Velu Thampi Dalawa and Paliath Achan, against the British, turned disastrous for the Cochin Royal Family. In its immediate aftermath, a new treaty of perpetual friendship and subsidy between the British East India Company and the Raja of Cochin was signed and ratified on 17th
Article V paraphrased below explains the dire consequences suffered by Cochin in its wake:
'And it is further agreed that whenever the said Governor in Council shall signify the said Rajah of Cochin that it has become necessary to carry into effect, the provisions of the fourth article, the said Rajah shall immediately issue orders to his Kariakars or other officers either for carrying into effect the said regulations and ordinances, according to the tenor of the fourth article, or for placing the territories required under the exclusive authority and control of the English Company Bahadur; and in case the said Rajah shall not issue such orders within ten days from the time when the application shall have been formally made to him, then the said Governor in Council shall be at liberty to issue orders by his authority, either by carrying into effect the said regulations and ordinances, or for assuming the management and collection of the revenues of the said territories, as he shall judge most expedient for the purposes of securing the efficiency of the said military funds and of providing for the effectual protection of the country and the welfare of the people; provided always, that whenever and so long as any part or parts of the said Rajah’s territories shall be placed and shall remain under the exclusive authority and control of the said East India Company, the Governor in Council shall render to the Rajah a true and faithful account of the revenues and produce of the territories so assumed; provided also that in no case whatsoever shall the said Rajah’s actual receipt of annual income arising out of his territorial revenue be less than the sum of thirty-five thousand rupees, together with one-fifth part of the net revenues of the whole of his territories: which is the sum of the said thirty-five thousand rupees, together with the amount of the one-fifth of the said net revenues, the East India Company engages at all times and in every possible case to secure and cause to be paid for the use of the said Rajah. '
[Pages 104 – 105 CAL]
The treaty was signed by the Raja, Vera Kerala Varma. The minister in charge was Cheruparambathu Kunjikrishna Menon. The British Resident was Col.Macaulay. Kunjikrishna Menon was completely inefficient and was unable to fulfill the steps to pay the war indemnity and left the subsidy in arrears. He was one of Macaulay's favourites and did not listen to the complaints of even the Raja. Col.Macaulay was recalled by the Governor in Council and was replaced by Col.John Munro, who was very warm and compassionate. He asked Minister Kunjikrishna Menon to retire.
At the request of the Raja, Munro served as the First Dewan of Cochin, while he was simultaneously serving as the Dewan of Travancore and the British Resident. He increased the Royal Treasury, which was totally depleted in the previous years, to around 60,000 rupees per annum, much to the delight of the Raja and the Royal Family. To paraphrase one of the Raja’s letters to the Governor General of the East India Company:
'Since Colonel John Munro was appointed Resident in my country in the year 1811, that gentleman has by his indefatigable exertions and vigilance, rescued me from an ocean of debt in which I was unfortunately involved by the corrupt and treacherous conduct of my ministers, enabled myself, my family and my subjects now to live happy and unconcerned, which favorable circumstance, I cannot in justice avoid bringing to the notice of your Lordship in Council.'
[Page 194 – Cochin State Manual]
Veera Kerala Varma died in 1828 and his nephew Rama Varma became the Raja. The administration, with Dewan Edamana Sankara Menon at its helm, grew increasingly corrupt and ultimately ended with the impeachment and conviction of the latter. Mr.Casamajor, who was the Resident, reorganized the finances of the State as well as the Royal treasury. He separated the treasuries and barred Cochin from infusing funds to the Royal treasury from the State treasury. He increased the payment to the Royal Family to around 100,000 rupees, creating for the first time, a system of allowance.
Raja Rama Varma died in 1838 and was succeeded by his cousin, Raja Rama Varma. He was ably guided by Dewan Sankara Variyar. The latter invested lakhs of rupees in the East India Company securities and advised the Raja to do the same with his personal savings. In 1844, the Raja died and was succeeded by Raja Rama Varma, the eldest son of Ikkavu Thampuran who ruled for the next six years. Dewan Sankara Variyar continued in his post. This was the time Palli-Ara Muthalpidi and the Amma Raja Estate funds came into being. The Court of Directors of the British East India Company were lavish in their praises of Dewan Sankara Variyar.
'We learn with great satisfaction, the continued financial prosperity of this petty State and the continuance of economical administration, owing to which the Dewan expected to have shortly another lakh of rupees for investment in Company’s securities, without neglecting useful public works on which the expenditure appears to be liberal. The Dewan is entitled to much credit for his success in reducing the arrears in the civil and criminal courts.'
[Page 216 Cochin State Manual]
More corroborating evidence of the same was provided by C.G.Herbert in a letter he wrote on 24th
of December, 1931. This was during the time when a group of Thampurans alleged misappropriation of the Palli-Ara Muthalpidy funds and to a certain degree, the Amma Raja Estate (the VTK estate funds). Excerpts from the letter are given below:
'Some time ago now, a deputation of these Thampurans made certain representations to Colonel Crosthwaite who was then agent to the Governor General. Two of these representations related to the management of the Palli-Ara Muthalpidi properties and the Valia Amma Raja’s estate.'
'Both the Amma Raja’s Estate and Palli-Ara Muthalpidi properties appear to have been founded by a Raja who died in the Malayalam month of Edavom 1018 (88 years ago). This Raja, before he ascended the Musnad had acquired considerable private property, which he increased during his reign. Before he died, he gave property worth two lakhs to the female members of the family, thereby constituting the Amma Raja’s estate. The reminder of his properties, he constituted as a separate estate for the male Thampurans and thus originating the Palli -Ara Muthalpidi properties. These properties have always remained under the direct management of the Ruler and it was customary for a new Raja, when he ascended the Musnad, to add his private properties to the estate. However, His Highness, the present Maharaja, did not do so. The properties may therefore either be regarded as family properties, their management being vested to the Ruler for the time being in his capacity of Karanavan or head of the family: or perhaps less probably, as Stanum properties, a Stanum property being one set apart for the benefit of a person occupying a particular position (Stanum) so long as he occupies that position. For the present purpose, the question is of no importance. The important point is that the properties being Stanum properties, the head of the family is entitled only to a life interest in them.
The Amma Raja’s Estate had been managed by the Senior Rani (that is the oldest female Thampuran) during that period. H.H. the Maharaja, while he was Elaya Raja, assumed the management of the estate at the request of the then Senior Rani and managed it with much skill. He continued in the affairs of managing the Estate even after he ascended the Musnad. Subsequently, the management was assumed by the State Government by a proclamation while Mr. Cotton was agent to the Governor General, and it still is in the hands of the Government, the manager of the estate being under the immediate supervision of Sarvadhikariakar.'
Ravi Varma, born in 1828, succeeded his brother Kerala Varma, who died in Benares in 1853. The Royal Family had then consisted of
23 members. An allowance of a lakh of rupees was used for the expenses of the Royal Family. Additionally, income from private properties could be utilized as living expenses.
Thirty years later, Raja Rama Varma wrote a confidential letter dated 4th
February, 1899 to Dewan Rajagopalachari. The letter has been partially paraphrased below:
I think, by now, you have gained sufficient experience to understand the nature of the difficulties I am experiencing, on almost a daily basis, in meeting the various wants and claims of several Princes and Princesses of my constantly increasing family.
The Amma Raja’s family, as you aready know, consist of 21 ladies, 13 grownup girls between the ages of 15 and 21, 6 younger girls ,8 boys and 33 children, which is composed of 13 males and 20 females.
These are maintained by a monthly stipend of rupees 3,200 from the Sircar added to the annual income of landed properties which amount to about 27,000 rupees a year. Out of this, a sum of about rupees 1,000 and another of rupees 6,650 goes to meet the expenses of Government tax and of some temples and charities belonging to Amma Raja’s kovilakam. You will, thus see that the actual sum Her Highness the Amma Raja has for the maintenance of the members of her kovilakam, whose current number of beneficiarie is now around 81, is about rupees 56,000.
The Kovilakam also gets rupees 2,000 per annum for various expenses incurred during the time of pregnancy of the females in the family. This sum was allocated at a time when there were, on an average, no more than 3 cases of pregnancy a year, whereas the average now will not be less than 6.
The First Prince is, upon my earnest request, taking care of general supervision over the affairs of the Kovilakam now, and has been able to bring to effect, retrenchments in the expenditure of the Kovilakam to such an extent that any improvements beyond it looks to be seemingly impossible. The income derived from the landed property of the Kovilakam does not seem capable of bringing forth a significant increase. Whatever little increase has been possible, and will be possible in the future, is being attended to by the Prince.'
[Letter from Rama Varma. Palace expenditure in Cochin BL.']
Raja Rama Varma in 1899 (Abdicated Highness), brought to notice, the rapid explosion in the membership of the Royal Family and the increasingly stagnant revenues, and pleaded to the British Resident through the Dewan for increased State contribution. Dewan Rajagopalachari studied the issue in detail and submitted a memorandum to the British Resident after the Raja’s approbation. The memorandum was submitted on the 26th
of January, 1900.
The average net revenue of the State of Cochin
during the previous five successive years was rupees 19.5 lakhs. The Royal family expenditure had been a little over rupees 3 lakhs for the same period of time. Dewan Rajagopalachari worked out a scheme which would enhance the income of the Royal Family to around rupees 3.5 lakhs.
If the above proposals are accepted, the budget of expenditure on the Royal Family will be as follows:
Fixed allowances to H.H the Raja and to the Princes at ₹ 11,100 per mensem
Fixed allowances to H.H the Amma Raja and the Ladies at ₹ 4,000 per mensem
Fixed contribution to the State Ceremony Fund
Fixed contribution to the Tour Fund
The Palace School
General Palace Funds
All the categories listed above give considerable details with regard to the functioning of the Cochin Royal Family.
For example, if we study the State Ceremony Fund, the expenditure for each ceremony will be listed as follows:
₹ 7,000 per girl
₹ 4,875 each
Funeral ceremonies for children
₹ 400 to ₹ 750
Funeral of grownups
₹ 4,300 each
Funeral of 1st Prince
Funeral of Elaya Raja or KunjammaThampuran
Funeral of the Raja or ValiammaThampuran : funded by the State.
During the reign of Madirassiyil Theepetta Raja, who reigned from 1914 onwards, following the abdication of the previous Raja, another important event is known to have happened. The Valiyamma Thampuran Estate, which was being managed by the Raja himself because of him being the Elaya Raja prior to his accession to the throne, is said to have coalesced with the Palace funds and subsequently, the Government ended up managing these funds. This was actually the result of a proclamation signed by the Raja sometime in the late 1920s. A deputation of Princes met with the Agent to the Governor General, Mr. Crosthwaite. Dewan Narayana Iyer was sacked and C.G.Herbert took over as Dewan. Investigations confirmed that the Raja was afflicted by senile dementia and the administration was then hijacked by the Sarvadhikariakar and the Raja’s consort in collusion with Dewan Narayana Iyer. However, during the Raja’s reign, the State revenues increased steadily and the Royal Family also fared seemingly better.
Raja Rama Varma (Parikshith Thampuran) by proclamation, in June, 1949, created the Palace Administration Board to administer the properties of the Valiamma Thampuran Kovilakam Estate and the Palace Funds. Till then, the Government of Cochin was in charge of these funds. In 1961, the VTK Estate and the Palace Fund Partition Acts were enacted. With the passage of time and the evolution of law and justice, in 1978, the Valiamma Thampuran Kovilakam Estate, the Palace Fund( Partition) and the Kerala Joint Hindu Family System( Abolition) Amendment Acts were enacted. The status of this Amendment Act has, to date, been successfully defended.
The legal issues and details of the June 1949 proclamation and the Partition Acts of 1961, 1976 and 1978, are available if one examines the records of the Supreme Court of India, titled, 'The Palace Administration vs Rama Varma Bharathan Thampuran on 27 March, 1980.'
In 1949, the Palace Administration's Board of Trustees consisted of the senior members of the four thavazhis
and an elected President who was answerable to the Raja or the senior-most male member of the family, to administer the affairs of the impartible assets of the Cochin Royal Family. In 1961, when partition was deemed necessary, the board took up that responsibility and proceeded with it as best as they could. In its aftermath, there were numerous complaints and many expressed immense dissatisfaction. At one point, there were even more than forty lawsuits happening simultaneously.
The Board was in charge of the common affairs - both religious and secular - of the erstwhile Cochin Ruling Family. In 1974, a Family Trust was formed to deal with these issues. This was called the Valiamma Thampuran Kovilakam Trust. The immovable properties placed under this trust were Amma Thampuran Kovilakam, the Kalikotta Palace,Thattu Malika and a segment of the Thekke Kovilakam, along with the Royal Cemetery.
The Palace Administration Board had to partition the Kovilakams in the Kottakkakam amongst the four thavazhis
first and then re-partition it amongst the succeeding generations of these thavazhis
. It must have been an arduous task indeed. The erstwhile Cochin Royal Family members had lived in these Kovilakams, which were originally built on State-owned land and nobody seemed to have any ownership deeds. Credit is often given to the great statesmanship of the late Chief Minister of Kerala, C Achutha Menon to deed these properties. The Board Members are nominated by the Valia Thampuran, as he is the Karanavan
. There is no time limit for the Board Members to serve and female members are excluded according to the original 1949 Proclamation. The Kerala Government has treated the board as a statutory body, as the Board is entrusted with the distribution of the State subsidy given to the members since the integration of the Cochin and Travancore States.
In addition to the properties in Kottakkakam, there were Palaces outside Kottakkakam and outside Tripunithura, and even outside the State of Cochin. Some of these properties were bought with the coalesced funds alluded to before. One by one, these had to be sold and the monies distributed to the heirs. This has been the task of the Palace Administration Board for the last few decades. The Supreme Court had decreed that only the Board can sell and distribute the monies.
Today in Kottakkakam, there are only very few structures from the 20s and 30s. Most Kovilakams have been partitioned further and sold to developers to build high-rises. Many of the members of the erstwhile family live outside of Tripunithura. Most are well-educated and enjoy an upper middle-class lifestyle and have transitioned to a more mainstream lifestyle.
Nine Things We Need To Understand About the Wealth Of The Royal Family
1. The details about the Perumpadappu Swaroopam are rather vague. They seem to have had lot of land and significant alliances with their neighbors. The Dutch Records imply that they used to be in Vanneri and had maintained a vary relationship with the Rajas of Porakad or Chembakassery, Vadakkancoor, Thekkencoor and Kayamkulam. The Samudiri of Nediyirippu Swaroopam is supposed to have dominated the Perumpadappu Swaroopam in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Samudiri had evicted the Perumpadappu family from their original settlement and forced them to relocate further south. Infighting amongst the branches of the Perumpadappu family further facilitated the Samudiri’s dominance. Sometime during the fourteenth century, the Raja of Perumpadappu was gifted Cochin and Mattanchery by the Raja of Eddapalli, who was the father of the Raja of Cochin. The formation of new Vypeen, in 1381, was a boon for the Raja of Cochin.
2. The State of Cochin was merely a vassal of the Samudiri, when the Portuguese arrived on the scene. Raja Unni Goda Varma Thirumalpad, risked even his country to keep his word that he will save the Portuguese factory workers who were left behind by Pedro Alvarez Cabral. The Portuguese alliance eventually bestowed yesteryear's lost prestige and power. Real wealth was also added to the Raja's assets and to the Kingdom. The newly created harbor was busy and trade flourished. Frequent wars with the Samudiri did not deplete the income to any significant degree. Internal strife and dissensions continued to brew and nearly a century later, civil war broke out.
3. New power came in the form of the Dutch entering the scene. The Civil War came to an end. Creation of a reasonable amount of wealth continued. More wars were fought. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Raja of Cochin recovered his lost lands from the Samudiri and started feeling coy. But a huge storm was beginning to blow from the South. Cochin lost all the neighbors, that it was friendly with in the south, to Travancore. The enemy in the north, the Samudiri, also made an opportunistic move. Having in its clutches the powers of the Dutch or being in a suspended state of powerlessness, it all became irrelevant by then. Finally, diplomacy triumphed in the form of a treaty between Travancore and Cochin.
4. Before long, Mysorean Supremacy under Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan took over the Kingdom of the Samudiri and Cochin became a tributary state of Mysore. Sakthan Thampuran had to pay 20 percent of the State revenue to Mysore. However, he could rule as he saw fit. Moderate prosperity for his small Royal Family was preserved. The British defeated Tippu and made Cochin their feudatory with a treaty. Sakthan Thampuran could now function as a sovereign dictator and embarked on a progressive agenda until he passed away in 1805.
5. The insurrection, labeled as the Velu Thampy Dalawa-Paliath Achan rebellion, and the revised treaty with the British, sank the country and the Royal Family into great despair. The abuse of power by Minister Kunjikrishna Menon also added to their despair.
6. Colonel John Munro was the savior who brought to normalcy, both the State and the Royalty, and steered them back to the basics of modern State craft. Revenues doubled in seven years and arrears were paid off. Stability and peace followed for almost fifty years. No wars were fought. There was a controlled growth to the Family until the 1860s.
7. By the 1900s, with rapid increase in the Matrilineal Royal Family, a Royal Welfare Reform had to be introduced. Education, railways, the tenancy bill and beginnings of People’s Assembly and various other reforms were introduced. The State revenues increased again. By the middle of the century, education and gainful jobs within the Family increased individual wealth and supported the independence of the Family.
8. Partition of the available real estate belonging to the Family proved to be instantaneous wealth-yielding cows. The Joint Family system transformed into nuclear families, choosing that as the lifestyle of their choice. Many migrated away from the land of their forefathers.
9. The Family has done well, with a majority maintaining a middle class lifestyle, courting modest dreams.
1. The Cochin State Manual : C. Achyutha Menon, A Government of Kerala Publication, 1995.
2. The Land of thePerumals : Francis Day, Published by Asian Educational Services, 2006.
3. A Study of Portuguese Cochin : K.S Mathew, Published by Pondicherry University, 1990.
4. The Rajas of Cochin, 1663 – 1720 : Hugo K.S. Jacob, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2000.
5. British and Native Cochin : Charles Allen Lawson, Published By Asian Educational Services, 2007.
6. A Collection of Treaties, Engagements and various other papers.