Travancore State Manual by V Nagam Aiya

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Travancore State Manual by V Nagam Aiya

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Go back function

In a computer browser:

If you go to any other location or page by clicking on the links given here, you can come back to the previous location by keeping the Alt key on the keyboard pressed down and then pressing the Back arrow on the keyboard.

In a mobile browser:

If you go to any other location or page by clicking on the links given here, you can come back to the previous location by tapping on the Back arrow seen at the bottom of the mobile display screen.

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Commentary 1

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A commentary to Travancore State Manual written by V. NAGAM AlYA, B. A., F. R. Hist. S., Dewan Peishcar, Travancore.

It is foretold! The torrential flow of inexorable destiny!

Commentary PART 1

1. Creation of a digital version

2. Cantankerous reasons

3. An unassuming talented historian

4. Observations

5. Slavery in the south-Asian peninsula

6. The peoples of Kerala

7. No mention of Mahabali

8. Classical case of cultural history manipulation23

9. How much trade contributes to cultural enhancement

10. Marthanda Varma; an anglophile

11. When slavery actually was liberation

12. Rama Varma

13. An antedating

14. Nayar pada [Nayar brigade]

15. Kesavadasapuram

16. A fake history not mentioned

17. Bala Rama Varma

18. Gouri Lakshmi Bayi

19. The tragic reign of Swati Tirunal

20. Trade and crude officials

21. The real reformers of India, Malabar & Travancore

22. The errors in social engineering

23. Repulsion for the word ‘Sudra’

24. What was happening in Malabar

25. Place names

26. A propitious relationship and a gullibility

27. Christian missionaries

28. What a fool did

29. The Royal Family

30. General observations from this book

31. The current state of India

Last edited by VED on Tue Nov 21, 2023 9:21 pm, edited 13 times in total.
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Post posted by VED »

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1c1 #Creation of a digital version

There are a few reason why this book has been converted into a much easy to browse digital version. However, when this decision was taken, I had imagined that it would take only a few hours to do it. Or at the most three days. I had decided to depend on the digital version available online. However, it was only when I commenced the work that I found that there was a huge mountain of work to be done to design it into this digital book. The foremost problem being that the text on this online source was literally gibberish.

I decided to depend on a various other sources to get this book done. It was a wonderful experience in that this book gave me exact solid supportive evidence of the various contentions that I had made with regard to the working of feudal languages on social systems and their history [in my books].

I had to do a lot of typing to get the book into shape. Though a perfunctory proofreading was done, the book is not error free. It is a huge book of more than 300000 words.

I am surprised as to why books like these are not in the forefront on studies on ‘Kerala’ and ‘India’’ both, of the geographical areas that are identified with these names, and also of the modern state and nation that that bear these names. The answer to this query is not very hard to find. I have found that this book is a great evidence that British rule was not the evil experience that has been portrayed in writings of shallow Indian academic historians. Moreover, a lot of indoctrinations that are fed into the minds of the current day citizens of this nation shall stand questioned by this book, and similar books.

In fact, I have found that there are many other books also that are viewed with terror by a lot of people in various kinds of social leadership in Kerala and India. I know why such books as CASTES and TRIBES of SOUTHERN INDIA by EDGAR THURSTON, NATIVE LIFE IN TRAVANCORE by The Rev. SAMUEL MATEER, F.L.S. of the London Missionary Society, and many other books, including such books as THE STORY OF CAWNPORE by CAPT. MOWBRAY THOMSON are disliked. There are concerted efforts to see that these great books and real time researchers are pushed into the shadows. In fact, I have this very statement by some self-seeking person on Wikipedia India Pages that Thurston’s writings are not credible just because he is not an academician. See this Text in Wikipedia Talk Page by one person who has literally hijacked the Indian Pages:

QUOTE: The problem is not that Thurston was British, but that he was one of the British colonial administrators and not an academic.... END of QUOTE

I can only be amazed at the levels to which intellectual buffoonery has reached. I know of many persons, of fantastic intellectual levels, who have refused even to take an Indian MA, just because of the mediocrity it signifies. Yet, what they research is considered insignificant because they are not ‘academicians’!


The major reason why these books are pushed away from limelight is that many of these books contain real insights on why the British rule was really the golden period in the history of the geographical area now containing Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.

The second point that arises is that the current day people of this area cannot bear the mention of any link to their ancestors. Instead of claiming any link to their very evident ancestors, whom they view with repulsion, they spin dubious stories and fables connecting them to populations with which their real link is extremely fragmentary.

Third is that many of the persons who are mentioned as great freedom fighters simply change into brutes when seen from a clearer perspective.

Fourth is the exact corollary of the last item. That is, persons mentioned as bad individuals are seen in a better light as being of benign disposition.

Fifth is the change in demeanour of certain historical persons from what they are generally supposed to be. For example, the Travancore Maharajah Marthanda Varma. If what is mentioned of him in this book has even a slight percentage of truth, then he is one of the great rulers that this peninsula has seen. In terms of clear understandings of what is what, he is seen as a great Anglophile.

Sixth is the negation of various claims of being the undisputed focus of social development by various caste organisations, when actually there is a wider context to all social development in Travancore, in the form of a supervising force at Madras Presidency. That is the English East India Company.

Seventh is a very funny claim by certain castes that certain other caste leaderships are their own sub-castes. That of Ezhava leadership claiming that Malabar Thiyyas are part of their own caste.

One sees a lot of mutual repulsions and claims among the various peoples who populated this geographical area. For instance there is this quote from Thurston’s book:

“The Tiyans are always styled Izhuvan in documents concerning land, in which the Zamorin, or some Brahman or Nayar grandee, appears as landlord. The Tiyans look down on the Izhuvans, and repudiate the relationship..................................An Izhuvan will eat rice cooked by a Tiyan, but a Tiyan will not eat rice cooked by an Izhuva”

However, it must be admitted that this superiority of Thiyyas could have been limited to the areas where the English education had been dissiminated by the English rulers. i.e. Tellichery and Cannanore. In the interiors of Malabar, the Thiyyas may have suffered from social suppression.


There are many insights in this book. The writer of the main part of this book is V. NAGAM AIYA. I think that many Indian academic historians, who have endeavoured to write the history of ‘Modern’ India, should take lessons from this most unassuming writer, V. NAGAM AIYA. For, they have written the history of ‘Modern’ India in terms of and the perspective from, the Party congresses, meetings, terror activities, splits in political parties, and the doings, and ways and manners of various small-time political leaders who aspired to national leadership in the wake of the British Empire being dismantled all around the world by the foolish leadership of the British Labour Party. However, in this book, history is written from the perspective of creative activities, social improvements, educational developments, administrative reforms etc. done by the rulers.

In fact, there was always the possibility of writing it from various other perspectives in sync with the manner in which history of ‘Modern’ India has been written. For example, there was the continuous social rebellion by the Shanars in Travancore. If Shanars had taken over the rule, they would have written a history similar to that written by Indian academic historians. Containing the history of their various political meetings, memorandums, agitations, hartals, violent activities, shootings, bomb attacks and other political blackmails and intimidations. And about the various attainments of their various leaders.

Instead of that, this is a different kind of history writing in which the history of the nation is followed as it slowly moves from barbarian features to that of focused civilised achievements. The first thing that I noticed was the quality of the English. It is quite good, readable and yet perfectly scholarly. Not like the modern day academic pedants who pretend to more than they possess, and allude to more information than they can really assimilate.

One very striking point in the book is the usage of ‘honourable company’ with regard to the East India Company. This adjective of ‘honourable’ is a necessary item in the feudal vernaculars of the Indian peninsula. Without this adjective, (mentioned or unmentioned), words and attributes can go down. However, there is this issue. The same word can have severely differing meanings when seen from English and from Indian peninsular vernaculars perspectives. In English the sense of ‘an honourable man’ is that of a person who is honest, has rectitude, wouldn’t cheat, would keep his words, would be fair in dealings etc. However, the vernacular sense is none of these. Here it is a forcible imposition meaning that the entity has to be ‘respected’.


Since I had the opportunity to go through the text when I was typing the text, I did notice certain things which I would like to bring a focus to.

One is the use of the word ‘European’. It has been variously used to mean the White people from Europe. And also the word ‘Western’. Both these words do need some inspection. Many times, it is used in the sense of the British. However, there is powerful information that needs to be inserted here. One is that Britain itself has four native languages. Of these, the Welsh, Gaelic and Irish might be Celtic languages and might have some feudal (hierarchical codes) elements in them. Then there is English, which is the language with which Britain is generally identified with. However English is basically the language of England and is a ‘planar’ language.

Beyond that there is this thing also to be noted. That England was the small island which the other nations of Continental Europe tried many times over the centuries to subdue, but almost always failed. So the use of the words ‘European’ and ‘Western’ to mean both the England or Britain along with that of Continent Europe might have an error in it. For, Continental Europe is not the same as England. In fact, in many ways it is the exact antonym of England and everything English. Many Continental European nations are different from England and English systems. This might be clearly discerned through their language codes.

See this quote:
If educated young men can show that they can equal Europeans not only in the capacity to do good service, but in the strictest integrity in every sense of the word, it will be a great thing accomplished for our community
Here the word ‘European’ is actually used in the sens of ‘Englishmen’

It must be emphasised here that the word ‘Europeans’ is used here as a synonym for the English national. For, in no way could one identify such nations as Portugal, Spain, France, Germany etc. as been equal to England. For instance, it was the Portuguese and Spanish Conquistadors who ravaged the South and North American continents for around 300 years, enslaving the native Red Indians there. The natives ultimately received a respite only in the areas which were later taken over by the English pioneers. This place is currently occupied by the USA. Which separated from England and went bonkers.


‘Ben Gandhi’

The second item that must be laid down here is about the peoples of Travancore. Just by reading about a people, one wouldn’t exactly know what it is one is reading about. There is always a need to have a picture of the person/s in mind. Otherwise one can make the same mistake that Attenborough created in the movie Gandhi. His Gandhi looks like an English man with English body language. See this (above) picture of the film-Gandhi.

Now see the real looks of Gandhi.
Image Image Image

It is like another fake story film made about a north Malabar ‘King’. He and his tribal supporters are seen fighting against the British in this fake story film. See the depiction of the tribal folks in the film.


Look at the real looks of tribal folks then, in nearby areas.


I am inserting here the following pictures to do a comparative study about the peoples of Travancore and Malabar and also two pictures of the so-called black slaves of USA in the beginning years of that nation’s creation:

First is a picture of the black ‘slaves’ of the USA of around 1860s. They are seen wearing modern clothing, sitting on a chair. And the females decently dressed. Circa 1862


Second two pictures👇 of labourer class folks of Ezhava/Chovvan/Nadar/Shanar (Travancore people) of similar times.

Image Image

Third is a picture of Nair (supervisor-caste) females of similar times.

Fourth are pictures of Thiyya working class (Malabar people) of similar times.




Fifth is a picture of Brahmins of the same time and area.



Sixth is a picture of the slave classes of the South Asian (Indian) peninsula



Seventh is a picture of the blacks who were saved by the British West African Squadron from Arab Slave traders in the same period in history. They bear their real native looks, as apart from the black slaves of USA.


Pictures 2, 3, 4 and 5 are of free people. 1 and 6 are slaves. The first being slaves in an English society and the sixth slaves in Indian peninsula. The seventh is the real looks of free blacks before they received access to English social systems.

These pictures are placed here to give the exact context to the subject matter. Otherwise, the reader may move to erroneous understandings of the people/s about whom this book is about.

1c5 #SLAVERY in the South-Asian PENINSULA

Now this brings us to the topic of slaves. The general feeling is that slaves were only in the US and other similar nations. And that too the blacks. It is not true. Slaves were in the Indian peninsula, and most other nations, including Africa.

See these quotes from this book:

1. The Perumals. ...................... They also established Adima (bondage) and Kudima (husbandry), protected Adiyar (slaves) and Kudiyar (husbandmen) and appointed Tara and Taravattukar.

2. a piece of land near the city with the hereditament usual at the time of several families of low caste slaves attached to the soil.

3. There were also slaves attached to the land and there were two important kinds of land tenure, Ural or Uramnai subject to the control of the village associations, and Karanmai or freeholds, directly under the control of the state.

4. But when the nobles pass from place to place, they ride in a dula made of wood, something like a box, an which is carried upon the shoulders of slaves and hirelings.

5. our Paraya slaves taken away by the Sirkar and made to work for them as they pleased

6. The four Pottis among the conspirators were to be banished the land, the other rebels were to suffer immediate deaths and their properties were to be confiscated to the State. Their women and children were to be sold to the fishermen of the coast as slaves.

7. By a Royal Proclamation of 1812 A.D. (21st Vrischigam 987 M.E) , the purchase and sale of all slaves other than those attached to the soil for purposes of agriculture e. g,, the Koravars, Pulayas, Pallas, Malayars and Vedars, were strictly prohibited, and all transgressors were declared liable to confiscation of their property and banishment from the country. The Sirkar also relinquished the tax on slaves. But the total abolition of slavery and the enfranchisement of slaves took place only in 1855, as will be seen later on.

8. Amelioration of slaves. In 1843 the Government of India passed an Act declaring that no public officer should enforce any decree or demand of rent or revenue by the sale of slaves, that slaves could acquire and possess property and were not to be dispossessed of such on the plea that they were slaves, and that acts considered penal offences to a free man should be applicable in the case of slaves also.

9. the Resident in his memorandum, dated 12th March 1849, urged on the Dewan the improvement of the condition of the slaves as far as it could be done without affecting the interests of private proprietors of slaves.

10. This beneficent policy was soon followed by the total abolition of slavery in Travancore by the Royal Proclamation of 24th June 1855.

11. The Act above referred to for the abolition of Slavery, the encouragement given to Education, many liberal acts for the benefit of his people....

12. That prosperity extended to Travancore also, especially since the abolition of predial slavery in 1855


Even though I started converting this book into a digital book due to my interest in the historical and sociological aspects of the time and area, there are other chapters connected to other things like Geology, Flora, Fauna etc. I have tried to type the contents with as much accuracy that my general interest in the book would permit.

Now looking at the History part, it seems to depend on the book Keralolpathi for the ancient history. Even though I am not an expert in these things, I feel that overemphasis is given to this book which is mentioned as being in written in 1600s. So there is not much historical accuracy to be expected from this part. Moreover, the people mentioned in this book do not have much connection to the present populations Kerala. The present day populations would include

1. the Marumakkathaya antiquity Thiyyas of North Malabar (who are mentioned to have reached the Malabar shores from somewhere in the Kazakhstan region in the beginning years of the Christian era),

2. the Makkathaya Thiyyas of South Malabar (many of whom converted into Islam to form the Valluvannaad Mappillas),

3. the Shanavars of Travancore area, who are associated with such similar castes like Nadaars, Ezhavas, Chovvans etc. Ezhavas are mentioned as coming from Ezham or Ceylon,

4. the Syrian Christians who claim to be higher caste Hindu converts or may be even offspring of outside Christian missionaries members of days of yore, [This mention is not fully correct. They were actually the descendents of a foreign Christian group, which by certain treaties with the reigning king of Travancore, got higher caste status. See my Commentary on Malabar Manual by William Logan]

5. Christians who were converted from Shanvar, Ezhava, Paraya, Pulala etc. (and who populate the majority Christians of Malabar settler communities),

6. the lower castes who were more or less enslaved and attached to soils such as the Pulayas, Malayans etc.,

7. the Mappillas of North Malabar who were the offspring of Arab traders in native women,

8. the Mappillas of South Malabar who were converts from Makkathayam Thiyyas,

9. the Methan Muslims of Travancore who could be converts from Hindu lower castes.

10. Fishermen folks who come under various names such as Mukkuvar, Marakkan etc. There are Christian, Muslim as well as Hindus among the fishermen folks.

11. Apart from all this, there are the so-called superior groups of individuals in the Muslims like the Thangals, Sheiks, Rawuthars c&. Some of them claim direct blood line to Prophet Muhammed.

12. Then there are the so-called Anglo-Indians, who in North Malabar were connected mainly to British blood. In Mahe, it was French rule. So there must be French blood also to a limited extent. One should not forget that Portuguese as well as Dutch blood could also have entered here.

12. Apart from all of them, there are the off spring of various conquering groups including those who came from the East Tamil nadu areas as well as the infrequent raids by the Mysore Sultans, such as Sultan Tippu, and even the short duration rule of ‘Mogul pada’ in Travancore area. These raids naturally did aim at forced fornication of the women in the attacked areas.

So to connect the incidence mentioned in Keralolpathi to the present day populations of Kerala may not be correct. Apart from that Thurston does mention that people did have the habit of changing their castes to higher castes when they relocated to distant areas. In those days, a distant area would be just some fifty kilometres, for the majority people. Tied as they are to their soil by various social forces, including the terrible feudal content in the local vernaculars.

Apart from all this, there is this that I noticed. That no mention of Mahabali is there in this antiquity which has been connected to fable and myth. In fact, there can be no connection of modern day Kerala populations to Mahabali. For one thing, this Mahabali’s land is mentioned as populated by a people who were very trustworthy, honest, non-treacherous, non-betraying, non-cheating, dependable and such. Moreover, the current populations of Kerala speak the official version of Malayalam (a language that was developed quite artificially in South Central Travancore). Malayalam itself is having no more antiquity than some 400 years (the father of this language is mentioned as having lived in some 400 years back). Culture-wise and by social dispositions, Mahabali’s people are quite different from the current day people of Kerala. Another point is the issue of how come a population is celebrating the words, that ‘we are not honest or anything good, but then such good people did live in this land thousands of years ago. Their language was not Malayalam’.

This discussion reaches us to the theme of Malayalam language. See this QUOTE from this book:

Another fact disclosed by the statements already given is that the language of most of the inscriptions is Tamil. The reason here is equally simple. Malayalam as a national language is not very old. Its resemblance to old Tamil is so patent that one could hardly help concluding that Malayalam is nothing more than old Tamil with a good admixture of Sanskrit words. There are some very old works in Tamil composed in Travancore and by Travancore kings. Besides, the invading Pandyas and Cholas were themselves Tamilians and their inscriptions form more than 70 per cent of the total in South Travancore. The Sanskrit inscriptions are very few and record ‘Dwaja Pratishtas’ and other ceremonies specially connected with Brahminical worship.

This discussion should include the fact that the language of Malabar was entirely different from that of the current day Malayalam. Words such as were the common words of Malabar. However, such words, ഊയ്യാരം, ഒതിയാര്ക്കംo, ചൊത്ത, ബരത്തം, പാഞ്ഞ്, ചാടുക, പെരിയ, മോന്തി, മൊത്തി, മയിമ്പ്, ചരയിക്കണം and even this entire language, have vanished from the knowledge of the younger generation in the last 20 to 30 years. Due to a very fanatical aim to impose a language from South Kerala. The funny thing is that these persons have been able to gather a Classical Language Status to this minor dialect of South Central Travancore, by the using routes of activity which in Mahabali’s period would have seemed quite shocking and absolutely unacceptable.

It may be noted that a number of Plates (images) of inscriptions and royal proclamations of Travancore kingdom and nearby areas are given in this book. Not even one is in Malayalam. So much for a language that is claiming Classical Status. Such is the diabolic interest in some persons to get into the positions of Cultural Leadership.

Beyond that current day spoken Malayalam (official version) has an immensity of English words, apart from having a huge number of words which may be actually Sanskrit itself. Apart from that, words from Portuguese, Arabic etc. also may be there. Many technical words have been simply manufactured by specifically appointed persons, leading to an unnecessary confusing array of scientific terminology. Just to satiate the language fanaticism of a particular section of individuals.


Apart from all this, I have posted the above comparative images of human beings to input another idea. A lot of mention is seen made about international trade in the days of yore. As a person who has done a lot of businesses in various parts of India, it is my observation that trade does not improve the quality of a society. English language does improve the quality. Trade can only improve the quality of the rich classes. It has the negative effect of bringing the lower financial classes to levels of slavery in feudal language nations. In English nations, international trade only allow outsiders the route to enter deep into the English social systems, where they can legitimately set up beachhead. And spoil the native English social systems. Trade in itself is not a positive thing. It can be a dangerous thing. As English nations are slowly getting to comprehend in recent times.

Now coming to the real beginning of the Travancore as a powerful political entity, it may be presumed that it was King Marthanda Varma who laid its firm foundation. It is mentioned thus:

Martanda Varma, the founder of modern Travancore, succeeded his uncle at the early age of twenty-three.

It may be mentioned that there were a number of rulers in this area in various historical periods having the name Marthanda Varma. However, the king in context here is the ruler of Travancore whose reign was between 1729 and 1758. He was definitely a person with a lot of rare insights. His one wonderful observation was that there was something definitely superior and of refinement in the English East India Company. It was his desire to enter into a very powerful alliance with this entity and get their protection for his kingdom. He who was dauntless in battles, and who had actually defeated a native soldiery force of the Dutch, refrained from any chance for belligerence with the English.

See this quote: A tripartite treaty was entered into and preparations were made to oppose Maphuze Khan, the Maharajah of Travancore contributing four thousand Nayar sepoys.

The two armies met near Calacaud and after a very hot engagement the army of Maphuze Khan was put to flight. But the Travancore army, however, retired home to avoid causing offence to the English Company. Subsequently learning that the English were indifferent, a force was sent under De Lannoy, which defeated Maphuze Khan and recovered Calacaud.

Again there is this quote:
In 1750 A.D. the French attempted to form a settlement at Colachel. It does not appear that they were successful. In the next year the Rajah of Travancore wrote to the King of Colastria ‘advising him not to put any confidence in the French, but to assist the English as much as he could’”.

It was this English East India Company that was to protect the nation of Travancore from foreign enemies. The word ‘foreign’ is used in the sense used in this book. For look at this quote from the earlier part of the book:

Portions of the country now included in the State of Travancore were at various times under the sway of the foreign powers viz.. the Bellalas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Cholas, Pandyas, Mahomedan rulers (who overran the Pandyan territory), the Zamorin of Calicut and the Rajah of Cochin.

It was this company that secured the independence and freedom of this nation during those semi-civilised days. The term semi-civilised in not mine, for I am sure many jingoist persons would feel offended when the word semi-civilised in used about the ancient and medieval times of the places of the Indian peninsula. See this quote from this book:

for what a rupee secured in those semi-civilised days could not be promptly got for a rupee and a half now.

It was this great Company that brought in peace and prosperity into this land in the Indian peninsula, which was identified by various names, throughout history. See these quotes from this book:

1. “It is the power of the British sword,” as has been well observed, “which secures to the people of India the great blessings of peace and order which were unknown through many weary centuries of turmoil, bloodshed and pillage before the advent of the Briton in India”. [Actually it was not terror of the British sword that held the nation, but the real affection for the English supremacy after 100s years of being slaves to native feudal lords that consolidated the English rule in India. If one were to look back, one can see that if the Indian army is not there in many places like Kashmir, Punjab, Tamilnadu, North East, the current day India would splinter: My words]

2. There is evidence to show that there was perpetual war between Travancore and Vijayanagar lasting for over a century i.e., from 1530 till at least 1635 A.D.

3. ...........but when he has taken some of my people he has been so base to cut off their noses and ears and sent them away disgracefully.

4. It is quite possible that in the never-ending wars of those days between neighbouring powers, Chera, Chola and Pandya Kings might have by turns appointed Viceroys of their own to rule over the different divisions of Chera, one of whom might have stuck to the southernmost portion, called differently at different times, by the names of Mushika-Khandom, Kupa-Khandom, Venad, Tiruppapur, Tiru-adi-desam or Tiruvitancode, at first as an ally or tributary of the senior Cheraman Perumal — titular emperor of the whole of Chera — but subsequently as an independent ruler himself. This is the history of the whole of India during the time of the early Hindu kings or under the Moghul Empire...................

5. ..............collecting their own taxes, building their own forts, levying and drilling their own troops of war, their chief recreation consisting in the plundering of innocent ryots all over the country or molesting their neighbouring Poligars. The same story was repeated throughout all the States under the Great Moghul. In fact never before in the history of India has there been one dominion for the whole of the Indian continent from the Himalayas to the Cape, guided by one policy, owing allegiance to one sovereign-power and animated by one feeling of patriotism to a common country, as has been seen since the consolidation of the British power in India a hundred years ago.

6. As a natural consequence anarchy and confusion in their worst forms stalked the land. The neighbouring chiefs came with armed marauders and committed dacoities from time to time plundering the people wholesale, not sparing even the tali* on their necks and the jewels on the ears of women. The headman of each village in his turn similarly treated his inferiors. The people of Nanjanad in a body fled to the adjoining hills on more than two occasions, complaining bitterly to the king of his ineffetiveness and their own helplessness.

7. While Hyder was thus attempting an entry into Travancore, his own dominions in the north and east were invaded by the Nizam, the Mahrattas and the English. He therefore abandoned his attempt on Malabar and made haste to meet the opposing armies. ..........................................About 1769, Hyder was defeated by the East India Company’s soldiers in several engagements. This convinced him of the existence of a mightier power in South India and tended to sober his arrogance and cruelty.

8. Then there is the dying words of King Rama Rajah, the Dharma Rajah, who died on a believed to be inauspicious day. The barbarianism of wars, all wars is clear in them. Imagine a land that moves one war to another, with regular periodicity.

“Yes I know that to-day is Chuturdasi, but it is unavoidable considering the sins of war I have committed with Rama Iyan when we both conquered and annexed several petty States to Travancore. Going to hell is unavoidable under the circumstances. I can never forget the horrors to which we have been parties during those wars. How then do you expect me to die on a better day than Chaturdasi? May God forgive me all my sins”

Somehow Marthanda Varma could discern that the English traders were quite different from others, including the people from his own land. Why it was so may not have been clear to him. However, the answer lies in the fact that the English men talked and thought in the English language, which was quite different from most other tongues in that there was no feudal, hierarchical, people splitting, pejorative versus respect codes in ordinary and formal conversation.

For making this idea clear, I am giving here the translation of a single sentenc in English: Where are you going?

This sentence can be translated into the following sentences in Malayalam, all meaning the same when viewed from English. However, there is a range of movement of individuals along a vertical as well as horizontal path, as well as the trignometic components, when the different sentences in Malayalam are taken up for use.

1. Nee yevideyaanu pokunnathu? നീയെവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
2. Nee yevideyaada pokunnathu? നീയെവിടെയാടാ പോകുന്നത്?
3. Nee yevideyaadi pokunnathu?
നീയെവിടെയാടീ പോകുന്നത്?
4. Yeyaal yevideyaanu pokunnathu?
ഇയാൾ എവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
5. Thaan yevideyaanu pokunnathu?
താൻ എവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
6. Ningal yevideyaanu pokunnathu?
നിങ്ങൾ എവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
7. Thaangal yevideyaanu pokunnathu?
താങ്കൾ എവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
8. Saar yevideyaanu pokunnathu?
സാർ എവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
9. Maadam yevideyaanu pokunnathu?
മാഢം എവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
10. Chettan yevideyaanu pokunnathu? ചേട്ടനെവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
11. Chechi yevideyaanu pokunnathu?
ചേച്ചി എവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
12. Ammaavan yevideyaanu pokunnathu?
അമ്മാവൻ എവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?
13. Ammaayi yevideyaanu pokunnathu?
അമ്മായി എവിടെയാണ് പോകുന്നത്?

For knowing more about feudal, hierarchial languages, please read my books:

1. The Shrouded Satanism in Feudal Languages; Intractability and Tribulations of Improving Others.
2. March of the Evil Empires; English versus the Feudal Languages
3. Codes of reality! What is language?
4. An impressionistic history of the South Asian Peninsula

Marthanda Varma’s love for the English people can be seen from his last advice and instruction to his heir and nephew Prince Rama Varma, on his deathbed.

Marthanda Varma’s words: “That, above all, the friendship existing between the English East India Company and Travancore should be maintained at any risk, and that full confidence should always be placed in the support and aid of that honourable association.” –

See these quotes also:
1. He (Hyder Ali) then turned to the King of Travancore and demanded of him fifteen lacs of rupees and twenty elephants threatening him with an immediate invasion of his territories in case of refusal. The Cochin Rajah now placed himself unreservedly under the protection of the Dutch, but the Travancore Maharajah feeling strongly assured of the support of the English East India Company replied, “that he was unaware that Hyder went to war to please him, or in accordance with his advice, and was consequently unable to see the justice of his contributing towards his expenses”

2. The Travancore sepoys sent to garrison the Ayacotta fort retreated in expectation of attack by the Mysore troops but on the timely arrival of a Dutch reinforcement the Mysoreans themselves had to retire.

3. In the war that followed, the Travancore sepoys fought side by side with the English at Calicut, Palghat, Tinnevelly and other places.

4. “.....I am well informed how steady and sincere an ally Your Majesty has ever been to the English nation. I will relate to the Governor-in-Council the great friendship you have shown and the services you have rendered to the English interests in general and to the army that I commanded in particular.”

5. Hudleston assured the Rajah on behalf of the ‘Company, “Your interests and welfare will always be considered and protected as their own,” and added, “the Company did not on this occasion forget your fidelity and the steady friendship and attachment you have uniformly shown them in every situation and under every change of fortune”.

6. But he (Tippu) could not make bold to appear as principal in the war, for the Travancore Rajah had been included in the Mangalore treaty as one of the special “friends and allies” of the Honourable Company.

7. The Travancore Rajah replied that he could do nothing without the knowledge of his friends and allies, the English and the Nawab. The matter was soon communicated to the Madras Government who sent Major Bannerman to advise the Rajah.

8. The Governor informed Tippu that aggression against Travancore would be viewed as a violation of the Treaty of 1784 and equivalent to a declaration of war against the English.

9. Later on, as we shall see, it was due to Lord Cornwallis’ firmness and decisive action that Travancore was saved from falling an easy prey into Tippu’s hands.

10. The subsequent inaction of the Government of Mr. Holland roused his anger to such an extent as to accuse them of “a most criminal disobedience of the clear and explicit orders of the Government dated the 29th of August and 13th of November, by not considering themselves to be at war with Tippu from the moment that they heard of his attack” on the Travancore lines.

11. “Secure under the aegis of the British Queen from external violence, it is our pleasant, and, if rightly understood, by no means difficult task to develop prosperity and to multiply the triumphs of peace in our territories. Nor are the Native States left to pursue this task in the dark, alone and unaided

This was a friendship that stood the test of time, even though there were times when it was severely tested. It lasted till a fool came to power in England as the Prime Minister of Britain. He made a mess of everything that had been built up over the centuries by ordinary English folks, (not academicians) all over the world, with total participation of the common man in the far-flung areas.

When speaking about the life and times of Marthanda Varma, there are these things that come out. One very visible feature about his life is the parade of hair-breath escapes he has had from the attacks by his enemies.

The basic issue seen here is that the King’s children did not inherit the throne. Only his sister’s children were entitled to it. Even though this may seem quite a strange family tradition, when looking back from these so-called modern times, a very powerful reason is mentioned. It is connected to the general sexual customs of the times, connected to the Matriarchal family system. The females were given the freedom to sleep with a variety of personages of higher social class and caste. The females from the King’s family had such links with certain households. At the same time, the Brahmin males could sleep with the Nair (Shudra) females. It was not seen as an imposition, but as a great privilege to be such entertained by the Brahminical classes.

See these quotes:
1. “The heirs of these kings are their brothers, or nephews, sons of their sisters, because they hold those to be their true successors, and because they know that they were born from the body of their sisters. These do not marry, nor have fixed husbands, and are very free and at liberty in doing what they please with themselves.”

2. These young men who do not marry, nor can marry, sleep with the wives of the nobles, and these women hold it as a great honour, because they are Bramans, and no woman refuses them.

The fact is that this problem of certitude of bloodline in the children of the sisters, and the uncertainty of the bloodline of the father in his wife’s children was there in almost all castes that did follow the matriarchal system. This included the Nairs as well as the North Malabar Thiyyas. [South Malabar Thiyyas were of a different breed and customs].

When Marthanda Varma ultimately crushed his enemy side, the Ettuvettil Pillamars [in the melee, his own uncle’s, (the former king’s) sons were also killed by him or by his side], there was a certain streak of social barbarity that was enacted.

See this quote:
..........women and children were to be sold to the fishermen of the coast as slaves.

This barbarity is something the native English speakers will never understand. They stand like fools declaiming a foolish history that slavery had been practised in the English nation of USA. Actually what took place in USA was not slavery. Rather it was a brief period (75 years) of social enrichment programme given freely to people who had been enslaved in their own nation and sold into a newly emerging nation, where the majority were English speakers. They were the lucky black slaves. The unlucky black slaves were sold to African, Asian, Arab, South American and other-area slave masters.

The females sold by Marthanda Varma as slaves to the fishermen folks were actually of same social status of the females who later became the queens of Travancore. See these pictures.


To be sold as slaves to different levels of people is the issue here. If they had been sold as personal slaves to the Rajahs, the degradation wouldn’t be much. However, the degradation increases exponentially as the slave master class’ level goes down. For, the languages of the Indian peninsula are feudal, hierarchal and have the codes of pejoratives versus that of ‘respect’. Such words a What is your name? What is it? Edi, She, You, etc. when mentioned in the local vernacular could have different levels of impact depending on the levels of the persons who dominate. To be addressed as Nee, Edi, Alae, and mentioned as Aval (Oal).by persons who have been kept as the lower, dirt level classes by the vernacular can have deep physical and mental impacts, which can literally terrorise a person into stinking dirt.

See this quote:

1. In despair, therefore, their chiefs resolved upon marshalling a large number of foreign Brahmin settlers in the vanguard of their fighting men to deter the Maharajah’s forces from action, as they would naturally dislike the killing of Brahmins, Brahmahatti or Brahminicide being the most heinous of sins according to the Hindu Shastras. The Dalawa however ordered firing, but his men would not. Then he ordered a body of fishermen to attack the Brahmins who, at the sight of their low caste adversaries, took to flight.

2. Hyder adopted very stringent measures to subdue the refractory Nayar chiefs. He first deprived them of all their privileges and ordered that they should be degraded to the lowest of all the castes.

Modern policymakers do not understand the basic code that works here. Fighting with the British and the US soldiery is something that is worth mentioning. Even a losing can be mentioned. To fight with a low class group is not a great thing. A losing to them, is a terrible losing.

It would be like a young IPS officer being addressed as Nee (Inhi), and referred to as Avan (oan), Aval (oal), Mone, Mole etc. by a senior-in-age constable in a very affectionate tone. This affection would be a murderous one.

To be sold as slaves to the English speaking races would actually be an act of liberation for many of the lower caste peoples of earlier age Indian peninsula and Africa. Even though the children of the black slaves who had the luck to be sold as slaves in a newly emerging English nation wouldn’t admit it. And the foolish native English speakers wouldn’t know that they are actually liberating the blacks through their ‘slavery’. And that too an ungrateful crowd.

It is like this. The English side gave them the learning to sit in a chair, dress up like themselves, address them by name, eat their own type of food, gave them entry into their own religion, liberated them from the traumatising social behaviour of having to ‘respect’ their master class in each and every word, deed, and physical postures. Above all taught them English, the language that can change person from the filth of barbarianism to that of human dignity. It is like this: a woman who is addressed thus in Malabar language: Yenthale? by a lower class female, will feel and display the shivers of dirtying social positioning. It is not a wrong usage or a profanity, and not even like calling a black man a nigger. It is a perfectly justifiable Malabar word. Yet, it can have a very powerful negative impact.

From the English side came the English classical literature, which if read and imbibed, could embed the codes of human dignity and civility to the reader and his society. What was there for the Blacks to give in return? Just brute physical power, with which they were allowed to displace the native English speakers from most physical arenas. Only a few of them really took up the aim to focus on the finer elements of what was on offer from the English side. For, their innate focus was on the use of physical superiority on the females of the other side. The moral standards of the Victorian Age that had permeated into the New World lay waste as the land was allowed to be occupied by outsiders who had no sense of obligation.

When Marthanda Varma died, his nephew Rama Varma ruled the nation in perfect alignment to what his uncle had advised him. To maintain the good will of the English East Indian Company. This was to bring in security, prosperity and stability to the royal family.

See this quote:
The King of Travancore also sent a strong force to co-operate with the English at Trichinopoly. Issoof Khan was captured and hanged at Maura as a public enemy in 1766.

The great security was the feeling that there was a supreme power in South Asian peninsula which was duty bound to maintain peace in the geographical area. To see a sample of what this terror of war meant, see this quote:

.........but when he has taken some of my people he has been so base to cut off their noses and ears and sent them away disgracefully.

The periodic raids in which the undisciplined soldiery and their masters would pounce upon females not only for the jewellery they wore, but for other lavish entertainments in a feudal vernacular ambience, was a regular feature. This has the same quality degradation as of being enslaved under the socially designated lower classes. There was actually a time when the people did revolt against the King in Travancore, when they were thus exposed to the periodic raids by outsiders. No family could maintain their relationships intact, when such raider came regularly to have their feast upon the females at will. And the king was not able to protect them. The people joined together and more or less proclaimed something which may be called a Declaration of Independence more or less similar to what was done by a few idiots in the USA, when they revolted against ‘taxation’ without ‘representation’. Actually they did not have even a single ounce of grievance comparable to what the people of Nanjangad did suffer from. All they had was arrogance. See what happened in Nanjangad.

.........sent a large army under the command of Narasappayya the Madura Dalawa. He invaded the country, conquered the Travancore forces after hard fighting and returned to Trichinopoly with considerable booty consisting of spices, jewels and guns. The attacks from Madura for collecting the arrears of tribute from the Travancore king became more frequent while the efforts of the latter to resist them seemed to be futile. The Nanjanad people, who had to bear the brunt of these frequent attacks, became naturally very callous to pay their homage and allegiance to their sovereign who was not able to protect them from his enemies.

The people of Nanjangad united and made proclamations. See this quote:
The discontent of the people developed into open revolt and the Nanjanadians are said to have convened five meetings in different places from 1702 A.D., forward. .

On going through their proclamations as seen in inscriptions, it is clear that the American Declaration of Independence was only a minor copying of what was mentioned in Travancore by the people there. However, these people did not have English, which would have united them and given them power, and the adequate communication machinery to work out the grievance more intelligently. They only had feudal vernaculars which have the codes of society-splitting embedded in them. The ungrateful wretches in the American states had English, and in their heights of ingratitude and insanity, they wanted to fight against the very nation that had bequeathed them ‘English’, human liberty, human dignity, civic manners, words of polite interaction, historical experience, experiences in administration, writing, learning, English literature and much else.


1c14 #NAYAR PADA [Nayar Brigade]
There is the mention of the Nayar pada, which was later, much later recreated as the Nayar Brigade under English officers. However, the beginnings of the English military systems were actually given by a Dutch military officer. Name: De Lannoy. He was a war prisoner of Marthanda Varma, who was asked by the king to create military wing on European (meaning Dutch/English) lines. See this quote:

The first, De Lannoy, commonly known in Travancore as the Valia Kappithan (Great Captain) was in the manner of an experiment entrusted with the organisation and drilling of a special regiment of sepoys this he did very successfully and to the satisfaction of the Maharajah. Several heroic stories are extant of the achievements of this particular regiment. De Lannoy was next made a Captain and entrusted with the construction of forts and the organisation of magazines and arsenals. He reorganised the whole army and disciplined it on European models, gave it a smart appearance and raised its efficiency to a very high order.

The difference it made is here in this quote:
Kayangulam Rajah had anticipated the fate of his army. He knew that his ill-trained Nayars were no match to the Travancore forces which had the advantage of European discipline and superior arms.

See these quotes also:

1. Harold S. Ferguson Esq.................then as Commandant of one of the battalions in the Travancore army (Nayar Brigade)

2. The armies of the chieftains consisted of Madampis (big landlords) and Nayars who were more a rabble of the cowardly proletariat than well-disciplined fighting men.

3. But Rodriguez not minding raised one wall and apprehending a fight the next day mounted two of his big guns. The sight of these guns frightened the Nayars and they retreated; the Moplahs too lost courage and looked on. The work of building the fort was vigorously pushed on even in the rainy season, and the whole fortress was completed by September 1519 A.D., and christened Fort Thomas.

4. [In this quote, you will see that De Lannoy, the Dutch man commanded the Travancore forces to attack the Dutch fort. On the Dutch side, it was the Nayars who fought.] Several battles were fought against the combined forces of the Kayangulam Rajah and the Dutch whose alliance gave the former fresh hopes. Much perseverance, stubbornness and heroism were displayed on both sides. Six thousand men of the Travancore army attacked the Dutch fort at Quilon which was gallantly defended by the Nayars commanded by one Achyuta Variyar, a Kariyakar of the Kayangulam Rajah.

5. The whole force was composed of Nayars, Sikhs, and Pathans under the supreme command of De Lannoy.

6. To effect economy in the military expenditure, Velu Tampi proposed a reduction of the allowances to the Nayar troops and in this he was cordially supported by the Resident. The proposal caused great discontent among the sepoys. They resolved on the subversion of the British power and influence in Travancore and the assassination both of the Dewan and the British Resident.

7. [This is with regard to Velu Tampi’s takeover attempt] Meanwhile the subsidiary force at Quilon was engaged in several actions with the Nayar troops. But as soon as they heard of the fall of the Aramboly lines, the Nayars losing all hopes of success dispersed in various directions.

8. After the death of Velu Tampi the rebels continued in arms here and there in parts of the Quilon district, but the arrival of the English forces soon brought them to their senses and order was quickly restored................... The Carnatic Brigade and some Nayar battalions were dismissed and the defence of the State was solely entrusted to the subsidiary force stationed at Quilon,

9. After the revolt of Velu Tampi in 1809, there was practically no army in Travancore. (Col) Munro organised two battalions of Nayar sepoys and one company of cavalry as “bodyguard and escort to Royalty”. ..............European officers were appointed to the command of this small force.

10. The Nayar Brigade. After the insurrection of 1809 the whole military force of Travancore was disbanded with the exception of about 700 men of the first Nayar battalion and a few mounted troops, who were retained for purposes of state and ceremony. In 1817 the Rani represented to the Resident Col. Munro her desire to increase the strength and efficiency of the army and to have it commanded by a European officer, as the existing force was of little use being undisciplined and un-provided with arms. On the strong recommendation of the Resident, the proposal was duly sanctioned by the Madras Government in 1818, and the Rani was given permission to increase her force by 1,200 men........................ Thus was organised the present Nayar Brigade, though the designation itself was given to it only in 1830 A.D.

11. The visit of His Excellency the Governor gave the Maharajah an opportunity to see the British forces in full parade. He was struck with their dress and drill and made arrangements for the improvement of his own forces after the British model. New accoutrements wore ordered and the commanding officer was asked to train the sepoys after the model of the British troops. The dress of the mounted troopers was improved and fresh horses were got down; and the appellation of the “Nayar Brigade” was first given to the Travancore forces. The Tovala stables were removed to Trivandrum and improved. On the advice of the Court of Directors, the European officers of the Nayar Brigade were relieved from attendance at the Hindu religious ceremonies.

12. A scheme for placing a portion of the Nayar Brigade on a more efficient footing was sanctioned in 1076 M.E (1900-1901) and came into operation in the next year. The two battalions that hitherto existed were amalgamated the sixteen companies were reduced to ten with a strength of 910 of all ranks. This reduction provided 500 men for the new battalion, which was styled the First Battalion and is intended for purely military duties following as far as possible the economy and discipline of the British Native Infantry.

This much is mentioned here, just because the Nair Brigade is often mentioned as a proof that the Nairs belong to the Kshatriya caste. However, the fact is that in contemporary times, in Malabar Thiyyas (a lower castes) were in the British-Indian army. At least one person I am aware was even a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force. It does not mean that Thiyyas are Kshatriyas


When one goes to Trivandrum, it is possible that one moves through Keshavadasapuram. Well, this Keshava Das must have been the Dewan of Rama Varma.

Now there is one fantastic thing that could be noticed. In the history part, a lot of discussions are there about the various kingdoms of south India and also of north India. Even minor kings and kingdoms are discussed. However, there is very negligible mention of a ‘Kottayam Raja’ who ruled over the ‘great’ Kottayam village near Tellicherry (Thalasherry) in North Malabar. A very fabulous fake story has been woven by the film media around the ‘great’ king Pazhassiraja of ‘Kottayam’.

The word Kottayam or Cottayam is mentioned many times. However, they all pertain mostly to the ‘Kottayam’ that is in South Central Travancore. See this quote

The petty principalities of Tekkumkor (Changanachery) and Vadakkumkur (Kottayam and Ettumanur) having sided with the enemy in the Kayangulam war, the Dalawa next directed his forces against them............................. When the Brahmins fled, the resisting element in the war disappeared and the Dalawa had not to wait long to capture the Kottayam Rajah.

However the north Malabar Kottayam (Cottayam) has been mentioned here:
Potfuls of Roman coins and medals have been discovered at Vellore, Pollachi, Chavadipalayam, Vellalur, Coimbatore, Madura, Karur, Ootacamond, Cottayam in North Malabar, Kilabur near Tellichery, Kaliam putur, Avanasi, and Trevor-near Cannanore

There is one very definite mention of the ‘raja’ of north Malabar Kottayam (village). The mention is not very fabulous:

QUOTE: We have already referred to the fact that owing to the anarchy caused by Tippu’s followers many nobles and chiefs of Malabar took shelter in Travancore and were very hospitably treated there.........................................Among the Princes that took shelter in Travancore at the time were the Zamorin of Calicut, the Rajahs of Chirakkal, Kottayam, Kurumbranad, Vettattnad, Beypore, Tanniore, Palghat and the Chiefs of Koulaparay, Corengotte, Chowghat, Edattara and Mannur. The places mentioned here are mostly minute geographical areas.

The Malayalam film industry has made a film based on a fake history with the title Pazhassiraja. It is quite funny how history and historical events and individuals can so easily created.

“The illustrious Rama Varma was succeeded by his nephew, Bala Rama Varma”

Bala Rama Varma was a youngster. He did face the problems associated with feudal languages, which assigns the lower indicant words to youngsters. The effects are there in his history.

It was to lead to quite destabilising events in the kingdom. It led to mismanagement, widespread corruption and then to the rise of Velu Tampi, who forced the king to make him the dewan. Tampi had to play a lot of manipulative games to manoeuvre himself in the position of power. He was brilliant in these activities of minor significance. He shifted from one side to another, whichever one he felt was better for him.

How he entered the mainstream attention is given in this quote:
This system of extortion continued for a fortnight; a large sum of money was actually realised, and numbers of innocent people were tortured. The tyranny became intolerable and the people found their saviour in Velu Tampi, afterwards the famous Dalawa.

Yet, Velu Tampi had only terror and barbarianism as a cure to the problems of the kingdom.

See these quotes:

1. the Namburi was banished and the other two had their ears cut off

2. Vein Tampi now coveted the Dalawa’s place. ............ But there were two able officers of the State, Chempakaraman Kumaran and Erayimman, brother and nephew of the late Kesava Das, whose claims could not be righteously overlooked. Velu Tampi and his accomplices formed a conspiracy to get rid of these two men. Kunjunilam Pillai made false entries in the State accounts and showed a sum of a few lacs of rupees as due to the treasury from the late Kesava Das. The two kinsmen were in a fix and appealed to their European (English) friends at Madras and Bombay asking for their advice and intercession. These letters were intercepted and their spirit misrepresented to the Maharajah as importing disaffection and other letters were forged to show treasonable correspondence of the two gentlemen with Europeans abroad. The King, then less than twenty and quite unequal his high responsibilities, ordered their immediate execution. The two officers were accordingly murdered in cold blood, and Velu Tampi’s claim stood uncontested.

3. Velu Tampi was a daring and clever though unscrupulous man. Rebellion was his forte. He was not in any sense a statesman, for he lacked prudence, probity, calmness and tact — qualities which earned for Rama lyen and Kesava Das immortal fame. He was cruel and vindictive in his actions. His utmost merit lay in the fact that he was a strong man and inspired dread. Within three years of the death of Kesava Das, the country was in a state of chaos; the central government became weak and corruption stalked the land. Velu Tampi’s severity, excessive and sometimes inhuman, completely extirpated corruption and crime from the country. His favourite modes of punishment were: imprisonment, confiscation of property, public flogging, cutting off the palm of the hand, the ears or the nose, impalement or crucifying people by driving down nails on their chests to trees, and such like, too abhorrent to record here. But it may be stated in palliation that the criminal law of the Hindus as laid down by their ancient lawgiver Manu was itself severe. The Indian Penal Code is also much severer than the code of punishment prevailing in England.

4. Strict honesty was thus barbarously enforced among public servants and order prevailed throughout the kingdom. Velu Tampi became an object of universal dread.

5. See this sample QUOTE on how cases were enquired upon: .........The local Mahomedans had committed the robbery on the innocent Nambudiri. Of this fact Velu Tampi satisfied himself. He ordered the whole of the Mahomedan population of Edawa to be brought before him, and when they as a matter of course denied the charge, he mercilessly ordered them one after another being nailed to the tree under which he held court. When two or three Mahomedans had been thus disposed of, the others produced the Nambudiri’s chellam with all the stolen goods in it intact.

Velu Tampi did display administrative capacities. Yet, see this quote:
The treasury was now empty. Zeal for the public service was waning; the revenues were not properly collected owing to personal bickering and retaliations at headquarters such as those which disfigured the relations between Velu Tampi and Kunjunilam Pillai.

Even though jingoist historian would attribute this financial problem to the subsidy that had to be given to the English East India Company as the expense for maintaining the protective military force in the kingdom, the fact remains that later when the kingdom was perfectly managed with English help, not only was the arrears paid off, but there was a great financial surplus.

See these QUOTES:

1. “The financial position of the Travancore State still continues to be very satisfactory and is most creditable to His Highness the Rajah and to his experienced and able Dewan Madava Row

2. “The financial results of the administration of Travancore for 1864-1865 are, on the whole, satisfactory, and the surplus of Rupees 190,770 by which the Revenue exceeds the expenditure appears to have been secured notwithstanding heavy reduction of taxation, under the enlightened and able administration of the Revenue Department by the Dewan Madava Row.


After Bala Rama Varma, came the rule of GOURI LAKSHMI BAYI. In many ways it was quite a remarkable period of rule. Though quite young (barely twenty), she had the maturity to write thus:

“there was no person in Travancore that she wished to elevate to the office of Dewan and that her own wishes were that the Resident should superintend the affairs of the country as she had a degree of confidence in his justice, judgement and integrity which she could not place in the conduct of any other person”.

In the speech delivered by her when she was placed on the musnud, she addressed the British Resident as Ethreijum Bahumanapetta Sahabay. It points to the fact that the terrible local vernacular inferiorities had infected the royal family also. For, even a minor Indian kid who lives in England would address the Colonel as Colonel Munro. That she is not able to do so, speaks volumes of the training that the royal family members were forced to endure, by their own family members. Yet, she understands her predicament as speaks thus:
“I cannot do better than to place myself under the guidance and support of the Honourable East India Company, whose bosom had been an asylum for the protection of an infant like Travancore, since the time Sri Padmanabhaswamy had effected an alliance with such a respectable Company of the European nation. To you, Colonel, I entrust everything connected with my country, and from this day I look upon you as my own elder brother and so I need say no more.”

In every sense, she was also following the footstep of her great ancestor king Marthanda Varma in this policy. Isn’t there some quirkiness of fate that in a few decades after her rule, there would be another queen bearing the same name LAKSHMI BAYI of a small-time kingdom in the northern areas of the Indian peninsula (Jhansi) who acquired the reputation of a ‘freedom fighter’ against the East India Company. In Travancore, Laxshmi Bayi is a ruler who supports English domination, while the latter is a person who went against the English and ultimately got lost in the melee of mutual bickering of the mutinous sepoys and their mutually antagonistic leaders.

When Col Munro took up the Diwanship for a brief period, this was what he saw:
“No description can produce an adequate impression of the tyranny, corruption and abuses of the system, full of activity and energy in everything mischievous, oppressive and infamous, but slow and dilatory to effect any purpose of humanity, mercy and justice. This body of public officers, united with each other on fixed principles of combination and mutual support, resented a complaint against one of their number, as an attack upon the whole. Their pay was very small, and never issued from the treasury, but supplied from several authorised exactions made by themselves.
“They offered, on receiving their appointment, large nuzzers to the Rajah, and had afterwards to make presents, on days of public solemnity, that exceeded the half of their pay. They realised, in the course of two or three years, large sums of money .......................... “

Most of the things mentioned about the officialdom by Col Munro are true of current day Indian bureaucrats also.

During the time of Kesava Das as the Diwan, this rule had to be promulgated with regard to the powers of the official:
and on no account shall a female be detained for a night.

The tragedy that befell the life of the next king Rama Varma otherwise known as Swati Tirunal is there in these lines written by Col. Welsh who made it a point to observe the educational development of the young prince, who was being tutored by a Maharashtra Brahim:
He then took up a book of mathematics, and selecting the 47th proposition of Euclid, sketched the figure on a country slate but what astonished me most, was his telling us in English, that Geometry was derived from the Sanscrit, which was Ja** ***ter to measure the earth, and that many of our mathematical terms, were also derived from the same source, such as hexagon, heptagon, octagon, decagon, duo-decagon, &c.

The Englishmen did not understand the powerful hold that ‘teachers’ have on their wards, through the clasping hold of lower indicant words. The use of such words as Nee (Inhi), Avan (oan), Aval (Oal), Avante (onte), Avalude (olde) etc. can fix powerful strings on the physic, psyche and social positioning of the student. The Maharastra Brahmin, Subba Row, the tutor was later posted as the Diwan of the kingdom, when Swati Tirunal became the king. More or less, creating a lifelong encumbrance on him in the form of a superior and capable-of-commanding, subordinate.

As to the claim that all modern knowledge flowed from ‘India’, it is a dumb one. It is true that there were great technical skills, technology etc. at some or various periods in the long past history of the Indian peninsula, extending backwards to tens of thousands of years. The same is the fact with regard to the geographical areas now identified as Ancient Egypt, Ancient South America, Ancient China etc. Even Ancient Continental Europe may have had its share of these things. As to England, it was a very small island outside the periphery of Continent Europe. It was a nation that stood apart from everything, including the fact that rarely has it tried to conquer other nations in Europe using military campaigns.

However, the fact is that there is no direct line from these ancient technical knowledge to what came here from the English education that was propagated by the English rulers. When the Indian peninsula was made into a single nation by the English, naturally there would be feeling that what was being taught by the English can be traced to ancient texts found here and there in some houses, and in the technical skills of certain class of people.

For example, see the case of the Vedas. The ancient Vedic period area is generally connected to the geographical areas occupied by current day Pakistan. Moreover to give a direct bloodline link to those people would be quite foolish. For each person currently living in India would be connected to billions of people living on this earth at that time. But then there were presumably no billions of people on this earth then.

It is like this. One individual has two parents. Each of them has two parents each. That means four links to the present individual.

If we go back like this, it would be found that some 21 generations back (i.e. 350 years back), this individual would be linked to 20 lakh persons living 350 years back. Now, if we go back to 7000 years, then it would mean that this present day individual is linked to almost all human beings living on this earth. For even in minute Kerala, people from Middle East, China, Far east, Europe and Africa have come and lived. A single link that connects to Africa or Europe can link the present day Kerala individual to almost all persons of Africa or Europe some 7000 years back.

Beyond all this, no one knows who wrote the Vedas. It is the same case with the Holy Quran and the Hebrew Bible. What was the machinery used for their creation is not known. It is possible that these texts do contain powerful codes, as one would identify software codes in present day times. How many of the present Indians know the secrets of the Vedas? Of the codes therein? Of the machinery and men who created it?

There is one character in a book by the famous Malayalam writer Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, by name ETTUKALI MAMMOONCHU. The present day Indian feature of claiming everything mentioned in the modern discoveries as their own is reminiscent of this character.

Speaking more about the knowledge that abounds in this geographical area, just look at the ordinary carpenters of the place. I have seen, in my childhood days, absolutely fantastic Master Carpenters who could envisage a huge building architecture without the means of any sophisticated gadgetry. In British-Indian writings I have seen the word ‘Indian-Architect’ used to describe them. They had knowledge, skills and technical information that could vive with the architects of England. Yet, no local Brahmin man here would send his children to study under these Carpenters. For, it would be quite a foolhardy thing to do. For, it would arrive them at the Nee, Avan, Avante and eda levels under technical persons who existed at the lower levels in society.

However, if any of these carpenters had been taken to England after learning English, they would have bloomed into geniuses like Ramanujams. They would have come out with fantastic books and treatises on Architecture, woodcraft, timber quality and much else, including a master book on Vastushastra. Yet, they wouldn’t be able to create a fabulous nation like England. Herein lies another truth. That, technical skills do not create a great nation. Great nations are created by quality citizens. For citizens to be quality, they require a language like English, which doesn’t depreciate the value of individual, and discriminate between them.

Now coming back to Swati Tirunal, he couldn’t get along well with the English Resident. The basic fault can be traced back to the low-quality tutoring he got from his Maharatta Brahmin Tutor. Why the Royal family did not opt for an English tutor is the moot point. For, such a training would have elevated the young prince beyond the messy holds of the messy feudal vernaculars of the locality. There is indeed an answer to this Why. It is that his own various relatives wouldn’t want him to go beyond their own clasping holds of feudal word strings.

Swati Tirunal’s brother, when he became the king had a very nice relationship with the same English Resident, with whom his elder brother couldn’t get along well.


There are certain other insights that this book brings out. One is that in British-ruled-Malabar trade was free. Anyone could sell to whomsoever they wished. However, in Travancore, almost all trade in commodities was monopolised by the government. This involved the corrupt officials. Just like the current-day official dacoits, the Sales Tax officials. [In between, it may be mentioned that during the British rule time, there was no Sales Tax, until the Indian ministry in Madras Presidency pushed for one, when the English rule was on the verge of ending]

Now speaking about officials, it is not easy to convey the tragedy of the people of being under officials in the Indian peninsular region. The vernaculars are feudal, degrading and suppressive to the people. The officials can and would use such words as Nee, Avan, Aval, Avattakal, etc. to and about the people. The terror and tragedy this means for the ordinary man cannot be expressed in English. For, there is no way to convey the Satanic emotions that is conveyed through these words. When speaking about freedom, one has to take into account, the language of the people. There is no meaning in the word ‘freedom’ if the language is feudal.

The policeman in free India addressing an ordinary man in India as Nee and referring to him as Avan, Avattakkal and eda, does not convey any freedom. Even a slave under a racist Englishman would be having a thousand times more freedom. However, the other side is also there. The policeman cannot be polite to the ordinary man. For, in the Indian schools under low-quality teachers, he has been trained to ‘respect’ rudeness of the superiors. For example, in government schools in Kerala, the students are addressed as Nee, and referred to as Avan and Avattakal. Words such as Eda, Enthaada etc. are also used. The students have to get up to show ‘respect’ to the teacher. He cannot sit with a straight back and talk in a manner conveying self-dignity. He has to cringe and bent, and bow and clasp his hands in the pose of subservience (Namaskaram). If he is inclined to stand straight and talk to the teachers with a pose of dignity, he is seen as impertinent.

This is the Indian training that is given to the ordinary man. This ordinary man, when he becomes a policeman expects this from the common man. If he remains a common man, he knows that it is only propriety to show subservience. All these things are encoded in the feudal Malayalam words and language.


Then the next item that this book brings out is the position of the English rulers as the most prominent social reformers in the Indian peninsula region, which includes Malabar District (of Madras Presidency) and the Travancore kingdom. It is true that Guru Sree Narayana has been credited as a social reformer with regard to the Ezhavas of Travancore kingdom. I am not very sure as to what his exact achievements were. I understand that he was a Vedic scholar as mentioned in the Wikipedia. Moreover, he did building a few temples, which was a deed actually not allowed for the lower caste Ezhavas. He was possibly a person with a lot of personal daring and scholarship.

However, there is huge background to this social reformation and this is directly connected to the English domination of this geographical area. A new language which was devoid of feudal content, no pejorative words for You, He, Him, His, She, Her, Hers, They, Them etc. And a new social structuring seen in English interaction. These things were to create great social changes. Many of them quite painful, for some. For, it was more or less leading the servant classes who sat on the floor to dare to think of sitting on a chair, and to aspire for higher social positions. It was a dangerous and quite unnerving situation. For, the lower classes were aspiring for all this without proper English education.

See these quotes:

1. But the Pillamars and Madampimars (petty chiefs) resented this act of the Rani, and in November 1697 A.D., the factory of Anjengo was violently attacked on the plea that the English were pirates, but without success. Mr. Logan writes:
“It may however be doubted whether this, their ostensible reason, was the true one, for as will presently appear, the presence of the English in Travancore was gradually leading to a revolution in that State”
[Naturally this development was clearly understood as dangerous by the upper castes. One can’t blame them. My Comment]

2. From Velu Tampi’s Proclamation: 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 .............................. suppress the Brahmanical communities,..................................... get low caste people to inflict heavy punishments for slight faults, ..........................compel intermarriages with Brahman women without reference to caste or creed and practise all the unjust and unlawful things which characterize Kaliyuga.
[Actually all this was done by the Indian government after the formation of India in 1947. In fact, if one were to make a slight disparaging comment about a lower caste man, he can currently end up in prison. My Comment]

3. In 1833 A.D., there was a disturbance raised by the Shanars of South Travancore, but the riot was easily put down without military aid.

4. Shanar converts and Hindus— Disturbances in South Travancore. Reference has already been made to the establishment of the London Mission Society in South Travancore and the great toleration afforded to the Christian Missions by the Travancore Government that led to the rapid spread of Christianity in Nanjanad.

5. The result was that the Shanar converts (it may be observed here that the Mission work of conversion was mostly if not exclusively confined to the Shanars, Pariahs and other low-caste people), who were looked down upon by the high-caste Hindus, relying on the support of the missionaries, caused great annoyance to them.

6. The casus belli in this case arose from the Shanar Christian females assuming the costume of high-caste women. By long-standing custom, the inferior classes of the population were forbidden to wear an upper cloth of the kind used by the higher classes.
[My Comment: It would be similar to the Constables wearing IPS officers’ uniform]

7. During the administration of Col. Munro, a Circular order was issued permitting the women referred to, to cover their bodies with jackets {kuppayam) like the women of Syrian Christians, Moplas, and such others, but the Native Christian females would not have anything less than the apparel of the highest castes. So they took the liberty of appearing in public not only with the kuppayam already sanctioned, but with an additional cloth or scarf over the shoulders as worn by the women of the higher castes. These pretensions of the Shanar convert women were resented by the high-caste Nayars and other Sudras who took the law into their own hands and used violence to those who infringed long-standing custom and caste distinctions.

8. The women of the Shanars or toddy-drawers who abound in South Travancore and from among whom the Protestant Missionaries have for the last sixty years reaped the richest harvest, had been prevented from covering the upper part of their person.

9. The mutual jealousies between the Sahanars and the Sudras were dormant for some time, but the Queen’s Proclamation of November 1858 on the assumption of the direct Government of India renovated these feelings. The Shanara imagined that it permitted them to infringe existing rules while the Sudras equally considered it as sanctioning their taking the law into their own hands to repress what they took as an aggression into their caste domains. Serious affrays ensued, and these were aggravated by the gratuitous interference of petty Sirkar officials whose general standard of capacity and moral worth we have already alluded to. Public peace was imperilled.
[My Comment: British government had taken over the rule from the East India Company]

10. “Numbers of Shanars, and Soodras with Lubbays waited on me and complained against each other, on the subject of the upper cloth.”

11. In December 1858 A.D., the two communities had assumed hostile positions against each other and troubles of a serious nature broke out. The Sudras openly attacked the Shanar women who dared to appear in public in high-caste costume and the Shanars duly retaliated.

12. Sir Charles Trevelyan, as Governor of Madras wrote to the Resident in these strong terms: “I have seldom met with a case, in which not only truth and justice, but every feeling of our common humanity are so entirely on one side. The whole civilised world would cry shame upon us, if we did not make a firm stand on such an occasion.

13. Dewan’s reply to English Governor in Madras: As the Shanars took it upon themselves to infringe the Proclamation of 1004 M.E., so the Soodras took it upon themselves to punish such infringement. The Shanar women were attacked when they openly appeared with what was considered the high caste costume. The Shanars on the other hand did not confine themselves to a bare defence. They too retaliated the outrages on Soodra women.

14. “The decree of interference which for many years past has been exercised by the representative of the British Government in the Affairs greatly rests with the British Government and it has thereby become their duty to insist upon the observance of a system of toleration, in a more decided manner, than they would be at liberty to adopt, if they had merely to bring their influence to bear on an independent State.”

15. A Royal Proclamation was accordingly issued on the 26th July 1859 abolishing all restrictions in the matter of the covering of the upper parts of Shanar women and granting them perfect liberty to meet the requirements of decency any way they might deem proper with the simple reservation, however, that they should not imitate the dress of the women of high castes.

Now, what has to be borne in mind is that this history mentions a lot of socio-political activity by the Shanars, which included meetings and united actions. The question is who the leaders of this movement were. Who gave them the moral support? It is sure that without some moral support, people who are kept on the lower side of the feudal language, like Nee, Avan, Aval, Avattakkal etc. will not be able to negotiate with honour and dignity. Their only option would be to create rumpus and go in for rioting.

Moreover, there is a story connected to Sree Narayana Guru. When some higher caste persons came and queried upon him as to his right to set up a Shiva temple, and do puja there, he is said to have answered that he was only consecrating an Ezhava Shivan. Even though that it might be quite easy to believe that anyone lower class person can get away with such wisecracking, the truth is the even now, not many persons would dare to answer in such a tone when addressed by persons with authority. Unless they have some powerful backing. As to the Shanar leadership, it can be seen that they were crushed by police power. Now, what would that mean? In Travancore, even now, it would mean taking to the police station and beating up to a pulp, amid a shower of such abusive words as Poorimon, Pundachimon, Thayoolimon etc.

The moot question is why the current day Ezhava leadership doesn’t try to seek out these poor leaders who never seem to have arrived in the limelight.


There are certain things that may be mentioned here. It is not easy to suddenly change the varying levels of people’s dressing standards in a society, which is feudal like an Indian police department. Each levels’ dress is a uniform that identifies the person with a social level. When rights of articulation and restrictions on communications are there in the language, a sudden change would be equivalent to a police constable being given a sudden status equivalent to his IPS officer. It can create terrible pains and anguish in the society.

It may also be seen that the English officials as well as the English Christian Missionaries were bringing in English. The latter was also involved in converting the lower castes into Christians. This also was a terrible thing in the society. For, persons who were acknowledged as dirt level, slaves and low castes, were all being given the idea that they are human being with equal rights to dignity. However, the error here is that such equality is not there in the vernaculars of the Indian peninsula. They are there only in English and similar languages. So, what was in effect happening was the crude cutting and pasting of lower placed persons into higher positions, without affecting proper introduction into English language.

Social positions are connected to social regimentation and command levels. A person from a royal family has a definite social command capacity that comes through the royal link. Similarly every level in a feudal language society has a command right over people below that level. All this were being disturbed.

Before going ahead I must mention the issue of the confrontation between the Shanars and the higher castes Shudras. The communication standards of Travancore were rough in the years I was there. Profanities such as Pundachimon, Pundachimol, Poorimon, Poorimol, Thayooli, Thayoolimon, Ammayipanni thayoli, etc. were quite common words of usage, in rough as well as casual talk. This and the general mood of street violence that generally pervades the areas must have been acted out in the higher caste versus lower caste confrontations. It is seen in the book that it was the Shudras (Nairs) who were very much agitated about the freedom being demanded by the lower castes.

Here a few things may be taken out from the book. I have already mentioned these words of mine:
The second point that arises is that the current day people of this area cannot bear the mention of any link to their ancestors. Instead of claiming any link to their very evident ancestors, whom they view with repulsion, they spin dubious stories and fables connecting them to populations with which their real link is extremely fragmentary.

The first is connected to the word Shudra (Sudra/Soodra). It is mentioned as a synonym for Nair in this book and almost all books connected to the ancient periods of the Malabar and Travancore areas. Modern day Nairs go into a homicidal mood when this word Shudra is associated with them. The fact is that Shuras are the lowest of the four level Aryan caste system. In the Travancore and Malabar regions, they were the serving class of the Brahmins and the Varmas (Kshatriyas).[This statement does not mean that all nairs were household servants of the higher castes]. Due to the presence of a huge number of people and castes who were not from the Aryans fold, below them, they naturally became a supervisor caste here. Some of the lower castes also did jump into the Nair levels as they relocated to distant locations, to enjoy the better freedom a higher caste address lend.

See these quotes:

1. That (Brahmin) females when they get out of their houses should be protected from profane gaze by a big cadjan umbrella and accompanied by a Sudra maid-servant;

2. These Nagas became the (Kiriathu) Nayars of later Malabar claiming superiority in rank and status over the rest of the Malayali Sudras of the west coast

3. At the time of the Travancore invasion, the Ampalapuzha army was commanded by Mathu Panikkar, a Sudra knight of great valour.

4. He was the junior of the two Dewan Peishcars, but the Senior one Raman Menoven (Menon) was in the north of Travancore and being a Soodra could not have conducted the great religious festival then celebrating at Trivandrum.

5. the Shanar women, particularly those of converts to Christianity had, it appears, begun, though not prominently, to wear a dress similar to that worn by Soodra and Brahmin females, and this you are aware, occasionally gave rise to troubles ere this.

6. These pretensions of the Shanar convert women were resented by the high-caste Nayars and other Sudras who took the law into their own hands and used violence to those who infringed long-standing custom and caste distinctions.

7. One anecdote of Rama lyen’s self-abnegation still lingers in the public mind. Rama lyen, after his wife’s death, consorted with a Sudra girl at Mavelikara,

8. Another such interesting story was related to me by an old servant of the house of a Sudra Stanika of Padmanabha’s temple where some years ago I halted for a few days in one of my official circuits.

9. In 1842, the Committee of Europeans appointed to examine and report on the progress of the pupils of the school, certified to their excellent attainments and proposed a distribution of prizes and suggested to His Highness, “the holding out of some prospects of future employment in the public service to those boys who may distinguish themselves by their progress, especially to the Sudras who form so large a portion of the population of His Highness’ country”. [My Comment: Lower castes were not allowed employment in the public services at that time]

10. There was Raman Menon, the Senior Dewan Peishcar, a man of considerable revenue experience and energy, and there was T. Madava Row, a young officer of character and ability and possessed of high educational qualifications,........................................ but the Senior one Raman Menoven was in the north of Travancore and being a Soodra could not have conducted the great religious festival then celebrating at Trivandrum ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, . His Highness has since proposed to me that Madava Row should for the present be placed in chair of the administration as Acting Dewan

Here I should mention a few words about what was happening in Malabar, which though connected to Travancore by the coastline, was an entirely different area. The Malabar language was quite different from what was spoken in Travancore and more or less incomprehensible to the Travancoreans. Malabar was a remote district of Madras Presidency. The area was quite filled with thick forests,. The labourer class among the topmost lower caste, the Thiyyas, was subordinated by the local hierarchy to the coconut plucking class. Even though they also had the same social restrictions on dressing standards, there was no statutory rule to enforce such dressing standards. For it was direct English rule.

The blessing of good quality English education came to Tellicherry. It gave the lower caste Thiyyas of Tellicherry a never before in the history of the peninsula opportunity to come out of their suppressed levels.

Mention may be made of one Choorayi Karanan, from the Tellicherry Thiyyas who became the Deputy Collector of Malabar in an age when even the Nairs had the slight issue of being Sudra limiting them from being the Dewan. This much was the change the English rulers had ushered into the peninsula where social hierarchy had remained solid over the centuries by the power of the hierarchical feudal vernaculars.

Yet, this much also must be mentioned. When this Kanaran got an officer post, his seniors were reluctant to give him a chair to sit down and work from a table. He was made to sit in a mat and work. Even though this may seem shocking now, the fact is that simply lifting him and pasting him into a higher social position would lift a lot of others connected to him also to higher levels. There were problems in the feudal vernacular codes, of which naturally the Englishmen were not aware of then, and also now. [It would like suddenly posting a Indian constable as an IPS officer. All his constable friends would still be addressing him as Nee, and referring to him as Avan. This is a very contagious communication, in which all other IPS officers who moved with this new IPS man would also get similarly affected, sooner or later]

The next issue of displacing Englishmen from senior posts and posting natives from the peninsula had another problem. When this Kanaran was made to sit on the floor, the English District Collector Henry Coonoly came and had him given a proper seat. However if another Thiyya man were to approach this Kanaran in his official position, Kanaran would be aware of the issues of the local vernacular codes and wouldn’t allow the other man to budge from his subordinate position. So, in the ultimate count, placing natives into positions occupied by native English speakers were not good for the majority populations. This much I speak from personal experiences with dealing with the Indian bureaucracy, when the approach was done without any powerful routing.

So the Nairs cannot bear to be identified with their proper ancestors.

Now let us look at the Kerala Christians. There are so many books of concurrent times, including the Native Life in Travancore by The Rev. SAMUEL MATEER, F.L.S. of the London Missionary Society, other than this book, which mentions the fact that majority of the modern Christians are converts from lower castes including Paraya Pulaya, the other slave castes and from Ezhavas. Where is the mention of all this currently appearing? In Wikipedia there is a person who seems to be handling the whitewashing of these kinds of information. He is of the opinion that Thurston is ‘not an academic’ but only an administrator. Only books written by academics can be accepted!

These types of blunders are now in charge of Indian Wikipedia Pages.

There is something else to be mentioned about the Christians. The Christian settler population being the converts from the lower castes, and hence good in physical exertions, displayed their innate capacity, when they invaded the forest areas of Malabar in the wake of the end of the British rule in Malabar. They literally converted thick forests into plantations, by just depending on their physical energies and the common leadership given by the evangelists among them.

What about the Ezhavas? Their leaders’ actual grievance should be that the Thiyyas of Malabar did not face much official suppression during the British period of rule. This grievance converted into another kind of nonsensical inferiority complex that needed the grasping of some straw. Their leadership took up a stance that the Thiyyas are actually Ezhavas. This created a feeling of repulsion in the Thiyyas. However, Wikipedia, the current day reference book has been held to ransom by the same person mentioned above. Ezhavas are generally mentioned as coming from Ceylon [Sri Lanka]. So what is their connection to the Vedic antiquity?

Now, what about the Thiyyas? They actually do have two different groups. The North Malabar and the South Malabar. Customs and looks used to be slightly different. They, especially the North Malabar Thiyyas, have their desperation to be different from the others in India. Somehow, a DNA identification with the people from Kazakhstan has been found out. That means a neat disconnection to the so-called Vedic people! Beyond that the Muthappan Vellattam and Thiruvappana, which are more or less similar to Shamanism are not there anywhere else in Kerala, other than in North Malabar. It might be interesting to see if a similar ritualistic worship of god is there in the areas north-west to India and Pakistan. For, it is a known thing that gods similar to the Vedic gods had been worshiped in these areas. If British-India had extended to those areas, then they would also have claimed direct links to Vedic Culture. In fact, if Sri Lanka, down south, had been inside British-India, it would also have claimed direct cultural links and and claims to Vedic culture.

Among the Muslims also there are issues connected to the links to their ancestors.

What about the lower most castes who are now categorised as the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes? They are mentioned as belonging to some inferior DNA. Is it the truth? Well, the fact is that almost all individuals in current day India would have bloodlines that route through the Scheduled Castes and Tribes also. Then why do the lower castes look inferior? Well, the question is, do they really look inferior? The Kerala Christians, many of whom are converts from these castes, do not have any looks of inferiority in them. Even the settler populations in Malabar look superior when they are rich.

The wider dimension of this answer is that persons who are kept on the lower positions of the feudal indicant word codes can have some inferior codes in them. Either mental or physical or even both. However, it is not basically connected to DNA or caste. If they learn pristine English (not Indian-English) and live in a pristine English social ambience, they will also look fabulous.

There is another thing to be mentioned with regard to the Scheduled Castes. There was a funny idea of improving them. First one ‘leader’ came up with an idea that calling them Harijans would improve them. It was a method that had never dawned in the minds of the English rulers. Their idea of improving a person was to teach him English. Now, the more funny part is that if a Scheduled Caste man is called by his Caste name, or his caste name is alluded to, it is a great crime. In short, they also cannot bear to be connected to their hereditary links.

If this much repulsion is there among the Indians themselves to each other, then how can one find fault with others in other nations, if they exhibit what has been defined as ‘racist repulsion’?

Speaking about repulsion for human being encoded in feudal languages, there is a story in the history part of this book mentioning a strange incident of a Koravan becoming the king of the kingdom. What happened to his dynasty is quite an interesting story.


There was a CM in Kerala who wanted to finish off English. He had the habit of using the lower indicant feudal words to all and sundry, who weren’t his direct leaders. Words such as Inhi (Nee), Oan (Avan), Oal (Aval) etc. I understand that his son shrewdly moved off to an English nation. This CM himself belonged to the slightly higher caste family, and hence a communist. So, it was sort of natural for him to use the lower indicant words to others.

This CM was the person who removed all the English names of the places in Kerala. However, in this book written by a native of this peninsula, it is the English words that are used. For example, Cannanore (Kannur), Tellicherry (Thalasherry), Calicut (Kozhikode), Palghat (Palakkaad), Cochin (Kochi), Alwaye (Aluva), Alleppey (Alappuzha), Quilon (Kollam), Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), Cape Comerin (Kanyakumari), Sultan’s Battery (Sulthaanbatheri) etc. When English names are available, the writer does refrain from using the vernacular names

I remember that this CM wanted to change the name of Victoria Memorial Hall (Victoria Jubilee Town Hall) in Trivandrum to a name commemorating a deceased party leader. Somehow, he was unable to get it done.

As the book moves from King Marthanda Varma’s time, (when the true foundation of the kingdom was laid), one can discern a great relationship developing between this kingdom and the English East India Company. What is visible is the keen interest taken by the company officials to improve the kingdom, secure its safety and to develop the social system therein. This complete theme is totally in opposition to what is generally taught in the current day Indian textbooks.

[However, it must be admitted that there are certain few passages which seem to be some kind of insertions by persons with ill-intentions, in which the mood of the writing goes directly opposite.]

One sees the slow and gradual increase in the powers of the Diwan, their sort of overshadowing of the king and queen and their lowering to positions of mere rubber stamps, in terms of actual administration. The erosion of the powers of the king is seen going down during the reign of Swati Tirunal, when he was foolish enough, and swindled to appoint his own childhood teacher as his Diwan. This king seems to have been just a youngster all his life, with the Diwan in charge of everything. During the time of his predecessors, Marthanda Varma and Rama Varma, the king was the actual administrator, with the Diwan being just his chief of ministers.

However, the other side, the English East India Company does come out as quite foolish, naive and gullible. They seem to be on a ‘support the competitor’ policy in every one of their endeavours. The fact is that in the Indian peninsula, no one would actually help a lower positioned person to come up. Or to give knowledge and information to their side.If the higher side has any common sense.


For instance, I have seen very good carpenters who know very brilliant skills, being extra careful to see that their apprentices do not get to learn their skills. Whenever there is an occasion when the apprentice might chance to see the skills of precision engineering and of measuring and cutting, they would be very cunningly sent off to do some sundry work like sharpening the chisel.

This is the standard strategy used in this land since times immemorial. That is why, in spite of all jingoist claims that this land has so much knowledge and skills, there is actually nothing of that sort in the average common man.

Moreover, if the lower guy is a person of great rectitude and really wants to develop, the usual strategy is to see that he is affectionately helped and led to directions of growth which are actually cul-de-sacs.

However, in the case of the East India Company, they are seen to be very sincere in their efforts to see that the kingdom is given a great opportunity of security, so that the rulers can focus their minds in a most secure mood to develop their people.

English knowledge, education, technical skills, medical knowledge, building up of infrastructure, ideas of improving trade and much much else were given to the Travancore kingdom by the English. However, in India it is known that when the lower man improves, his first tendency would be to monitor his development in comparison with his benefactor. Has he risen above his benefactor or not? His understanding of having arrived to the heights is when he feels that he has risen above his benefactor. When this position is achieved, it is time for the change of indicant word. From Saar to Ningal to Nee. From Adheham to Ayaal to Avan. This is the real measuring tool for development in Indian feudal vernaculars.

A native of the Indian peninsula knows that if his menial servant is allowed to sit on a chair, address him by his name, allowed to wear dress that is of same quality as his own, allowed to learn English, allowed to imbibe his technical know-how, it is just a matter of time before the menial servant becomes another master.

Native superior castes in the Indian peninsula did not want their subordinate castes to even get to join their religion, pray to their gods, or to enter their temples. The reasons are as mentioned in the earlier paragraph.
See this quote: The fourth prohibited the lower castes of Valankai and Edankai from making religious gifts to the temple of Sakalakalai Martanda Vinayakar.

There are other similar instances also.

The poor Englishmen do not know anything about these satanic codes and tensions. Actually there is a very significant instance of this beginning to show in the mood of the Travancore Diwan once. It is with regard to the right to arrest and punish British European (meaning White Britons) for any violations of law inside Travancore. Once this can be done, it is a sort of passing the milestone. For ultimately the aim is to one day subordinate England. To see that Travancore has developed. There would be no aim to create a better quality nation than England in terms of people quality.

Looking at the issue from a dispassionate perspective, the Travancore claim would seem to be correct. However, this perception is not correct. For, the fact is mentioned in this book itself. The officialdom is corrupt, the police are brutal and the ordinary man is kept at the level of dirt, and in varying levels of caste or profession. Moreover the language is feudal, and words like Nee, Avan, Aval, eda, edi etc. are kept apart for the subordinated person. An Englishman cannot be made an equal into this diabolic environment.

In fact, it is morally wrong to allow even the current-day Indian police to arrest any man. But then the people do not have access to any higher levels of social training. Both they as well as the policemen have been trained by the insipid Indian school teachers, who use all the above mentioned non-acceptable words to the students. Without these words, there are no other tools for disciplining those who have come up through the vernacular training.


There is a general impression that the English rule was supportive of Missionary endeavours to spread the Christian religion. This impression has been deliberately fed into the Indian people by the textbook historians.

See this QUOTE from Revd. Abbs’ writing:

“As both the Rajah (or sovereign) of that time, and the heir apparent were peaceable men, partially enlightened, and favourable to Europeans, I do not suppose we should have found difficulty, had not both been guided in their public movements by a Dewan or native Prime Minister, and a British Resident, or political representative of England. Both of these were hostile to Christianity, the former as a bigoted heathen, the latter as a worldly statesman, and both for want of acquaintance with its nature.

“We soon discovered that the agent of our Christian land, although a Scotchman attached as he said to the Church of England and her services, was much opposed to missionary effort, and more fearful than were the Brahmins respecting the effects of evangelical religion...............

“He was a General in the Artillery, and must have left home at a very early age, as, although not a very old man, he had served nearly forty years in the Indian army. To say that he was profoundly ignorant of spiritual religion would be only saying that he was like most of the East India officers of that time, although it is probable that not having seen much of missionary operations, and having been (as I was afterwards) more associated with what he called ‘native friends’ than with European society, his ideas concerning our character and intentions were more alarming, absurd and exaggerated, than were those of others who had come into contact with our institutions.”

The fool who came to power in England as the PM after the WW2 handed all the people of this geographical area to low quality brutes. Even the tribal populations, not only in the mainland but even in far-off lands like the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. They are now forcibly made to learn the Indian feudal vernaculars. I have heard the lowest cadre of the police and the Indian officialdom such as the peons, using the eda, edi, Nee, Avan, Aval words about the Tribal persons. Even about their clan leaders who should actually be addressed as Honourable and similar words. That is what the East India Company used to the Native kings of India. However, the Indian officials cannot use such words to similar people. They know only to degrade.

Now continuing on the effects of how the English Company officials tried to enhance the quality of the people here, it would be worth mentioning a particular incident.

1. On the 20th of January 1867- His Highness the Maharajah started for Madras to receive the Insignia of the Order personally from His Excellency the Governor. His Highness reached Madras on the 27th and was received by Lord N apier and staff at the station with every mark of honour.

2. On the same day, Dewan T. Madava Row also was presented with the Insignia of the Order of Knighthood of the Star of India (K. C.S.T) an honour but rarely conferred in recent limes.

Even though these two things seems quite innocuous, the fact is that in a feudal language environment, in which persons are placed in various locations in a 3-dimensional virtual codes area, the action of elevating the subordinate to a position quite near to the superior can be have powerful repercussions. The moment I read this, I feared the worst. Within the next few page, I could see my fears come true. See this quote:

But in spite of his good intentions and good work, he was not able to retain the confidence of the Maharajah to the last. His Highness’ mind was poisoned against the Dewan by a number of circumstances. Misunderstandings soon arose between him and his Royal master. Several difficulties cropped up, some of which at any rate were of his own making, with the result that he became personally obnoxious to the sovereign and had therefore to take leave from February to May 1872, when he retired.

Readers are requested to read my books to understand the codes in feudal langauges:
1. Shrouded Satanism in Feudal Languages: Intractability and tribulations of improving others
2. March of the Evil Empires; English versus the Feudal Languages
3. Codes of Reality! What is Language?
4. HORRENDOUS INDIA! A parade of facade in verbal codes!
5. Software codes of Reality, Life and Languages
6. An impressionistic history of the South Asian Subcontinent,

There is this quote also worth mentioning:

‘In England we can boast of a long roll of names of men who, with no special training, with little of even ordinary education, owing nothing to birth and powerful connections, have silently trained themselves, till suddenly they showed themselves able to play a great part in the affairs of their country and to confer some signal benefit on mankind’.

Well, the truth is that it was the great ‘common man’ of England who created the British Empire. Not the academicians. The academicians generally do not know anything other than what others write from their own personal experiences into books. It was the academic ‘intellects’ who actually gave leadership to the decline of the English Empire. For, they spoke and taught without real experiences and understanding.Those who study under them, feel that their reflected knowledge is great. That is why such foolish words as that mentioning Thurston’s works as worthless compared to an academicians came about. People who do such talks want England to be led by them. Not by ‘men who, with no special training, with little of even ordinary education, owing nothing to birth and powerful connections, have silently trained themselves, till suddenly they showed themselves able to play a great part in the affairs of their country and to confer some signal benefit on mankind’

I would request the reader here to read this book: Compulsory Formal Education: A Travesty


1c29 #The Royal Family
What is discernible in the book is the fact that the Royal Family, especially the Monarchs, was quite concerned about improving the condition of the people. They were off course burdened by ambience of an extremely feudal language, in which hierarchy was maintained by means of pejorative and degrading words to the lower positions. Yet, they do seem to be doing the best they could. Yet, the truth remains that they were not in a position to create a total enhancement of quality that the English rulers could do in the British ruled areas. In these places, the lower castes were not burdened by the weight of higher castes above them. In British ruled areas, the officialdom, especially the officer classes were quite good in English and were more or less incorruptible.

For in the English communication environment, they were not much terrified by the possibility of progress of the lower classes and castes. However, in places like Travancore, the terror of the lower castes and classes overwhelming them was real and terrible. For, the language was filled with pejoratives, which aimed at the lower positioned persons. The nightmare did later come to happen. Now, in India, to be on the lower side of the social system is akin to being in hell.

See these sample quotes:

1. The Forest Department was strengthened with trained hands from the Imperial Forest School, Dehra Dun. An Honorary Director was appointed to the Government Observatory and a trained Superintendent was secured for the Museum and the Public Gardens. New lines of roads were opened in several places; new Cutcheries, Courts, school-houses, hospitals, customs-houses and Police stations were started, and several irrigation tanks deepened and repaired. In the same year 1066 M.E, the negotiations for financing the construction of the Railway from Tinnevelly to Quilon were concluded, the Travancore Government guaranteeing interest at four per cent on the capital required to construct the line within the Travancore limits for a period of fifteen years.

2. At the Maharajah’s College, Lord Curzon added —”................ His Highness takes the keenest interest in the welfare of this College and I have heard with pleasure, with reference to one of the fields of study mentioned just now, viz., that of Scientific Forestry, that he is sending four pupils to study in the Forest School of the Government of India at Dehra Dun.”

1c30 #General observations from this book
1. The traditional dress of the people of the area currently known as Kerala State was not Sari and mundu. Majority of the females literally had nothing to cover their upper part of the body. As to the males, the majority had only a thorth and a Palathoppi on top of the head. They upperparts were bare.

2. During the Kings rule, a huge section of the population that were below the Nairs were not given much importance, education or right to public employment. In British-India, the lower castes were not statutorily denied English education and right to public employment including that of officer level posts.

3. Nairs also were treated as a subordinate caste by the superior castes, Brahims and Kshatriyas (Varmas). However, there were huge populations under the Nairs in heirarchy.

4. Moral standards were quite low. In Marumakkathaya household, women did allow higher castes persons to fornicate them. Only when lower castes males, cast profane glances at them, were they perturbed. It is generally believed that moral turpitude was brought to this land by the English. The fact is the exact reverse. Moral ineptitude as well as extreme profanity in words became a common usage in English when people from the feudal language populations entered the English world.

1c31 #The current state of India
1. The nation of India is now ruled by an extremely self-serving officialdom

2. They have cornered most of the resources by means of an extraordinarily high pay scale (100000 to 300000 rupees for 13 months a year, when the majority Indians earn between 2000 to 15000 per month for 12 months a year). For more information on this, READ: Fence eating the crops (on

3. The common man is made to lick the dirt by the cunningness involved in the Indian currency rate crash. Persons with foreign earning, including that of export earning, simply see their earning expand exponentially to sky high. The local man’s savings simply vanish into thin air.No political leader dares to take steps to protect the value of the savings of the locally employed persons.

4. The teachers in the government schools promote the feudal, pejorative to their wards local vernacular. They address their students with such despicable words as Nee (Inhi), and refer to them as Avan (Oan), Aval (Oal), Avattakal (Aiyttingal), Eda, Edi etc. They terrorise them into a dumb levels of submission.

5. These students when they become government officials or policemen, use the same tone and manner to the common man. If they grow up to be the ‘common man’, they are at the other end of the degrading behaviour.

6. Almost 70 to 80 percent of the forest cover of Malabar has been wiped out in the aftermath of the departure of the English rule. The tribal people who had lived in the security lend by the English ruled Forest departments have been brought out in the clearings, and made to go down in the national social system. The local official address them and their chiefs as Nee (Inhi), Eda, Edi, and refer to them as Avattakal (Aittingal), Avan, Aval etc. They have been forcibly made to learn Malayalam, to make them understand the terrorising suppression encoded in these words. Their own languages have been made to vanish.

7. The animals such as deer, porcupines, wild boars, elephants, mountain goats etc. have been decimated by people who have official connections, at the lower levels.

8. Trees in forests are being continuously cut down after manipulating land records with the connivance of the government officials.

9. Population has exploded. In Travancore the population was around 12 Lakhs (1200000) according to the census conducted in 1890s. The present day population of Kerala is touching 3.5 Crores (35000000). As per the norms of democracy, it is the leaders of the exploding populations who are to rule the nation.

10. The nonsense of compulsory education for 10 to 20 years, which doesn’t even impart good quality English, has led to the vanishing of traditional knowledge and skills such as carpentry. Such jobs are mentioned by the educators as low level and such jobs as doctoring, engineering etc. are mentioned as the higher quality jobs in the feudal Malayalam word codes.

Now this is a minor sample of the scene in this nation. Yet, Kerala does not show much signs of destitution, especially in the visible areas. Yet, this is only a facade. For, the truth is that this only due to the cunning misuse of the phenomena of national currency exchange rate depreciation. Totally selfish also.

These very people who have amassed huge fortunes by means of huge salaries and pension; by means of robbing the forests; by means of currency manipulations; and who have suppressed the common man by means of feudal suppressive words, still go on declaiming that it is the English rule that has brought in poverty here. When these very persons still find is quite difficult to allow their housemaid to improve in mental stature enough to sit in a chair in their house.Yet, these are the great persons; those who bear the ancestry of the Vedic culture!
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Post posted by VED »

tsm1 #




Chapter I.
Physical Description.
Sec. A. physical features
Sec. B. geology

Chapter II. Climate, Rainfall, and Meteorology
Chapter III. Flora
Chapter IV. Fauna
Chapter V. Archaeology
Chapter VI. History.
Sec. A. ancient history
Sec. B. early history


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Under command of His Highness the Maha Rajah, the preparation of the State Manual of Travancore was decided upon some time ago, and I was appointed to it with the simple instruction that the book was to be after the model of the District Manuals of Madras. This instruction I have faithfully carried out and I am happy to report now that the book is completed and issued in three large volumes. Although I have allowed myself some latitude in forming my own conception of the design and scope of the work and devoted my best attention and energies to their exposition and elucidation, I still feel I might have done better if I had been left to myself, to work at it leisurely, spending “a laborious day upon each page,’’ undisturbed by limitations of time and space.

The difficulty of compiling a work of this nature will readily enlist the sympathies of those who have laboured in similar fields, for as Sir Frederick A. Nicholson points out in his report on Agricultural Banks, at which he worked for about 3 years —

“The delay in submitting the report is due to many causes, principally to the immensity and complexity of the subject, to the difficulty of ascertaining and then of obtaining sources of information, to the discontinuity thereby imposed when a half finished study had to be broken off till the receipt of further information, to the extreme difficulty arising from the incessant demands of a Collector’s work notwithstanding two periods of special duty. For the Madras Presidency statistics and information did not exist, and it is only through much enquiry and by the courtesy of numerous correspondents that information has been obtained.”

Mr. H. H. Risley’s portion of the Indian Census Report* of 1901 covers, according to Mr. Gait, 136 pages of that volume — a circumstance which can hardly represent the magnitude of his labours or research during the three years he was in charge of the last Imperial Census. The Report of Sir James Thomson’s Excise Committee, which was ordered by the Government of India to be submitted in 8 months i.e. by the end of April 1906, evidently took more time than was anticipated. It is not yet available to the public. More instances could be cited to that neither the quantity of matter written nor the time taken can serve as correct gauge of the labour or research involved in an undertaking of this sort. This is the invariable experience of all past workers.

NOTEs: *In the Introduction to the Report on the Census of India (1903) Vol. I pp. XVI and XVII, Mr. E. A. Gait, I.C.S writes: - "The office of Census Commissioner for India was held by Mr. H. H. Risley, C.I.E, from its creation in October 1899 until September 1902 when, unfortunately for the Census, his services were required for a higher appointment and his immediate connection with the operations came to an end. At that time the reports for a number of Provices and States still remained to be received, and it had thus been impossible to make much progress with the General Report for the whole of India. Mr. W. F. Meyer, Gazetter, and I succeeded him as Census Commissioner on the 23rd January 1903. In spite of the pressure of the other work, Mr. Risley has himself completed the Chapter on Caste, and the portions of four other Chapters, as noted in the margin, are also from his pen"- V. N

Now that the work is finished, no word of explanation or justification is needed save to remove misapprehension in certain quarters. The idea of writing a State Manual was first broached to me by Dewan T. Rama Row, C.I.E., one fine morning 14 years ago, i.e. even before I had begun to compile the Census Report of 1891. He said I must do the Census Report first and then take up the Manual. All this was, of course, to be done along with my heavy legitimate duties as Dewan Peishcar and District Magistrate of Quilon, which I then was. I agreed without a moment’s hesitation though fully alive to the responsibility I thus took upon myself, for it was impossible for me to decline an offer so kindly made and with such flattering compliments by 80 estimable a chief as Dewan Rama Row. He immediately obtained His Highness’ sanction and sent me official orders in the last quarter of 1891. He retired a few months later and with his retirement the matter was dropped, for nothing came of it during the six years of Mr. Shungrasoobyer’s Dewanship, as he did not seem to care for it at all. Dewan Bahadur Srinivasa Raghavaiyangar, C.I.E., complains of a parallel circumstance in the writing of his book, for he says in his Preface —

“The departure of Lord Connemara to England and pressure of other official work led to the preparation of this Memorandum being laid aside for some time, and I was able to resume the work only in the latter half of 1891. Since then I have been more or less engaged on it, but as the work has had to be carried on in, Addition to m other official duties, it has not been possible to finish it earlier.”

The matter was however revived by Dewan Mr. K. Krishnaswamy Row, C.I.E., in 1901, and during his time I devoted to it, off and on, such leisure as the pressing duties of the Settlement Department permitted. It was only in December 1904 that I took it up as a full-time officer and it may be safely said that the best part of these three closely printed volumes is the result of assiduous and sustained labours carried on since.

In reporting completion of the manuscript of the book, I wrote to the Dewan in my letter, No. 387 dated 1st October 1905, thus:

“In continuation of my letter No. 371 dated 26th August 1905, 1 have the honour to inform you that I have finished the State Manual of Travancore in which I have been engaged continuously for the past nine months and my services are available for any other work which His Highness’ Government may be pleased to entrust with me.’’

I added: —

“I take this opportunity of expressing my grateful acknowledgments to His Highness’ Government for entrusting this important work to me without any solicitation on my part — a work in which I have spent much thought and study during several years past though owing to more pressing duties I could not devote to it that attention which it deserved, except at distant intervals of business. It is due to us also to add that my extremely limited staff and myself have worked at it with energy and diligence.”

To this letter the Dewan made no reply. The additional time thereby gained has however proved of much advantage to the work not only were the proofs read carefully and well, but the old data, already collected, were verified, new data added where possible, some chapters were either revised or wholly re-written, additional matter put in, the manuscript throughout was touched up and the whole book itself satisfactorily finished and passed through the press, with a full table of contents, a glossary of vernacular terms and an exhaustive index. In the letter referred to above, viz.. No. 371 dated 26th August 1905, I observed:

‘’I estimated the work to be completed in 6 months at the most, but that was, as I explained to you in my letter noted in the margin (No. 313 dated 23rd May 1905) under the belief that was to be allowed a staff of 10 clerks applied for by me, the choice of clerks from the permanent Departments who would not run away as 7 or 8 temporary clerks did during the last 7 months, and that I was to be allowed also to expend the money saved every month by shortage of hands.

You disagreed to every one of these 3 proposals. So it became impossible for me to finish the work in 6 months as originally estimated in my letter of the 11th November 1904. ............... I believe I have been very moderate in applying only for 3 months’ time from the 30th June last. Under the circumstances explained above, there was ample justification for my asking for 6 months* more time. But as I have already reported, I am most anxious to be done with this work as early as possible.

Mr. Srinivasa Raghavaiyangar, the talented compiler of the Forty Years’ Progress of Madras, took 27 months to write his book — a volume of 340 pages, speaking of quantity alone, the subject-matter of which is admittedly one of a more homogeneous and less complex nature than that of a State Manual. And yet in his forwarding letter to Government, Srinivasa Raghavaiyangar wrote of the delay in the issue of his book thus —

“The collection and reduction of the necessary statistics and the preparation of the second part of the memorandum took up more time than I had anticipated and I was able to complete the work only last May notwithstanding that I took privilege leave for three months in the beginning of this year for the purpose.”

His achievement is a safe criterion to judge of the work of other labourers in similar fields, for to my mind the late Srinivasa Raghavaiyangar was a perfect embodiment of indefatigable industry, deep thought, wide reading, unostentatious independence and high literary skill. In these circumstances, no special justification seems needed for the unavoidable delay in the issue of the Travancore Manual, a work of an encyclopaedic nature spread over a space of more than 1820 pages of letter-press — to say nothing of the continued strain, the anxious and unremitting attention or the huge preliminary studies it cost.

As for the plan of the book, it is enough to say that the mass of information collected has been thrown into 21 chapters and placed in 3 volumes for convenience of handling. Under these 21 chapter-headings almost every subject of importance and interest concerning the State has been brought in. For these chapter-headings several District Manuals of Madras have been consulted, particularly the revised ones of Bellary and Anantapur by Mr. W. Francis, ICS., and it is enough to observe that the Travancore State Manual is fuller and more comprehensive than the Manuals of Madras. In order to do justice to the amplitude of information collected and the labour spent upon it, the size of the book has been enlarged into three volumes from what was originally intended to be one moderate-sized volume.

It would be false economy, I thought, to throw away the results of great labour and research in order to save some printing space. Tediousness were, in my view, a much lighter fault under such circumstances, especially in a book of this nature; but terseness has been my ambition, though after the most conscientious endeavours to clip and prune I could not do more, on the present occasion, without keeping out matter which I really wished to retain. Even as it is, I feel the chapters on ‘History’ and ‘Castes’ are capable of further amplification, particularly the latter chapter, of which only the outer fringe, so to speak, has been touched in these pages. It is a never ending theme of value and interest, and the stores of information still available on it remain unutilised. A whole volume ought to be devoted to ‘Castes’ alone. The chapter on the ‘Gazetteer’ may well be amplified in a future edition.

In the writing of this book, my aim has been to present to an utter stranger to Travancore such a picture of the land and its people, its natural peculiarities, its origin, history and administration, its forests and animals, its conveniences for residence or travel, its agricultural, commercial, industrial, educational and economic activities, its ethnological, social and religious features as he may not himself be able to form by a 30 years’ study or residence in it.

If this is a correct view of the object of a Manual, I trust I may be permitted to entertain the hope that a fairly successful debut has been made, notwithstanding defects or shortcomings that may exist, especially as this is only a pioneer attempt in a novel direction.

It is not necessary to prejudge here what a revision might give opportunities for, in the way of condensing in some directions or amplifying in others. If I get the chance myself at a not distant date, I should probably do both and thus try to reach the ideally perfect Manual, perhaps a vain Utopian desire, which standard of excellence however, I know, is far from having been attained in the present performance.

In the ‘History’ chapter in which I have spent much thought and study, I have endeavoured to give faithful pictures of Parasurama’s early colonists and their autonomous governments, their landed aristocracy, their peculiar tenures and permanent tenantry, of the later kings and ministers, of wars and conquests, of the dissensions of the Ettuvittil Pillamars, the Tampis and the Yogakkars, their mutual jealousies and intrigues, of the fortunes of the minor principalities which make up the Travancore of today and the events which led to their final absorption, of the chief forces that were at work during successive epochs which enabled a petty village near Eraniel to reach its present dimensions of a compact block of territory 7,000 sq. miles in area, of the European powers that successively bid for supremacy of trade on this coast and the ultimate success of the English East India Company, our early friendships with them and the staunch support which they in return uniformly gave us through all vicissitudes of fortune, ultimately resulting in a strong bond of political alliance and reciprocal trust and confidence, which assured to us internal security and immunity from external aggression, thus enabling us to achieve the triumphs of peace and good government, until step by step we reached the enviable height of being known as the Model Native State’ of India — a title which we have maintained by wise rule and sound financial policy during successive reigns up to this day.

And this has been no easy task as the narrative had to be woven out of a tangled web of falsehoods and misstatements, of exaggerated versions and contradictory chronicles, inseparable from oral tradition, fragmentary record and disorganised debris of scattered and confused materials. The difficulty of writing a history of events which took place long ago is great indeed, for as pointed out by John Morley, in his ‘Life of Gladstone’ ‘Interest grows less vivid truth becomes harder to find out memories pale and colour fades’. It is much more so in the case of a nation — the events of whoso life and progress cover a space of many centuries and comprise multitudinous interests and concerns. The History chapter is dealt with in three sections, viz., Ancient history, Early history, and Modern history — the last comprising a period of 10 reigns or 175 years, bringing the narrative down to the end of the year 1079 M.E (15th August 1904), that being the last year for which full information was available on this and other headings when the book was written.

The labour involved in the task was truly gigantic, for it often entailed a wading through a mass of records of all sorts in order to get at a grain of information. The nature of the research may be judged from the following extract of my letter to the Dewan, dated 25th June 1903:—

“As suggested in your D. O. of 1st Inst., I beg to submit herewith a revised list of records to be obtained from Fort St. George. I have cut down 79 numbers from the list of 33G papers originally selected, which itself was a selection from a total of about 600 papers relating to Travancore. In a matter like this where the granting of the application for records is entirely a question of pleasure with Government, there can be no argument all that I can say is that an indulgent view should be taken of the application and that 1 should be given some latitude in the choice of records. It is possible that a good many of the papers that one has to read through in the preparation of a book or report may not be ultimately utilized. In the opinion of Milman, one of the biographers of Lord Macaulay, ‘The historian, the true historian must not confine himself to the chronicles and annals, the public records, the state papers, the political correspondence of statesmen and ambassadors; he must search into; he must make himself familiar with the lowest, the most ephemeral, the most contemptible of the writings of the day. There is no trash which he must not digest; nothing so dull and wearisome that he must not wade through’. In the instance which the Resident refers to, viz., ‘note of the firing of the usual salute on the departure of the king of Travancore to the north’, I should just like to know what the actual ‘salute’ fired was, if such information is available from that record. It is not of course absolutely essential for my book. It may even be put down as a mere antiquarian curiosity; but if so, it is a curiosity which is justifiable, * * * I shall content myself with the papers that are placed at my disposal.”

‘Archaeology’, ‘Fauna’, ‘ Census and Population V Language and Literature’, ‘Economic Condition’, and ‘Legislation and Statute-book’ are new chapters in this Manual, not found in the revised Madras Gazetteers. ‘Local Self-Government’ is a heading which I have not utilised as we have nothing corresponding to it here just yet. The information under my other chapters viz., ’Religion’ ‘Castes’, ‘Trade and Commerce’, Arts and Industries’, ‘Land Tenures and Land Taxes’, and ‘Administration’ deals with the matter comprised in Mr, Francis’ chapters on the People, Occupation and Trade, Land Revenue Administration, Salt, Abkari and miscellaneous revenue and Administration of Justice. The other chapters are the same in both the books.

I have been much exercised in the matter of arranging the order of the chapters in the Manual. What I have ultimately decided upon, though slightly different from that adopted in the Madras Gazetteers, appears to me to be the most natural order. It is thus. The first 4 chapters deal with the lie of the land, its climatic conditions and its exuberant vegetable and animal life. The next 2 chapters deal with History and its chief basis for facts, viz., Archaeology. The whole of the second volume (chapters VII to XII) deals with the people as a whole in all their many-sidedness, i.e. their growth of numbers, their faiths, ethnography, language, education and health. The first 5 chapters of the third volume deal with the economic condition of the people such as agriculture and irrigation, trade and industries and the conveniences that exist for the same. Then come 3 chapters dealing with ‘ administration’ more or less; and the book concludes with an alphabetical description of places of interest, so necessary for a stranger to understand a country aright. This arrangement I believe is the most natural one to adopt and has been finally resolved upon.

One encouraging circumstance in the course of writing the book has been the fact that some of the chapters were perused in manuscript by Messrs. G. T. Mackenzie, I.C.S., and J. Andrew, I.C.S., our former British Residents. Both of them expressed approbation of the work done. Mr. Mackenzie who took a warm interest in the progress of the Manual from the very beginning wrote to me on the 9th October 1903: —

“I have perused the Mss. of the first portion of the Manual and it seems to me to be excellent.”

Again, he wrote on the 8th February 1904 — “I return these draft chapters with many thanks they are really very good”

Again on the 19th November 1904 (the day he resigned the Civil Service and left Travancore), he was good enough to write of the ‘History’ Chapter thus—

“I have now perused it and find it deeply interesting. I have corrected one or two clerical errors but otherwise there is nothing to alter.”

Since then, one whole chapter and a portion of another have been submitted for His Highness the Maharajah’s perusal. Mr. B. C. C. Carr, I.C.S, Bar-at-Law, the present British Resident has now perused several chapters of the Manual. He wrote on the 8th April 1906—

“I am much obliged to you for your kindness in sending me the advance copy of the second portion of the State Manual. It contains a great deal of interesting matter and I hope to study it shortly. I have already received the bound copy of Vol. I and am very glad to have it.”

To my numerous helpers in this work I offer my grateful acknowledgments. No work of this magnitude can be satisfactorily performed except with the aid of a host of coadjutors; and I have had that aid from all sides — officers of Government, retired public servants, vakils, journalists, private individuals, land-lords, planters, bankers, merchants, agriculturists, Vydians, Mantravadis, Christian metrans, bishops and missionaries and numerous other correspondents of divers sorts. As was justly remarked by Sir J. A. Baines, KCSL ICS, in his preface to the Imperial Census Report of 1891.

“The Census deals with so many subjects each of which, in the present day falls within the province of a specialist that no single individual can safely trust to his own unaided capacity in reviewing them, but is forced like Moliere, a prendre son bien on ill be trouve, and I have done my best to acknowledge such depredations at the time I have found it convenient to make them.”

The same may be said of my State Manual, for which if I have been compelled to make depredations, it will be noted that I have ungrudgingly acknowledged them in the body of the book itself, for such acknowledgment not only lessens the burden of my responsibility but also confirms my own opinions, thereby enhancing the value of the work achieved.

I must next express my obligations to Mr. C. V. Raman Pillai, B. A., the energetic Superintendent of the Government Press, for the help and co-operation he has willingly rendered in passing this huge work through the press, in spite of repeated calls on him for urgent work from other departments of the State. He has also prepared the index to the Manual which I entrusted him with, under orders of Government, on account of his special experience in it as the late Indexer to the Travancore High Court. I have to commend his work to the notice of Government.

A map of Travancore specially designed for this book by Mr. G.N. Krishna Rao, Superintendent of Survey is placed in the pocket at the end of the third volume. A few photographs are also inserted to illustrate the book; more should have been put in but for the cost. If time had permitted, I should have added a volume of appendix of papers made in this connection, containing monographs on several special subjects, Sthalapuranoms of temples and places of pilgrimage, accounts of noble families and the chiefs of petty principalities, extracts made from books, newspapers and magazines and documents examined in the course of these studies and other evidence relied on in the writing of the Manual, all of which will form a mass of valuable data, upon which to base more extended researches in the same direction in the future.

In conclusion, I beg to tender my respectful thanks to His Highness the Maharajah’s Government for having vouchsafed to me the opportunity of performing so herculean a task — notwithstanding the many difficulties and obstacles I had at the outset.

At one time it appeared to me, judging from the correspondence that took place, that I was engaged in a thankless work amidst inhospitable surroundings, and that though I had undertaken it years ago under favourable auspices, a change had come and I was evidently exhausting myself in an uphill work, which would give no satisfaction. The following extract of my letter to the Dewan, dated the 20th June 1905, will explain the circumstance.

I wrote: —

“I do not wish to refer to the observation which you have more than once made in your letters ‘about entrusting the work to other agency’. This is a matter entirely left to the pleasure of Government. I was appointed to the writing of the State Manual by His Highness’ Government without any solicitation on my part; and three of your immediate predecessors who knew me and the public service thoroughly well for long years, concurred in thinking that the work should be done by me, as if they could not think of any other officer equally competent to do it, though for my part I did not show the least unwillingness to give it up, especially as I was so fully occupied otherwise. They evidently meant it to be done by me during intervals of business, as they all knew the quality of similar work I had done before, which repeatedly received the approbation of His Highness’ Government.”

This however was only a passing cloud and the situation soon improved. Now that the difficulties have all been surmounted and the work itself done and done to my own satisfaction more or less, there is but one feeling uppermost in my mind, and that is one of deep thankfulness and gratitude to Government for the opportunity afforded me to associate my name with a book of this nature, in which I trust Government will see ample evidence of earnest, assiduous and sustained labours on my part, for more than a year past.

It is hardly necessary to add that the views expressed and the suggestions made in these volumes, the result of years of patient study and observation, are wholly conceived in the interests of the State and the people and as such I have no doubt they will receive careful consideration at the hands of Government in due time, for when carried out they will, I am satisfied, not only add to the credit of His Highness’ enlightened rule but, in the wise words of Bacon, “make the estate of his people still more and more happy, after the manner of the legislators in ancient and heroical times.”

Trivandrum, V. NAGAM AIYA.
16th August 1906.

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Chapter One

Post posted by VED »

1cch1 #Chapter One

Physical Description.
SECTION A. Physical Features.
Name of the Country
Geographical Position
Shape and Area
General Features

Chief Plateaux
1. Gudaramala
2. Devicolam
3. Anaycudoo
4. Eravimala
5. Perumalmala
6. Anchanad
7. Vattavada
8. Kundala

1. Bodinaickanur
2. Tevaram
3. Kambam
4. Gudalur
5. Shivagiri Ghaut
6. Achankovil
7. Aryankavu
8. Shanar Ghaut
9. Aryanad
10. Mottacchimala
11. Tirukkurangudy
12. Aramboly
13. Yedamala

1. The Periyar
2. The Minachil River
3. The Muvattupuzha River
4. The Ranni or Pamba River
5. The Kallada River
6. The Manimala River
7. The Achankovil or Kulakkada River
8. The Attungal or Vamanapuram River
9. The Itthikkara River
10. The Killiyar
11. The Karamana River
12. The Neyyar
13. The Paralayar or Kuzhitturayar
14. The Kothayar
15. The Pazhayar or the Vatasseri River


1. Alleppey
2. Poracad
3. Quilon
4. Tangasseri
5. Anjengo
6. Puntora
7. Vizhinjam
8. Colachel
9. Cadiapatnam point
10. Manakudi
11. Cape Comorin

Section B. Geology.
1. Geology Proper
2. The Gneissic Series
3. The Varkala or Cuddalore Sandstone Series
4. Marine Beds
5. Blown Sands
6. Coral Reefs
7. Soils
8. Smooth-water Anchorages

Economic Geology
1. Plumbago
2. Iron
3. Limestone
4. Granite
5. Mica

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V1 C1

Post posted by VED »

1ch1 #

Physical Description
Section A. Physical Features

“Were there, below, a spot of holy ground
where from distress a refuge might be found,
And solitude prepare the soul for heaven;
Sure, nature’s God that spot to man had given,
Where falls the purple morning far and wide
In flukes of light upon the mountain side;
Where with loud voice the power of water shakes
The leafy wood, or sleeps in quiet lakes.”

ch1a #Name of the Country

This ancient kingdom of Travancore forms the southern-most portion of the west coast of India. The country from Gokarnam to Cape Comorin has been known by different names at different times, such as, Malayalam, Parasurama-kshetram, Karma-bhumi, Cheram, Keralam, Malanad, Malavaram and Malabar. This tract of land, according to the Bhoogola Purana — a Sanskrit work on the ancient geography of the Hindus — was 100 yojanas* long and 10 yojanas broad.

NOTEs: *One yojana is equal to ten miles.

The word ‘Malayalam’ is its Tamil name and signifies ‘mala’ (hill) and ‘azham* (depth) i.e., the hill and dale country, or the land at the foot of the mountains.

The word ‘Parasurama-kshetram’ is derived from the tradition that Parasurama, the great Brahmin sage* of the race of Bhrigu, reclaimed this land from the sea.

NOTEs: * See Ancient History, infca.

The name ‘Karma-bhumi’ signifies that the spiritual salvation of the inhabitants of this land depends entirely on good actions, as contrasted with the East Coast, or “Gnana-bhumi” otherwise “Punnya-bhumi” where a man obtains salvation by mere birth irrespective of his actions, as the land itself is said to be consecrated ground. So far is this believed in, that an orthodox Brahmin of the East Coast would not wish to die in Keralam, lest he be born an ass in the next birth.

‘Keralam’ is the name by which the country was known from the earliest times and one by which the native of the soil always loves to designate it. The word is supposed to have been derived from ‘Keram’ a contraction of ‘Nalikeram’, the Sanskrit name for coconut, as this part of India abounds with cocoanut palms. Another theory is that the country takes its name from ‘Cheraman Keralan’, a sovereign among the Perumals, who, raised to sway by the people’s will, distinguished his government by a course of wisdom, moderation and benevolence. Both the derivations are however improbable as the country had its name long before the advent of this legendary Perumal, or the introduction of the cocoanut palm on this coast.

Alberuni seems to have been the first to call the country ‘Malabar’ which is an Arabic corruption from Mala (Vernacular) mountain and Vara (Sanskrit) slope. Dr. Robertson, in his ‘Historical disquisition concerning Ancient India’, derives it from the word ‘Mall’, the name of a port (mentioned by Kosmos Indikopleustes), and says that the word means ‘country of pepper’.

Fra Bartolomeo, who resided for a long time in Travancore, says that the country was called ‘Malai-nadu’ — the land of hills, which was subsequently corrupted into ‘Mala-varom’ or ‘Malabar’. Other forms of the word are; Melibar, Manibar, Molibar, Malibar, Minibar, Minabar, Melibaria.

‘Travancore’ is the abbreviated English form of ‘Tiru-Vithan-Kodu’,once the capital of the kingdom and the residence of the court, but now a petty village 80 miles to the south-east of Trivandrum. Tiru-Vithan-Kodu is said to be a corruption of “Sri-Vazhum-Kodu”, i.e., a place where the Goddess of Prosperity dwells.

Travancore is also known by the names of ‘Venad’, ‘Vanchi-Desam’ and ‘Tiru-Adi-Desam’. Venad is a corruption of ‘Vanavanad’ (the land of the celestials). ‘Vanchi-Desam’ means either the land of treasure or the land of bamboos. Tiru-Adi-Desam is probably derived from ‘Tiru Adikal’, one of the titles of Chera kings. ‘Tiru Adi’ means ’holy feet’ or ‘the Royal feet’ and represents the usual form in which the kings of the land were addressed. Even now the vernacular form of addressing the king is ‘Adiyen Trippatham sevikkunnu’ meaning ‘I, a humble slave, serve thy royal feet’.

‘Malankarai’ is another name used exclusively by the Syrian Christians; the Syrian Metropolitan still calls himself ‘The Malankarai Metran’.

ch1b #Geographical position

The Travancore State is situated at the south-western extremity of India, between 8°4' and 10°22' North Latitude and 76° 14' and 77°38' East Longitude. It is a long narrow strip of territory, measuring 174 miles in length and from 30 to 75 miles in breadth, lying between the Malabar Coast and the Western Ghauts which run almost parallel with the Western Coast of India and which divide Travancore from the British Districts of Tinnevelly and Madura.

ch1c #Boundaries

Travancore is bounded on the north by the Cochin State and the Coimbatore District, on the east by the range of Ghauts which forms a natural barrier between it and the districts of Tinnevelly, Madura and Coimbatore, on the south by the Indian Ocean, and on the west by the Arabian Sea and by portions of Cochin running down in a narrow strip between Travancore and the sea.


ch1d #Shape and area

Its shape is triangular with the apex towards the south, its two sides running in a north-westerly direction. It is of an unequal breadth gradually diminishing from the north and converging to a point at its southern extremity. The irregularity of its breadth offers an average width of about 40 miles inland. A narrow strip of land belonging to the State of Cochin makes a deep indentation on the northwest angle and destroys the contiguity and compactness of its shape.

The total area of Travancore is 7091 square miles. Compared with the adjoining British Districts, it is about four-fifths of Madura, nine-tenths of Coimbatore, one and one-fourth of Malabar and one and one-third of Tinnevelly. Compared with other Native States, Travancore is about one-twelfth the size of Hyderabad, one-fourth of Mysore, seven-eighths of Baroda, two-sevenths of Gwalior, more than 5 times the size of Cochin, and 6 times that of Pudukotta. It is smaller than the Principality of Wales by 279 square miles and bears to England and Wales together, the proportion of 1 to 8.

Lieuts. Ward and Conner estimated the area to be 6731 square miles. But they did not include the Anchanad valley together with a large portion of the High Ranges aggregating about 230 square miles, the Idiyara valley and a portion of the forest near the Alvarkurichi gap.

The following table conveying an approximate distribution of surface was drawn up between 1816 and 1820 by Lieuts. Ward and Conner—


From the above table, it will be seen that about two-thirds only remain applicable to the purpose of profitable cultivation or pasturage, the whole cultivation of Travancore being generally confined to a contracted strip along the coast, narrower in the southern parts, but expanding as it approaches northwards.

ch1e #General features

The general aspect of the country is thus described by Ward and Conner * —

NOTEs: * Memoir of the Survey of Travancore and Cochin

“The face of the country presents considerable diversity, although its general character, except the southern parts, is extremely abrupt and mountainous. The coast, and for a short distance along the borders of the lake, is generally flat retreating from it the surface immediately becomes unequal, roughening into slopes which gradually combine and swell into the mountainous amphitheatre that abounds it on the east, where it falls precipitately, but terminates less abruptly on the south. The collected villages, waving plains, palmyra topes and extensive cultivation of Nunjanaad, resemble in every particular the neighbouring province of Tinnevelly, except that it in no measure partakes of its comparatively arid sterility. Approaching northward, this fertile plain is succeeded by the woody and rugged surface of the genuine Malayalam; some few Champaign tracts enclosed within this ocean of forest relieve the uniformity of this sylvan scene.

The extent lining the coast for its whole length presents a fertility so near the sea that imparts a peculiar character to the landscape. This rich and variegated tract is flanked by a mountainous barrier and is finally contrasted with the sombre magnificence and desolate solitude of those wilds of which the elephant seems the natural master; and though the landscape may be too much made up of this wild scenery, it boasts many striking localities and peculiar beauties, if not of the sublime, at least romantic and picturesque kinds. The eye is arrested by the wild rocky precipitous acclivities and fantastic forms assumed by the mountain in the more southern parts, but proceeding north the bold and elevated contour of this Alpine tract is less sharply defined a few rugged cliffs and spiry points or conical summits alone breaking through the sameness of its rounded and sombre outline.

This apennine dissolves into clustering hills and romantic inequalities, at whose feet wind innumerable valleys, presenting (particularly in the middle parts the most delightful landscapes, whose natural beauties are embellished and diversified by the prospect of Churches and Pagodas. Indeed the endless succession of houses and gardens scattered in picturesque disorder over the face of the country, gives it entirely a different appearance from the other coast, the nudity of whose plains is unfavourably contrasted with the robe of florid and exuberant vegetation that for a great part of the year clothes Malayalam. The Areca and Cocoanut everywhere fringe those picturesque and sequestered glens which gradually expand into the extensive plantations and cultivated lands that skirt the sea and lake. This space is enlivened and fertilised by innumerable rivers and pastoral streams, whose borders are crowned with groves and cultivation that everywhere following their winding course, present a unique, interesting and charming scenery, infinitely more diversified than most other parts of the Peninsula and one that would indicate abundance.

This is especially the case in Kootanaad the watery flatness of this fertile fen is relieved by the gardens and habitations so thickly strewn over its surface which exhibits a network of rivers meandering through the verdure they create.”

Travancore is certainly one of the most picturesque portions of India. It has been the dream of poets, the delight and admiration of every traveller. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, said —

“Since I have been in India I have had a great desire to visit the State of Travancore. I have for many years heard so much of its exuberant natural beauties, its old-world simplicity, and its Arcadian charm. Who would not be fascinated by such a spectacle? Here nature has spent upon the land her richest bounties; the sun fails not by day, the rain falls in due season, drought is practically unknown, and an eternal summer gilds the scene. Where the land is capable of culture, there is no denser population; where it is occupied by jungles or backwater or lagoon, there is no more fairy landscape”.

Here is another description founded upon closer personal acquaintance from the pen of that versatile writer, Mr. J. D. Rees I.C.S., C.I.E., a former British Resident in Travancore and Cochin —

“It would be a hopeless task to attempt to describe the scenery of the Madras Presidency, which to the east of the ghauts has one, and to the west another character, but which nowhere is without a beauty of its own But the districts more completely within the sphere of the influence of the south-west monsoon have a wholly different character. The rolling downs of the Nilgiris possess one of the finest climates in the world for the Anglo-Saxon, and nowhere is the scenery more magnificent than upon its western borders, where the happy sportsman can sit in a blushing rhododendron as big as an English oak, the moss and lichens of whose branches are pranked with orchids, and look down a sheer cliff of giddy height, the first shelf of primeval forest and on to another and another by gradual descents from a height of 8,000 feet, till the cocoanut gardens of the storied Malabar Coast arc seen between the last step and the yellow sands and white foaming breakers, beyond which the blue Arabian Sea sparkles and shimmers in the sunlight, till the orb of day descends, a blood red ball, into its distant waters.

What mountain drive equals the Coonoor ghaut, now flashed and scanned somewhat by a none the less useful railway, upon whose forest-clad slopes white fleecy clouds gently lie, while the gigantic green feathers of the bamboos lightly wave, and the most beautiful of all butterflies flit around the traveller as he passes through tree ferns and plantains, looking up at the towering masses of rugged rocks, and the purple outline of the mountains.

“Below in Malabar, Travancore and Cochin, the beauties of the country defy description, and the forests are, of all places in this world, surely the most fascinating in which to dwell. You pass through shady aisles, which admit the sunshine by infrequent shafts, Init breathe everywhere its warmth and joy, and are ever reminded of the late Laureate’s happy alaeic experiment,

Me rather all that bowery loneliness.
The brooks of Eden mazily murmuring,
And bloom profuse and cedar arches,

“Tall pillar trees, with green Corinthian capitals, support the roof, festooned with vines and creeping plants, and often blooming with red, white, and purple flowers, the floor is covered with an undergrowth of tree ferns and flowering shrubs, above monkeys and squirrels leap from tree to tree, wood-pigeons coo, wood-peckers tap the tree trunks, and cicadae whirr and whistle, while now and again a startled spotted deer jumps up and disappears, or the loud crack of branches betokens the proximity of an elephant taking his meal, the picture of lazy and lordly ease.

“This spirit pervades the atmosphere. Nature, in her most bounteous and reproductive aspects, scatters her treasures around with such a lavish hand, that it speaks well for an industrious and estimable population, that, in its case, the worship of the beautiful has never ended, as some say it always does, in orgies. None the less in the forests the life of those least sensitive to the influence of the beautiful can be nothing less than one long botanical debauch in ‘valleys low where the mild whispers use of shades, and wanton winds, and gushing brooks’, tempered by occasional encounters, wherein all the sterner attributes of humanity are suddenly brought into play, and the man may have to fight with the beast, for the life, which, a few minutes before, ran ‘in soft luxurious flow’. The contingency, ever present for the sportsman, of this sharp and sudden contrast, adds a thousand fold to the fascination of what surely is the happiest possible life”.

I may be permitted to quote here, from one of my earlier Census Reports*, the following description of one of the highest Peaks on the Ghauts:—

NOTEs: * Report on the Census of Travancore, taken in 1881 A.D

“What strikes a stranger most in Travancore is the eminently picturesque character of its natural features. The view of the country from one of our hill-tops on the Western Ghauts is worth getting at even at the cost of a hundred miles journey. Nature is then seen at its best. Going up an elevation of four or Ave thousand feet above the sea to one of those bold and isolated heights open on all sides, the traveller is treated to an intellectual repast exceeding in grandeur all that poets or novelists have discovered in the revelry of nature itself. It is one continuous feast to the eye. On one side lie a series of mountains, rising in successive tiers till the highest peaks disappear in happy confusion with the white clouds of the East. On the other side is a vast rich undulating plain spread out in velvet green and covered with dense jungle not penetrated even by a Kawni’s hut, the picturesque view extending over many square miles of territory and presenting scenes of indescribable beauty as far as the eye can reach; there is something like a glut produced on the human eyesight by the quantity and variety of beauty simultaneously presented to it. For a while, the traveller’s eye rests on regions of magnificent primeval forest as old as Parasurama himself.

Here the view is relieved by neat plots of coffee land upon which is seen the industrious hand of the mighty British adventurer, a scene full of life and calling to mind associations of lacs of plants and lacs of rupees, at one time the land of dreams, but now often the grave of fortunes. Then anon is seen towering pre-eminently over all, the Agastiar Peak or the Mount Everest of our Ghauts, supposed to be the abode of pious Rishis or at any rate now of guileless birds and beasts and of untainted perennial waters. In one word, ‘every corner and ‘every turning point opens out a panorama of inexpressible grandeur’.

To which may be added another description of a sixty miles’ journey across country from Quilon to Shencottah, from my Census Report of 1891:—

“A rich picturesqueness of scenery diversified by hills and dales is the chief characteristic of Travancore. To the admiring student of nature it presents peculiar fascinations, on account of the variety and wealth of its natural beauty. If the untraveled reader will go along with me, across country, say from the western ocean to the ghauts on the eastern frontier and thence descend into one of those trans-alpine villages which abound in the flat country of Pandi, he will have seen Travancore at its best. Say we start from one of the coast towns, a place of historic importance known at once as a port, a cantonment, a centre of trade and the head-quarters of a chief revenue officer.

The stranger will be taken up with its broad- backed gardens into which the town is laid out, the soil of which is half sand, half laterite, the former thickly planted with the valuable cocoanut palm for which every available space is used up, thus showing an ancient agricultural occupancy; while the remaining space is filled with wooded trees of all kinds, such as the mango, the jack, the anjili and the tamarind with the highly priced pepper vine parasitically clinging to them.

This pretty town I am speaking of has a reef of rocks for its beach, which prevents its corrosion by the sea, thus helping the ryot to plant his cocoanut trees so near the water’s edge that the shadows fall on the beating surf, a phenomenon not met with in any other point of this coast. On the south is the beautiful bay known to the earliest mariners of Europe as affording a perfect natural protection to ships in the worst weather; and which, it is believed, might, under favourable conditions, be turned into one of the finest harbours in India. A little to the interior you have the beautiful lake scenery, so much admired by travellers from all parts of the world, affording unrivalled conveniences for travelling and traffic and adding beauty to its general appearance. There are many turns and bends to this lake, which specially attract the eye of the traveller.


On one of those turns you have a magnificent mansion standing out boldly into the lake, the waters of which reflect so well its lofty column, its halls and rooms, its high balconies and well designed circular roof that the shadows on the water seem more charming than the reality. This mansion known as the Thavally Palace is very happily situated. The ground is an elevated table-land jutting out into the lake, which bounds it on three sides. The soil is of laterite formation and the water is excellent both for drinking and bathing purposes.

There are two tanks in the garden and several wells, one of them a particularly large one within the ‘nalukettoo’ itself. The place was an abandoned jungle years ago, and the credit of discovering and reclaiming it belongs to the present Dewan (Mr. T. Rama Row). The late Maharajah and his Royal brother visited Thavally often. So also did the present Maharajah as a Prince and several other members of the Royal family. So Thavally became a favourite resort with the Royal family, and during His late Highness’ reign, the ground and property of Mr. Rama Row were purchased by the Sircar, and a magnificent mansion erected on it.

The view from the palace tower or column is most magnificent. The peculiar combination of wood and water, of groves of tall palms and forests, of well-shaded jack and mango trees, with the blue line of distant mountains on the eastern horizon, give a charm to Thavally which can only be felt, not described. Another point of vantage in this lake scenery is the Residency, the oldest and the finest of the Residencies in the country. I have heard no end of praises being heaped on this lovely spot. On occasions of State dinners the house is decorated and the gardens are tastefully illuminated, when it may well claim the encomium passed on it by one of our late Governors that it was ‘Fairy Land’. The enterprising European has not been slow to avail himself of such natural facilities so he has with his usually keen commercial instinct established mills and manufactories which, with their noisy machinery’ and smoky chimneys, remind you of the veneering of a superior civilization over this otherwise quiet spot. A mile to the east is the European quarter of the town and the British cantonment with their indispensable parade ground, church, mess-house and a club, and an open sea beach for their evenings to be enjoyed. Between, is the native part of the town with its thatched huts and busy bazaars containing a mixed population of Pandi Sudras, Nairs, Mahomedans, Jews, East Indians and fishermen.

The town is dotted with numerous tanks and wells, an indispensable auxiliary to the comfort of the true Travancorean. It is also well supplied with flat metalled roads, the very best, I think, of all the roads we have in the country.

Travelling eastwards we pass the pretty grove of Elampalloorkavoo, the only cluster of huge trees In a large expanse of open country. This ‘kavoo’ or grove is an interesting oasis in the open maidan, and I counted in it 129 trees of 17 different kinds such as the belleri myrabolam, the momordicus charantia, the cinnamon, the cassia, the callicarpa lanata, the anjili, (the artocarpus hirsuta), the echites scholaris, the strychnos nux vomica, the jack tree, the mango tree, the alangium decapitatum, the Kilimaram, the Vattathamara, the Vetti, the Edana and the Mottalu. They were the growth of ages and were an object of worship to the neighbouring population, who consider it sacrilegious to touch such trees with any knife or other piece of iron. Leaving this, we come upon a fine jungly station with a number of new clearings all round, and a wild mountain torrent running by its side the force of which, however, has been arrested by the recent bund-works of an enterprising company. The whole road is lined on both sides with fine avenue trees planted by an enthusiastic former administrator of the district and bearing testimony to his goodness and forethought. Proceeding further east, we reach Ottakkal, another distance of 10 miles.

The whole region is one continuous forest, and is an abundant source of inexhaustible wealth, the potentiality of which exceeds our most sanguine calculations. On both sides the road is barricaded by a tall tree fence. This is a phenomenon quite unknown in most parts of India, and but for our personal knowledge we should have found it hard to believe it. The noonday sun scarcely penetrates the thick crust of green leaves, so rich is the vegetation. From Punalur to Camp Gorge the river runs nearly parallel to the road for most part of it, and I believe the natural stream served as a guide to the original engineer in laying it out. It is impossible to describe the beauties of the road or the river in this region; they should be seen to be appreciated.

The best description must beggar the reality, or as Mr. J. D. Rees “writes: —
‘Words fail me to describe the lovely scenery. Tall, upright standards of huge timber trees, palms of every kind, including the exquisitely graceful areca, tree ferns, creepers, ferns and flowers, all spring from a tangled undergrowth of iral reed. The pepper vine clings to the large timber trees, and ropes of rattan and giant branches hidden in creepers, combine to construct an ever varying but unending bower As you travel in the chequered shade, you would say that every reach of the road had been designed by nature, to show what wealth of vegetation can be presented at once to the astonished and delighted eye.’

After a night’s halt in the wooden house at this lonely place (Ottakkal), you rise and see nothing but a dim daylight and a white haze all round. The tall trees and the mountains are all buried under this haze, so that one would suspect it was raining hard when it was only the morning dew. As the sun rises in the horizon, the mist disappears, and the outlines of the glorious hills and the surrounding jungle become more and more visible. Altogether this Ottakkal is a lovely station, in the heart of the forest. It composes one to fine thoughts. There is not a single human habitation within a radious of five miles. There is nothing to disturb one here except the loneliness of the spot. At night you may be awakened by a wild elephant, who pays his customary visit to the neighbouring jack tree (five yards from the wooden building when the jack fructifying season sets in.

Eleven miles further to the east is the Arienkavu pagoda. This is a small temple, with its usual accompaniments of a copper-plate-roofed quadrangle, and a cupola-shaped shrine in the centre, dedicated to the god of the woods, a place of great sanctity and renown, approached with dread reverence by the superstitious traveller.

The road still lies by the side of deep and fearful ravines, thickly overgrown with moss and shrub, and through a continuous belt of tall and stately forest of the kind already described, and tenanted by the majestic elephant and the royal tiger and all the minor denizens that

‘Roam the jungle free,
Graze the turf untilled,
And drink the stream unbrewed’.

Midway between Ottakkal and this pagoda is a two-roomed terrestrial paradise, used as a rest-house by the much-travelled Briton, and which is situated on the side of a precipitous and magnificent gorge, from which it takes its name. It is the most favoured of all the fair spots on which the eye of He Heaven rests, and when fitted up with the equipments of modern civilization, it might well raise the envy of even an English prince. A mile to the east of this venerable pagoda, is the famous pass through the ghauts, known as the ‘Arienkavoo Pass’. This beautiful glade on the ghauts is fifty miles away from where we started, and forms a sort of natural gateway through the chain of mountains which would otherwise be an impassable barrier to Travancore. The road, already described, cuts the mountain saddle at its lowest point, and connects it to British India.

This road, upon which the business-bound traveller of to-day does not pause to spend a moment’s thought, bears at once willing testimony to the financial genius and engineering skill of former times. It would be ingratitude in us to forget our old benefactors, though the world is so much occupied with its present self that it has no time to look back or cherish memories of the past. The road struggles up inch by inch, for several hundred feet above the sea- level, before it reaches the top of this gap, and any but the stoutest heart must have been baffled in the attempt to make it, so great are the natural obstacles of wood, rock and ravine. The topmost part is presently reached, and you stand still and take breath for a while. Then, as you slowly wind down the tortuous path, looking at all the points of the compass, new beauties rise on every side before you. At every turn, you get exhilarating views of the enchanting landscape, which for the nonce relieves the prosaic mind of the dul
l monotony of daily life and fills it with sweet thoughts of fancy.

On the west is seen nothing but a dense jungle of the tall teak and the stout anjili, the valuable kongu and the oily vengai, and an impervious underwood, full of animal and vegetable life, resonant with the hum of the shrill Seevudu bee*, and the gentle murmur of the forest leaves, with the perpetual rain dripping from them, and the deafening roar of the wild torrent below dashing its headlong course — altogether a scene which, by its richness and hugeness, produces something like a glut on the vision and obscures it. The eye then fondly turns to the open east, the varied beauties of which furnish still ampler food to an imaginative mind. The view on that side, as laid out by nature, is simply grand. The ground gently falls eastward, step by step, for many miles, till at a great distance you see the ruins of a magnificent ‘gopuram’ (tower, which reminds you that the level country of the Tamils has been reached.

NOTEs: * A kind of bee that makes a shrill sound often met with in our jungles.

The zigzag line of rich avenues, with banyan trees 30 feet in circumference and perhaps as old as Queen Mangamma herself, indicate which way the cart road lies. On yonder right, flow the magnificent waters of a mighty cataract! used by millions of pilgrims from a remote past, and which, though perhaps of not equal sanctity to those of the Vedic Ganges, are yet as pure. The smoothness of the rocks, over which the water flows, reminds one of the immensity of the time that has elapsed, and the hundred little streams and channels into which the waterfall has been diverted, show how the hand of man in later ages has utilized it for religious and secular purposes. The green valley between, with their rice fields and groves of cocoanut palms in their midst, add their share of beauty to the surrounding scene. To the left, your eye falls on clusters of Hindu villages with houses closely packed to one another — an economy peculiar to this region, but unknown on the Western Coast. The houses, though small and humble, are neat and well-built ones, made of brick and chunam, and afford the inmates effective shelter from the biting winds of the monsoon, which blow here with unstinted fierceness.

Further left, you catch a glimpse of an isolated rock, with a Hindu temple on its top founded according to popular tradition about the beginning of this ‘yuga’, but, at any rate, showing that the Hindu worshipper of old had a touch of the romantic in him. On both sides of the road the tilled red soil bespeaks the quiet and patient industry of the ryot who, though the butt of fickle fortune, has through several generations and amidst all change of circumstances yet remained a contented and loyal subject. Overhead fly troops of water-laden clouds, precipitated through a hundred gaps by the winds on which they ride as if in a hurry to convey to the anxiously awaiting villagers of Pandi the glad tidings of rain and plenty in the land of Parasurama with which their own prosperity is so indissolubly bound. In short, on every side, you are greeted with a rich and interminable prospect of Nature’s beauties, sown broadcast in riotous profusion before you, such as is only possible in a Travancore landscape.”

In spite of repeated tours over this pretty tract of country, my fascination remains undiminished for wood and water, for hill and gorge, for high peaks and deep chasms, for the cry of the jungle bird and the roar of the wild torrent. I am not sure if this charm will not disappear with the introduction of the Railway. This scene of never ending beauties of the Aryankavu Pass might become an old-world dream. Speedy locomotion is inconsistent with the full enjoyment of natural beauties or diversified landscape. One relishes them better for the dull country-cart journeys.

The steam engine dashing across this 60 miles of rich scenery in a couple of hours, the natural beauty of the country will thus quickly pass the eye and escape enjoyment, like a flash of lightning. It would be as if one swallowed a whole meal in a single gulp. So sudden a change in the life of the quiet and simple Travancorean may be a matter for regret, but a vain regret after all. It is impossible to stand still in this age. Such is the current of modern civilisation. We must move on whether we will or not.

ch1f #Mountains

The hilly region of Travancore is very extensive and is a marked of feature of the State. What the Himalaya mountains are to the Indian Continent, that the Western Ghauts are to Travancore- Without these Ghauts Travancore would be a poor tract of land, treeless and arid and inhospitable, without rivers and rains, exposed to droughts and famine even more than the worst part of the East Coast, which itself would be the much poorer but for these Ghauts. They affect all the conditions of life now peculiar to Travancore, and it is no wonder therefore that the Travancorean worships the Ghauts, particularly one of the highest peaks in them where sage Agastya is said to dwell, and has deified their maker Parasurama who created Malayalam from the sea, the up heaved surface of which became the Ghauts. Reference is made in another part of this book to the 5 presiding deities (Sasthas) who guard the Western Ghauts.

The eastern boundary of Travancore with three small exceptions (the Anchanad valley, the Shencottah Taluk and the eastern slopes of the Mahendragiri hills is the lofty mountain range, the chain of Ghauts that forms the backbone of Southern India. The hills are of every variety of elevation, climate and vegetation. Some of the loftier mountains are entirely detached, except near their bases, from the neighbouring heights; they often have a precipitous descent towards the west and are connected with a succession of low hills diminishing in altitude near the coast. To the north, the mountains rise to an elevation of 8,000 feet with plateaus over 7,000 feet the more important of these is part of the group known as the Anamalays (between lat. 10° 13' 45" to 10° 31' 30" N and long. 76° 52' 30" to 77° 23' E.)

At the head of these hills stands Anamudy 8,840 feet high, round which are clustered several others, among the more important of which may be mentioned, Eiavimala or Hamilton’s plateau 7,880 feet (6 miles long by 3 wide containing about 10,000 acres of tea and coffee land), Kattumala 7,800 feet, Chenthavara 7664 feet, Kumarikal 7,540 feet, Karinkulam 7,500 feet, and Devimala 7,200 feet. All these run in a horse-shoe shape with the opening facing towards the north-east. These hills, together with the lower ground connecting them, form the elevated plateau known to Europeans as the High Range. The broken nature of the hills here causes the scenery to be far more varied and beautiful than that generally met with either in the Pulneys or Nilgiris.

The general trend of the highlands is north-north-east and south-south-west, the highest elevation being to the north-east and to the south, gradually decreasing in sloping undulating hills towards the west excepting the Anamudy mountain and its plateau, which is situated at the extreme south-south-west end of the range. Strictly speaking, the tract known as High Ranges can hardly be said to be a plateau; it is rather a succession of high hills with deep valleys between, running down to a depth of 2,000 to 3,000 feet below them. Mr. Munro, the first Superintendent and Magistrate of the Cardamom Hills, has described it thus: —

‘The High Ranges of Travancore rise suddenly from the lower plateau of the Cardamom Hills and form a complete range of their own. On the south-east corner, the High Ranges begin with Sholeamalla or Currincollum (8,480 ft.) and run in a south-west direction to Gennewurra, thence still south-west to Corechy and thence to Puddikut (6,000ft.) near Davycollum. From Puddikut, the line of walls runs in the same direction to Coorkacomboo (7,000 ft.); then running slightly more west, the Hills rise to Chokenamuddy (7,300 ft.) from which the coursers north-west to the gap where the Moonaur disappears. From the gap the Hills run slightly south-west and then north-west to Worrayaparathundoo; thence north to Perumputty Kullo (6,500 ft.) from which again the direction is northeast as far as Aunymuddy. From Aunymuddy the course is much broken and runs irregularly to Erevimalla where there is a deep dip into the valley of the Erevimalla Aur which separates the Erevimalla plateau (also known as Hamilton’s plateau) from Perumalmalla plateau.

From this valley there is a steep rise to the north-west to Katoomalla (8,100 ft). To the west of Katoomalla, the High Ranges comprise the plateaux within Chemmun Peak (7,100 ft.), Payratmalla (7,400 ft) and thence eastward to Coomarikul (8,050 ft.). To the east of Coomarikul and Katoomalla lies the low Unjenaad Valley which separates this part of the High Ranges from the Highlands on the slopes of Tertamalla, on which are situated the hill villages of Kelandoor, Kandel, Pootoor, and Perumalla at an average elevation of 5,000 feet. In its upper part the Unjenaad, Valley is also called the Thallayar Valley where the elevation is above 4,000 feet sloping gradually to the northeast, it opens out into the Unjenaad Valley proper which is a level terrace 2 or 3 miles wide and 5 miles long lying at an elevation of 3,000 feet. Below and to the east of Unjenaad the land slopes down rapidly to the British frontier probably at about 1,500 or 2,000 feet, a very feverish tract containing no resident population.

‘To the south-cast of Tertamalla runs a ridge separating the water-shed between Unjenaad and Moonaur and joining the high peaks bordering the Pulnies at a peak called Allear Kunnoo (6,900 ft). From Allear Kunnoo the course is bounded by a curve north north-east to Pambadyshola (8,000 ft.) and then runs north to Kuduvurratukul (6,600 ft.), where there is a deep dip into the Wuttawudda river, and here the high land may he said to cease. From Allear Kunnoo southward, the line to Sholeamalla is marked by clear-cut cliffs averaging about 8,000 feet. Exclusive of the low Unjenaad Valley which is not above 3,100 feet, the area within these boundaries may be roughly estimated at 400 square miles with an elevation of one of the peaks reaching as high as 8,837 feet”.

The following are the chief plateaux in the High Ranges: —

ch1f1 #GUDARAMALA. Between Karinkulam in the south-east corner and Devimala. Average elevation 6,000 feet, area 4 sq. miles; well wooded and watered.

ch1f2 #DEVICOLAM. Lies to the west of the above and has an area of 3 sq. miles. Average elevation 6,000 feet; beautifully wooded and well watered.

h1f3 #ANAYCUDOO. Lies west of the Devicolam plateau and is separated from it by the Kazhuthaparathundoo. This beautiful valley is sheltered by the Chokkanmudy peaks. Elevation 5,120 feet. Between Vagavara and Anamudy there is a very pretty glen with an elevation of 7,000 feet.

ch1f4 #ERAVIMALA. Lies north of Anamudy and is separated from it by a deep valley. Elevation 7,300 feet. Bare of wood on its summit but well wooded in the slopes. Has a cold bracing climate. Length 6 miles and breadth 3 miles.

ch1f5 #PERUMALMALA. Length 2 miles, breadth 1½ miles. Elevation 7,000 feet.

To the north of this lies a plateau sheltered between Kattumala, Kumarikal and Payratmala. Length 4 miles, breadth 3 miles and elevation 7,000 feet. There is another plateau to the north of Kattumala terminating at Pudikutmala. Area 3 sq. miles. Elevation 6,600 feet.

ch1f6 #ANCHANAD. Area 30 to 40 sq. miles. Elevation 3,100 feet. This is a level terrace, two or three miles wide and five miles long.

ch1f7 #VATTAVADA. Length 6 miles, elevation 6,000 feet. Greater portion bare of wood but the upper portion towards the top of the pass into Bodinaickanur heavily wooded and well watered.

ch1f8 #KUNDALA. South-west of Vattavada plateau at an elevation of 5,600 feet; length 6 miles and breadth 2 miles. A great deal of swamp land.

From the High Ranges the land slopes steeply down in three directions north-east to the Anchanad valley, to the west into the valleys of the Kandanpara, Parishakkuthu and Idiyara rivers, and southwards to the Cardamom Hills and Peermade. These last form an extensive hill plateau, 60 miles long and 20 miles broad, lying at an elevation of from 3,000 to 3,500 feet with peaks and hills running up to 4,000 or even 5,000 feet.

This is the centre of planting industry and is largely resorted to by Europeans, who have also taken up for the purpose Camp Gorge, Ponmudi, Ashamboo &c. From the main range and from the western water-shed of the Peermade plateau and the High Range, rocky spurs run out to the west and north-west extending at times to within a short distance of the sea and forming a series of parallel valleys drained by numerous rivers.

South of Peermade, the lofty mountain range is of no breadth until we come to the beautiful sanitarium of Muthukuzhi Vayal or “The field of precious stones”, 4,400 feet above sea level. For the remaining part of its length the great range becomes a mere ridge sloping down on either side and running north-north-west and south-south-east at an elevation of about 4,000 feet with isolated peaks rising here and there, the most important of which are the Agastyar peak (6,200 ft) and the Mahendragiri peak ( 5,500 ft.). The Agastyar peak was once the seat of an Observatory. It is also famous as having been the abode of sage Agastya, “a savant, physician, philologist and theologian”. The Mahendragiri peak stands on the area drained by the Hanuman River in the Tovala Taluk. This is the southernmost peak of the Travancore Ghauts and is supposed to be the hill from which Hanuman or the monkey God is supposed to have jumped to Lanka or modern Ceylon in quest of Sita.

Besides the peaks referred to above, may also be mentioned, Kallanad, Nedumpara, Papanasam, Amritamala, Kodiyattur, Chengamanad, Periamala, Therathandu, and Marutwamala.


ch1g #PASSES

BODINAICKANUR. This is the most northern of the passes of Travancore. It is ascended with great difficulty from the valley below. It connects Kothamangalam with Bodinaickanur.

TEVARAM. This connects Todupuzha on the Travancore side of the Ghauts with Kambam on the Madura side. This pass reaches the top of the Ghaut after a very steep ascent; for 2 miles from there it proceeds to Perrinjincooty 12 miles, continuing its course to the eastern Periyar 14 miles further and reaching Idumpanur, the first village in Travancore 13 miles beyond that river. This is now little frequented as it traverses a very wild and mountainous region.

KAMBAM. This pass though rugged for 1½ miles, is one of the best across the hilly tract separating the countries of Travancore and Madura. Merchants frequently pass this route.

GUDALUR. This connects Kanjirapalli with Kambam and Uttamapoliem, a distance of 44 miles. A more northern road strikes off from this at Copachetty Tavalam, 3 miles west of the Munjamulla Periyar, and proceeds by the Codamurutty Ghaut, a steep and difficult acclivity, to Erattupetta. This route runs over a rugged surface and is tolerable except near the pass which is now closed for traffic on account of the facilities it offered to smuggling.

South of Gudalur another path ascends the hills and leads to Sabarimala, but it is of no consequence being only frequented by cattle.

Shivagiri Ghaut. This route is also prohibited. A road leads up to it from Rajapoliem, while another from Srivilliputtur ascends from the Satur Ghaut; but both these are difficult.

ACHANKOVIL (1,500 ft). This lies north of the Puliyara pass and joins Achankovil to Pumblypatam and Shencottah. This has a difficult ascent for a mile from the plains stretching along its eastern foot. The road, after leaving the summit, descends partly through the bed of a stream to the pagoda, a distance of 6½ miles; thence passing over swelling ground and following the right bank of the Kulakkada river, it reaches Konni, a distance of 29 miles having crossed 9 powerful streams, the passage of which during the rains constitutes the chief difficulties of the route. This route passes from Shencottah over Konni, Pantalam and Mavelikara to Kartikapalli measuring on the whole a distance of more than 60 miles.

ARYANKAVAU (1,200 ft.). This connects Quilon with Shencottah and is one of the principal passes of Travancore. It has an easy ascent from the open country on the east and passes through Mampazhatora and Pattanapuram, pursuing its course over waving ground through thick woods.

NOTEs: Since this portion of the Manual was written the Railway has been completed and the line opened for traffic between Quilon and Tinnevelly

SHANAR GHAUT (1,700 ft.) This lies south of the above pass and is very difficult and little frequented. It ascends 4 miles and descends 11 miles to Kulattupuzha, from which it passes through a thick forest.

ARYANAAD. The route to British territory by this pass is now closed up. The road rising from the plains on the east to the top of this pass and thence descending through a thick forest to the village of Aryanad near Nedumangad is spoken of as having been at one time a very good one.

MOTTACCHIMALA (4,500 ft.). In the Bridge estate. This is the chief pass by which cardamoms are smuggled from Balamore to Agastyar. The road was once rideable to Papanasam the Kanikkara even now go down this path for tobacco which they buy about Papanasam,

From Calacaud to Muthukuzhivayal there is a path used by canemen and cardamom smugglers.

Pass from Kadukkara to Shoravalli Madam. Much used by villagers from Alagiapandyapuram and other parts going to Panagudy. Daily the Panagudy cattle come down to the Kadukkara edge of the jungle to graze. It is also used largely by estate coolies

TIRUKKURANGUDY. About 2,000 feet; bridle-path cut on both sides. Much used by estate coolies.

Pass through Miranjimea Estate. Formerly a good path ascending the mountains from Panagudy leading to a large coffee estate; now a very bad track overgrown and not much used.

ARAMBOLY. The trunk road from Tinnevelly to Trivandrum passes through this pass. This forms the best entrance into Travancore.

YEDAMALA. A small and easy pass across the group of hills forming a ridge about 2 miles to the north-east of Marutwamala near Cape Comorin.


ch1h #RIVERS

Travancore is especially fortunate in its river system. Few countries of similar extent are supplied with so many fine streams. Owing to this circumstance and to the heavy rainfall, every part of Travancore is abundantly supplied with water and that of an excellent quality. Of the numerous rivers taking their rise in the Travancore hills very few escape to the other coast. The rivers have generally a capricious course and are of varying lengths and depths. The bed over which they flow is frequently rocky in the interior, but as they leave the elevated parts, it is in most cases sandy, succeeded by a muddy sediment as they empty themselves into the lake or the sea. During the wet weather, which commences about the beginning of June and lasts till November, these rivers are filled from bank to bank with a large volume of water rolling in a strong current to the sea. The large rivers flow with turbulent and impetuous force frequently rising 12 to 14 feet above their ordinary level.

The flood diminishes as the monsoon draws to a close, the rivers slowly subsiding into shallow and languid streams. In the larger rivers — the Periyar, the Ranni and the Kallada — there is always a considerable amount of water, due no doubt to the fact that the heavy forest at their sources does not allow the rains falling in the wet weather to run off too rapidly.

The Periyar. The Periyar is the finest, the largest and the most important of the rivers of Travancore. It takes its rise in the Shivagiri forests. As it first emerges from the dense forest the volume of water it contains is 30 yards wide and 2 feet deep even in the driest weather.

After a course of 10 miles northward it is joined by the Mullayar at an elevation of 2,800 feet. The Periyar then turns due west and continues so for about 10 miles over sandy bed. About seven miles below Mullayar Tavalam there is formed a sort of gorge by the hills rising to a considerable height on either side of the river and approaching each other very closely. It is here that a dam is thrown by the Madras Government to a height of 160 feet and a width of 1,200 feet to form a lake which greatly helps the irrigation of the land in the Vaigai valley. By the construction of the dam the river is caused to back up for a considerable distance as far as the Vazhukkappara Tavalam, and all the low lying land on the north bank of the river is submerged, the water extending up all the side valleys and reaching to within a mile of Kumili. From here a channel is tunnelled through the hill side over a mile long, by which the water is conveyed to one of the streams that go to feed the Vaigai river.

After a winding course of 8 miles from the dam, the river reaches Peermade and then passes through a narrow gorge, below which it is joined by the Perinthura river. Lower down, passing the Todupuzha-Periyar crossing, the Kattapanayar joins it and still lower the Cheruthoni or Chittar.

Lower down it is joined by the Pirinyankuta Ar and a mile later by the Muthirappuzha Ar, where the elevation is about 800 feet and there is a great fall of 800 feet in 4½ miles. There is also another fall called Kokkaranippara, where the river is said to tumble over a cliff 100 feet high, close to the above. The Periyar after receiving the Muthirappuzha river flows west-north-west for about 8 miles when it pours under a large rock which probably has fallen from the hill side on account of landslip. In dry weather when the volume of water is small, the whole of it flows under the rock. This has been exaggerated into a sudden disappearance of the river underground. The water is considered to pass into a chasm and emerge again only after a very long distance.

Ten miles below the junction of the Muthirappuzha river with the Periyar, at Karimanal, the river becomes navigable or suitable for the floating of timber. It is then joined by the Deviar and passes the once populous village of Neryamangalam. From this place it flows for about 8 miles when it unites with the Idiyara or Idamala river. From here as far as Malayattur, the river, now a grand one upwards of 400 yards broad, is fed by numerous streams. Passing Malayattur and after a winding course of 14 miles it reaches Alwaye, where it divides itself into two branches, which again subdivide themselves into several small ones before reaching the sea. The principal branch flows north-west and expands itself into a broad sheet of water. Another branch takes a southerly direction and is broken up into a number of small channels leading into the lake near Verapoly, while a third one flows to the south and discharges itself in the lake south of Tripunatora.

The Periyar flows through the Taluqs of Changanachery, Todupuzha, Muvattupuzha, Kunnatnad, Alangad and Parur. The chief places on its banks are: — Peermade, Neryamangalam, Malayattur, Cheranallur, Vazhakulam, Alwaye, Ullinad and Verapoly.

The total length of the river is 142 miles of which for the last 36 miles only it passes through inhabited tracts. It is navigable for boats for 60 miles above its mouth.

The Minachil River. This rises on the Peermade plateau a httle above Nallatannippara at an elevation of 3,500 feet. It runs first north-west and then west and after 7 or 8 miles joins the Kavana Ar which rises on the slopes of Melakavu. The combined stream after a course of 2 miles due south is joined by the Codamurutty river and passes by Punjar. After leaving the forest boundary at Erattupetta, its course is south-east and leaving Kondur and Lalam, it passes through Kitangur and Kottayam after which its waters, dispersed in minor channels, unite with the Vembanad lake by several embouchures. The length of the river is 35 miles and it is navigable for boats 26 miles.

The Muvattupuzha River. This is formed by the union of three smaller rivers, the Todupuzha, the Vadakkan and the Kothamangalam, which take their rise on the western slopes of the Peermade plateau and running in a westerly and north-westerly direction through a wild country unite at Muvattupuzha, thus getting the name. The combined river flows for about 8 miles in a westerly direction and then turns south and passes Ramamangalam, Piravam and Vettikkattumukku, at which point it forks, one branch running in the direction of Cochin and the other flowing into the Vembanad lake at Tannirmukkam. Total length 62 miles; navigable for boats 42 miles inland.

The Ranni or Pamba River. This is one of the finest rivers of Travancore and is formed by the junction of three rivers, the Kallar, the Kakkada Ar and the Valiya Ar, which last is made up of two other small ones — the Pamba and the Arutha. The original stream Pamba from which the river takes its name rises on the hills to the north of Pulicchimala and after running for a long distance is joined by the Arutha which rises on the Peermade plateau, and the two together form the Valiya Ar which after a course of 6 miles westward falls over Perunthen aruvi (height 90 ft) and is then joined by the Kakkada river. The Kallar which rises in the valley north of Chempazhakkara joins the main river a little above Eanni and the combined river now called the Ranni leaves the forest area as a powerful stream 200 yards broad. It then runs west for about 30 miles when it is joined by the Manimala river and 6 or 8 miles lower down the Kulakkada river joins it and after a course of about 20 miles the whole flows into the Vembanad lake.

The total length of the river is 90 miles. The chief places on its banks are: — Konni, Aiyrur, Aranmula, Chengannur, Mannar and Pulikunnu. The river is navigable for boats for 45 miles, and is specially useful for irrigation.

The Kallada River. This is the third largest river in Travancore. The union of five large streams issuing from the mountainous valleys of the Ghauts forms the Kallada river which flows through the Taluqs of Pattanapuram, Kunnattur, Kottarakara and Quilon. The main branch rises in the most southerly of these valleys and is formed by numerous streams that rise on the elevated plateau stretching from the Alvarkurichi peak to Chemmunji. Flowing west it is joined by several small streams and after leaving the Kulattupuzha valley proper and running 5 miles passes the Kulattupuzha village situated on its left bank. Here the river is about 80 yards wide and never gets dry even in hot weather.

Three miles lower down it is precipitated over the Minmutti cataract, the water rushing with immense velocity. It is then joined by the Chenthroni and Kalduritty rivers. Passing Ottakkal where it pours over another cataract, the river then runs for about 10 miles in a west-north-westerly direction and leaves the forest area 3 miles above the town of Punalur. Turning north and bending a little north-west, it passes Pattanapuram and 2 miles below Punalur it is joined by the Chalakkara Ar. It then flows in a westerly direction and then south-west until it falls into the Ashtamudi lake, a little north of Quilon, by several mouths. Its length is 70 miles of which 25 miles are navigable for boats. The chief places on its banks are:—Punalur, Pattanapuram, Pattazhidesam, Kulakkada, Kunnattur and Kallada (East and West).

The Manimala River. The main branch of this river rises under the Mothavara hill and drains the valley to the west of Amritamala. After flowing for about 6 miles it is joined at Kuttukal by the Nyarampullar and then by several small streams before it joins the Ranni about 25 miles above its mouth. The length of the river is 62 miles. The villages of Peruvantanam, Mundakayam, Yerumakuzhi, Manimala, Kaviyur, Kalluppara, Tiruvalla, Talavadi, Kozhimukku and Chambakkulam lie on its course.

The Achankovil or Kulakkada River. This rises on the western slope of the Thuval mala (Coonumcal square rock) and Ramakkal peaks. It passes Achankovil village and, after receiving numerous accessions from small rivers and streams, leaves the forest area 4 miles above Konniyur. This river runs a course of 70 miles first north-west and then west and joins the Pamba river near Viyapuram. Konniyur, Omallur, Pantalam, Mavelikara and Kandiyur are situated on its banks. It flows through the Taluqs of Chengannur, Kunnattur, Mavelikara, Tiruvalla and Kartikapalli. Navigable for boats 40 miles and specially useful for cultivation purposes.

The Attungal or Vamanapuram River. This rises on the peak of Chemmunji north-east of Trivandrum and on the spur running out from the main range as far as the cliffs of Ponmudi. It then descends rapidly and runs at first in a north-westerly direction, then west for 23 miles between high banks and over a sandy bed when it passes the village of Vamanapuram. From here it runs south-west and empties itself into the Anjengo estuary after a course of 85 miles. Nelnad, Vamanapuram, Attungal, Kuntallur and Chirayinkil are the chief places on its banks.

The Itthikkara River takes its rise in the low hills situated near Madatturakani and those to the south-west of Kulattupuzha. After small accessions it leaves the forest area near Manarkoda and proceeding in a north-westerly direction is joined by a large stream. From here it flows south-west and west and falls into the Paravur backwater. Length 30 miles. Chadayamangalam, Pallikal, Kummallur and Nedungolum lie on its banks.

The Killiyar. This petty river rises in the Nedumangad hills. Its course is generally towards the south and after flowing for 15 miles it joins the Karamana river near Tiruvallam. This river irrigates a small tract of rice land by means of anicuts and channels taken off from it and supplies water to all the principal tanks of the Capital.

The Karamana River. This rises on the ridge to the north of the Agastyar Peak and an outlying spur terminating in the Sasthankotta rock. It flows over a partially narrow rocky bed confined by high banks through a comparatively wild, woody and uneven country. Its direction is first west, then south and finally south-west and it flows into the sea 3 miles near Puntora, at the foot of the head-land termed Covalam, after a course of 41 miles.

The Neyyar. This rises on the slopes of the Agastyar peak at an elevation of 600 feet and descends with great rapidity until it reaches the foot of the hills. It then runs in a southerly direction and passes downward over a cataract 300 feet high, visible from Trivandrum. From here it flows over a partially rocky bed confined by bold banks and discharges itself into, the sea near Puvar where a small lagoon is formed. Its length is 35 miles.

The Paralayar or Kuzhittura. This rises on the mountains north of Mahendragiri hills. Passing through a wild tract, it enters the plains at Tiruvattar and flows in a south-westerly direction. After a course of 23 miles from its source it is joined by the Kothayar. It flows through the two Taluqs of Kalkulam and Vilavankod and reaches the sea at Tengapatnam. The total length of the river is 37 miles. Tiruvattar, Munchira, Kuzhittura, and Arudesapattu lie on its banks. It is intercepted by dams at Ponmana.


The Kothayar. This rises on the southern extremity of the Muthukuzhi Vayal plateau and to the east of Valiyamala peak at an elevation of 4,500 feet. It descends slowly at first and then more rapidly. After flowing for 14 miles it reaches the Mottacchi valley (1,800 ft.) It continues to descend with rapidity tumbling over falls 30 feet high and eddying among huge boulders, until at last it reaches the elevation of 250 feet. From here it flows leisurely and is joined by two streams rising on the Motavan Potha and the Thacchamala hills. Proceeding south we find the remains of the Aryanad dam now in ruins. This dam was built with the intention of diverting the water into the Paralayar above the Pandyan dam and eventually into the Pazhayar whose stream is so largely used for irrigating the paddy lands of Nanjanad. After passing the Aryanad dam and about 4 miles lower down it is precipitated over the Triparappu fall (50 ft. High), a very sacred place where there is a large pagoda. From here it proceeds south and is joined above Kuzhittura by the Paralayar. Length 20 miles.

Project works on a large scale are now going on to divert the waters of the Kothayar to supplement the existing irrigation system of Nanjanad. A detailed description of the Project is given under ‘Irrigation’ in the Chapter on ‘Agriculture and Irrigation.’

The Vatasseri River. Also called the Pazhayar. This is the most southerly river in Travancore. Many small streams combine to form this river, one of which rises south of the Mahendragiri peak and passing down a steep gorge reaches the low country a little to the west of Anantapuram, another in the Kunimuthu Chola Estate and another drains Black Rock (Mr. Cox’s Estate). All these pass out of the forest before they unite to form the main river. This flows through the Taluqs of Tovala and Agastisvaram in a south-easterly direction and flows into the Manakudi estuary after a course of 23 miles passing the towns of Bhutapandi, Kottar, Nagercoil, Tazhakudi and Suchindram. This is a very useful river for irrigation.

These are the chief rivers of Travancore. The number of smaller streams is very large but as they are otherwise insignificant any detailed description of them is unnecessary here.


ch1i #Canals and Backwaters

Among the many natural advantages possessed by Travancore, one of the most important and one which adds materially to its wealth and prosperity, on account of its affording great facilities for water communication from one end of the country to the other, is its extensive backwater system. The backwaters or kayals, as they are locally called, are inlets from the sea which run in a direction parallel to the coast. From Trivandrum as far as Ponnani in the District of Malabar, a distance of over 200 miles, there is a succession of these backwaters or estuaries, connected together by navigable channels constructed from time to time. The total area occupied by the surface of the lakes amounts to 2274 sq. miles of which 175½ are within Travancore. Their breadth is very unequal, in some places spreading into a wide expanse, at others diminishing to a small stream, presenting on the whole a very irregular and broken figure.

Formerly there was uninterrupted navigation only as far as Quilon. It was in 999 M.E that Her Highness Parvathi Bayi sanctioned the construction of 2 canals, one from Trivandrum to the backwater of Kadinangulam and the other to connect Quilon and the Paravur backwater, both of which projects were contemplated by Col. Munro; but the work was commenced only in 1000 M.E (1825 A.D.) and completed in 3 years under the supervision of Dewan Vencata Rao. The 2 canals measure in length upwards of 17 miles, which including 4 bridges cost about 4 lacs of Rupees. These canals bear the name of Her Highness Parvathi Bayi whose beneficent reign is still gratefully remembered by the people.


There were still the Varkala cliffs, standing as a barrier against direct and free communication from Trivandrum to Quilon. This was removed by the construction of two tunnels at an enormous cost in the reign of His Highness Rama Varma (Ayilliam Tirunal 1860 to 1880 A. D.) The length of one tunnel is 924 feet and of the other 2,364 feet. The first tunnel was opened to traffic on the 15th January 1877; the second tunnel and the whole of the Barrier works were completed and opened to traffic in 1880. They cost upwards of 17 lacs of rupees.

Many of these backwaters are not very deep, yet they are all navigable for boats of any size. Their bed consists generally of a thin layer of soft black mud, incumbent on a fine dark sand, often with some mixture of soil. On account of the large volume of water these backwaters receive during the monsoon time, their water, except in the immediate vicinity of their mouths, is quite fresh; in some places they are always so in the interval of the tides, while in others, they continue to be so from July to October. The places where these backwaters meet the sea are called Azhhis or Pozhis according as the opening is permanent or temporary.

The chief Azhis are those at Quilon, Kayangulam and the mouth of the Periyar; and the Pozhis are those of the Veli, the Paravur and the Edawa. The flood during the monsoons leaves behind a slimy deposit which effuses an abundance of fertility over the lands exposed to it. The backwaters also foster the growth of many weeds and aquatic plants. The shores of the lakes are filled with houses and plantations of cocoanut trees and present the appearance of a perpetual garden.

Starting from Trivandrum there is first, at a distance of 3 miles, the Veli Kayal which looks like an expanded canal. On one side the shore is overhung by a high cliff and the other side is skirted on by an extensive range of cocoanut plantations. Passing the Veli backwater, by the Parvathi Puthenar canal above referred to, we come to the Kadinangulam Kayal. Here again both the banks are lined with the cocoanut palm and a low brushwood. This backwater is a little larger than the Veli. The water is not deep. Going by the canal, we next pass Anjengo, formerly a place of note on account of the English factory and the early commercial relations between the British Government and Travancore, but now a small port and fishing village. Here is the Anjengo Kayal. The length of this Kayal is 12 miles, breadth ¾ of a mile, and area 8 sq. miles. This receives the Attungal or Vamanapuram river and is formed chiefly by its waters. It is connected with the sea by a narrow bar.

A few miles beyond Anjengo, the Varkala cliffs are reached. Before the construction of the tunnels, travellers used to land at a place called Kozhthottam (the main line of communication ran by Kozhithottam to Edawaa distance of 12 miles), from where they walked to Edawa until the backwater is reached, the road used being by the sea-beach, at times climbing over the summit of the cliffs that stretched into the sea. The view from these cliffs is extremely beautiful end the whole landscape charming. Here stands the village of Varkala famous for its ancient temple dedicated to Janardanaswamy, to which Hindus from all parts of India resort.

Passing the tunnels, about 6 miles northwards there is the Nadayara Kayal. This again is of minor importance. Passing the Nadayara backwater a canal runs in a northwesterly direction for some 3 miles whence the Paravur canal and backwater lead to Quilon. The Paravur Kayal, though only a small one, is very deep and dangerous on account of its being very close to the sea and in the wet weather the bar opens of itself, sometimes suddenly. The Paravur and Quilon canals aggregating about 11 miles in length, were cut between 1826 and 1829, at a total cost of Rs. 90,929. Passing the Paravur backwater we reach Quilon by the Eravipuram and Quilon canals, a distance of about 5 miles.

On leaving Quilon the traveller enters the romantic and enchanting Ashtamudi Kayal. The name ‘Ashtamudi’ is derived from the fact that the lake branches off into 8 creeks, called by different names. One portion near the Quilon Residency is called the Asramom lake and the other close to the Cutchery is called Kureepuzha or Loch Lomond. On either side we see a laterite bank 50 or 60 feet high enclosing little bays with deep blue waters. The broken side and the fragments of rocks are filled with various kinds of small shrubs while on the summits there are thickly planted gardens.

About 2 miles north of Quilon the water opens out into a very spacious bay into which the Kallada river empties itself. There is an outlet to the sea at the western end which is locally known as the Neendakara bar. It is of sufficient depth for small vessels and the barges built at Tuet in Quilon are safely launched into the sea at this point. It covers an area of 20 sq. miles, its extreme length and breadth being 10 and 9 miles respectively. The banks are covered with many kinds of plants. Five miles beyond Quilon the backwater ends and the Chavara canal begins and the scenery becomes monotonous.

We next come to a very small inlet called the Panmana Kayal. This is followed by the Ayiramtengu Kayal which again leads us to the extensive Kayangulam Kayal. The Kayangulam lake has an outlet bar of the same name which admits of small coasters from the Arabian sea. This made Kayangulam a place of considerable commercial importance in former days. This lake borders the two Tuluqs of Karunagappalli and Kartikapalli. Its extreme length is 19 miles and extreme breadth 4 miles; area 23 sq. miles.

Passing the Kayangulam Kayal we reach Karumadi near Ampalapuzha by a natural stream through Trikkunnapuzha and Thottapalli chera. Proceeding along on our way, we see extensive rice fields on either side, the country here being flat and almost submerged in water. From Ampalapuzha, Alleppey is 12 miles distant. There are no backwaters to be passed but only canals, which at these places are very broad and join the Pallathurithy river flowing into the Vembanad lake near Alleppey. Alleppey town is reached by a canal, before entering which there is a deep basin 40 to 50 feet in depth infested by alligators of enormous size, Alleppey is now the first commercial port of Travancore, its greatest advantage as an emporium arising from its singularly natural breakwater formed in the open roadstead and the long and wide mud bank which helps large vessels to anchor safely even in the stormiest weather.

Beyond Alleppey we come to the very large and spacious bay, the Vembanad Kayal. This stretches across to the east for a distance of over 10 miles. The waters of the Pamba, Muvattupuzha and Minachil Rivers are emptied into it. It borders the Taluks of Ampalapuzha Sbertallay, Vaikam, Yettumanur, Kottayam and Changanachery. Its extreme length is 52 miles and breadth 9 miles and the area covered by it is 79 sq. miles. It has a small beautiful island in the centre known as Patiramanal, or ‘the mysterious sand of mid-night’, filled with cocoanut plantations and luxuriant vegetation. According to tradition, it was brought into existence by the piety of a Nambudiri Brahmin, who, while travelling in a canoe, jumped into the lake to perform his evening ablutions. The waters, it is said, gave way and land arose from below forming a small island. Pallippuram and Perumpallam are two other islands in the lake.

There are many pretty places along the borders of this lake, perpetually clothed with beautiful groves of cocoanut and other trees and with an endless succession of houses, churches and pagodas. Midway between Alleppey and Cochin stands on its eastern bank the sacred village of Vaikam where there is a large Siva temple to which thousands of pilgrims resort in the months of Vrichigam and Kumbham for the Ashtami festival. From here to Cochin the backwater is of varying breadths and depths containing small patches of land here and there always adorned with cocoanut trees.

From Cochin the water communication is by backwater to the north of Cranganore whence it is continued by creek, channel and backwater via Chowghat to Ponnani, and across the Ponnani river to Tirur Railway station. Thus the system is complete for a distance of 213 miles from Trivandrum to Tirur.

Among other backwaters may be mentioned: —

The Kodungalur Kayal in the Taluk of Parur. Extreme length 9 miles and extreme breadth 5 miles; area 10 sq. miles. Has an outlet in the Cranganore bar which is always open.

The Sasthankotta Kayal in the Kunnattur Taluq. The Vellani Kayal in the Neyyattinkara Taluq.

And lastly the Manakudi Kayal in the Taluq of Agastisvaram. This is a small lagoon formed by the course of the Pazhayar before it discharges itself by a narrow mouth.

As early as 1860 the great Victoria Ananta Martandan canal was projected for connecting Trivandrum with Cape Comorin; but it had to be abandoned owing to several obstacles, though considerable sums of money had been spent on it.


Coast Line

The Travancore coast has been surveyed by the Marine Department in connection with the Coast Survey of the Madras Presidency and the following is extracted from their report —

“The Travancore coast, from Alleppey to Comorin, is generally low and sandy, fringed with cocoanut trees. Patches of red cliffs of slight elevation here and there break the otherwise continuous line of sand. The Travancore mountains, though generally spoken of by navigators as a part of the Western Ghauts, are indeed separated from the latter by a low neck of land, the Palghaut valley, which has proved a most useful feature in the railway communication between east and west coasts. The length of this southern mountain chain, extending from a few miles north of Cape Comorin to the valley of Palghaut, is nearly 200 miles.

The western brow, overlooking the coast of Travancore, is, with little exception, abrupt. On the eastern side of the culminating range the declivity is in general gradual, the surface in many places forming extensive table-land, sloping gently and nearly imperceptibly to the eastward. In the last half of the year many cascades of great height are visible from seaward, pouring down the steep declivity of these western ghauts, which present so vast and lofty a front to the violence of the south-west monsoon. The principal peaks of the Travancore Ghauts are: Mahendragiri between 3,000 and 4,000 feet, about 20 miles north of Comorin, and Cootchimulla, nearly 5,000 feet, the same distance north-east of Trivandrum. Between these peaks the culminating range has a north-westerly direction, but afterwards trends a little east of north, more away from the coast. Its highest mountains, though loftier, are not so often visible at sea. They form the boundary between the State of Travancore on the west, and the British province of Tinnevelly on the east.

To the east of Quilon there are broad, high peaks, estimated at 5,000 feet above, and more than 30 miles from the sea. The southern portion of the Western Ghauts, from Comorin to Palghat, run like a spine from south to north, thus forming the water-parting between the east and west coasts rivers. They are exposed to all winds from east, round by the south-west, and there is scarcely a day when rain-clouds may not be seen hiding for a time the summits of the high land. Towards the vernal equinox (after which the air gets saturated with moisture and is hazy the ghauts north of Quilon up to Calicut can seldom be seen.

Midway between the ghauts and the low sea-coast, the country has several hills of moderate elevation, useful as landmarks. Beginning from the south, mention may be made of the isolated conical mount, in lat. 8° 8' N., and long. 73" 30' E., near Cape Comorin, which is taken for the cape by seamen when approaching the coast from the west. The next conspicuous peak is Maravattoor, nearly midway between Mahendragherry and the Crocodile Rock, and 10 miles north-west of the conical mount. On the south-east of Trivandrum, and again to the north of that capital, hills, averaging about 400 feet, lie parallel to the shore, some 4 or 5 miles off.

Near Anjengo there are a few low hills. Above this place extensive backwaters become the peculiar feature, overspreading great portions of the low tract of country. Vessels bound for any port on the west coast of Hindostan, and to the Persian Gulf during the north-east monsoon, from China, Australia, and the Bay of Bengal, or from Europe, should sight Ceylon, and make the coast of India somewhere near Cape Comorin, and thence hug the coast to profit by the land and sea breezes. The coast from Cape Comorin takes a general northwesterly direction for nearly 300 miles to Mount Delly.”*

NOTEs: * The Madras Manual of Administration Vol ii

Ports and shipping facilities*

NOTEs: * The information under this head is chiefly based on the results of the Marine Survey above referred to

ALLEPPEY (lat. 29° 48' N., and long. 76° 18' 46" E). is the principal seaport town of Travancore and the seat of the Commercial Agent. It is the chief depot of the Travancore Government for the sale of forest produce, chiefly cardamoms, and is a place of considerable foreign trade in teak, cocoanut, betel-nut, ginger, coffee, pepper and fish. Many European and American Firms have their representatives here and extensive industries are carried on. It is a safe roadstead all the year round being protected by a soft mud bank on which a vessel might ride at less risk than at any other part of the coast. A shoal bank of from 6 to 9 feet extends about 1½ miles off shore. During the south-west monsoon, although the surf breaks on the shore to the north and the sea is white with foam outside, there is at Alleppey a large extent of smooth water, on the outer part of which a vessel might conveniently anchor in 4 fathoms and keep up a communication with the shore. In the fine season, a vessel not drawing more than 18 feet water may anchor in 4 fathoms or a trifle less, the bottom being soft mud.

The anchorage in the roads during the south-west monsoon is with the lighthouse from N. E. to E. N., in 5 or 6 fathoms water. In the fair season from October to May, vessels may anchor in 3 or 4 fathoms with the lighthouse bearing E. by N., the soundings being very regular. During the south-west monsoon, trade cannot sometimes be carried on with Cochin, but the port of Alleppey is always available. Alleppey has a flag-staff and near it is a lighthouse with a revolving white light attaining its greats brilliancy every minute. The light is of the second order of the holophotal description elevated 100 feet above mean sea-level and is visible in ordinary weather 20 miles. It was first exhibited on the night of the 28th March 1862. Between Cochin and Alleppey the coast is very low, covered with trees, and may be approached to 6 fathoms in a large ship, the bank being very even to 5 fathoms, about 1 or 1½ miles from the shore.

PORACAD. (lat. 9° 91’25"N., long. 76° 23’E).. This is a village of considerable extent, coir, plank and timber for ship-building and pepper being exported from here and the adjacent places. The port has declined since the opening of Alleppey port. There is an extensive mud bank here. Steamers call in the worst part of the monsoon weather, when Alleppey is closed. A portion of the village was formerly submerged in the sea and the eastern gate of the pagoda which escaped destruction at the time is still seen standing. The coast here continues low and uneven and is safe to approach to 5 or 6 fathoms. The anchorage is opposite the village in 5½ or 6 fathoms, 1½ or 2 miles distant.

QUILON. (lat.8° 53½’N., long.76°34’E.). The coast between Alleppey and Quilon except near Tangasseri, is sandy and nearly straight, but 10 miles north of Quilon there is a slight indent which does not however amount to 1 mile from a straight line drawn between the two places. The shore is safe to approach into the depth of 5 fathoms mud.

During the early centuries of the Christian era, Quilon was a very important port trading with China and Arabia. Throughout the middle ages it was one of the chief seats of the Saint Thomas Christians. In 1503, the Portuguese established a factory and fort which was captured by the Dutch 150 years later. A considerable British garrison was stationed here until 1832, when it was reduced to one regiment. Till 1829 it was the principal town and head-quarters of the Travancore Government. It has still considerable inland and foreign trade. As a port it is next in importance to Alleppey. Steamers and ships call here. It is the chief entrepot of ginger and pepper on the Malabar Coast.

The beach near Quilon is steep and sandy as far north as Tangasseri cove, where rocky coast begins and continues to the northward for- 2 to 3 miles. Two buoys had been laid at Quilon to mark the safe passage to the anchorage. Vessels for Quilon should keep well out until the large factory chimney (of the Scottish Indian Company bears N. E., and steer direct for the chimney keeping between the buoys. The coast between them is low, covered with trees, and may be approached to fathoms till near the entrance of Ivica river (Azhimukam). Quilon bank of hard ground extends from the bay round Quilon point, a projecting part of the coast, where it becomes uneven and dangerous to approach under 12 or 13 fathoms.

Tangasseri. (lat.8° 54’N., long.76° 38’ 15"E.). Originally there was a fort built on a head-land of laterite jutting into the sea, portions of the old wall of which are still visible, as also the ruins of an old Portuguese town. The Tangasseri reef, a bank of hard ground, extends 1½ miles to the south-west and 3 miles to the west of the Quilon point, and 6 miles along the 6oast to the northward. The bank should not be approached under 13 fathoms water by day, or 17 fathoms at night.

To the south-east of the reef the coast forms a bight, where ships may anchor off the town and military station of Quilon in 5 or G fathoms sand with Tangasseri flag-staff bearing N. W., 1 mile distant. From November to April shipping vessels can lie close inshore with safety. When approaching Quilon from the northward, vessels should not shoal to less than 13 fathoms, as, off Tangasseri point, the foul ground extends westward to within less a mile of this depth. The most convenient anchorage and where a vessel will be close to the Port Office, is with the chimney of the Coffee Company’s factory bearing about N. E. at the extreme of Tangasseri point west-north-west in from 4 to 5 fathoms sandy bottom. Off Quilon point, there are 20 fathoms at 5 miles offshore; but further to the north, that depth will be found farther from the coast. A lighthouse has recently been constructed here for the guidance of mariners.

Anjengo. (lat. 8° 40' N., long. 76° 45' E.). Three miles to the southward of Quilon, the coast may be approached to 10 fathoms, which will be 1½ miles from the shore. Anjengo flag-staff is between 4 or 5 leagues to the west-north-west of Trivandrum Observatory. Anjengo was once a place of considerable importance and the earliest settlement of the late East India Company on the Malabar Coast, but now it has a forsaken appearance.

Four miles to the north of Anjengo there is a red table-land, which denotes the approach to it, in coming from the north. The anchorage off Anjengo, under 10 fathoms, is foul rocky ground; but outside of that depth, the bottom is sand and shells. A convenient berth is with the flag staff about N. E by E. and Brinjaul hill (Mukkunnimala) about S. E by E., in 11 or 12 fathoms mud, off shore 1 mile. A considerable surf, generally prevailing on the coast, particularly to the southward, renders it frequently unsafe for boats to land.

Puntora. Vessels communicating with Trivandrum should anchor off the coast here. There is a flag-staff on the sandy beach. It is 2 miles south-west of Trivandrum Fort. No boats should attempt communication with the shore when there is a heavy surf in the north-east monsoon. The coast is sandy with cocoanut and other palms. Vessels should anchor in 12 fathoms sand, ½ a mile from the flag-staff bearing N. E. and nearly in line with the Trivandrum Observatory which is distinctly made out in passing by its three domes.

Passing Puntora we come to Covalam (Ruttera point, a piece of low level land, terminating in a bluff cape higher than the contiguous coast. The coast here is low abounding with trees. It is bold to approach, having 12 or 13 fathoms at a mile’s distance, 25 or 26 fathoms about 2 or 2½ leagues’ distance.

VIZHINJAM. This is a small fishing village 11 miles to the east of Covalam, and is ‘’formed of steep bold land, or reddish cliffs, considerably elevated, having on the northern side a small river and village (Puvar at the northern extremity of the high land, that form the point.” The coast hereabouts is all sandy and fronted with cocoanut trees. From this point the coast takes a direction about S. E. by E. to Cadiapatnam point distant 6 leagues.

COLACHEL. (lat. 8° 10’ N., and long. 77°14’ E.) This is a very ancient seaport. The Danes once had a factory here with a Commercial Resident. Its safe harbour was well known to ancients. It has trade with the coast and Ceylon. The coffee produced in South Travancore is exported from here. The outlying rocks form a partial breakwater, within which landing is comparatively easy. Ships of good size can sail between some of the outlying rocks and ride at anchor to leeward of them in smooth water. It has a flagstaff, and a buoy which is used during the shipping season to mark the vicinity of a dangerous rock.

Cadiapatnam point, (lat. 8°11’N., and long.77°18 E.) This is 14 miles from Cape Comorin. A first order dioptric fixed whitelight, intended to mark the vicinity of the Crocodile rock, is exhibited here. It is visible 20 miles in clear weather. The column is 80 feet high and is built of granite and its focal plane is 135 feet above sea level. A heavy surf prevails all along the part of the coast, between Comorin and Cadiapatnam. Only catamarans are used by the natives and no ships’ boats attempt landing. To the south-west of this point there are two rocky islets, about 1¾ miles from each other and distant 1 and 2½ miles from the point, surrounded by rocks under water and foul ground.

The Crocodile Rock lies south-west at a distance of about 3 miles. A part of this appears above water sometimes; but it does not break at all times nor is it visible at high water when the sea is smooth. At night it should not be approached under 25 fathoms water. In passing between these rocks and Covalam from 22 to 26 fathoms, is a good track with the land wind. The coast may be approached to 18 or 20 fathoms occasionally. The coast from here as far as Cape Comorin is low and sandy close to the sea, rising in a gentle acclivity to the base of the mountains situated a few miles inland.

Manakudi. (lat.8°5’N., and long. 77°32’E.). This is a village port about 4 miles to the west of the Cape and stands on the edge of the lake of the same name.


Cape Comorin. (lat. 8° 5' N., long. 77° 36' E.). This, the southern extremity of Hindustan, is a low Cape with two bare rocks beyond the point. On the mainland at the water’s edge is a Hindu Pagoda, a low square whitewashed building, and beside the temple is the village of Kanyakumari. West of the temple stands the Residency. The shore to the west of it is bare of vegetation but to the east it is wooded. About a mile from the Cape and beyond the fishing village, a sandy spit ending in a line of locks runs out into the sea, and beyond this point is an anchorage with sandy bottom to which native crafts run for shelter when the weather hinders them from rounding the Cape.

As the south-west monsoon at this locality blows from the north-west, this anchorage is sheltered. Ships anchor bearing N. E. of the rocks that are off Cape Comorin and S. W. of the Vattakotta Fort, a conspicuous stone fort on the beach. The Government of India have been moved to make a Hydrographic Survey of this anchorage and the Travancore Government have located a customs house on the shore and have constructed a road to the spot. A port has recently been opened under the name of the Sri Mulapuram Port.

Among other ports may be mentioned, Rajakamangalam, Muttam (where there is a lighthouse built on a head-land at an elevation of 105 feet above sea-level), Tengapatnam, Puvar, Paravur, Munampam and Kottur.


1ch2 #Section B— Geology

Geology proper
Travancore owes its shape to the erosion of the old crystalline rocks which has taken place on a most gigantic scale. Dr. King points out the quasi-terraced arrangement the country shows, descending by steps, as it were, from the mountains to the coast. This terrace arrangement is much less well-marked in South Travancore than further to the north-west. The several ten-ace steps are marked by the existence of some ridges near the coast higher than the general surface of the country further inland. The most conspicuous of these is a considerable mountain pass lying north and north-east of the old Fort of Udayagiri.

In the northern part of the country, the mountain mass is very broad, but just south of Peermade, the hilly backbone narrows considerably and becomes a lengthened series of more or less parallel ridges with lower and lower intermediate valleys. The real southern termination of the Ghatits occurs in latitude 8015’N., where the high mountains sink down into the Aramboly Pass. Southward of the pass rises the perfectly detached Kattadimala, a fine rocky mass 2,000 to 3,000 feet high, which sends off a rocky spur extending southwards with two breaks, for a distance of 7 or 8 miles and terminating in the bold Marutwa hill, 4 miles north-west of Cape Comorin. The cape itself consists of low gneiss rocks, backed up by a palm-grown sandhill, about 100 feet high. A pair of very small rocky islands rise out of the sea a few hundred yards east of the Cape, and various other rocks occur off the coast opposite Muttam, Colachel and Melmadalatora which are the culminating points of reefs formed by ridges of gneiss running parallel with the coast. These rocks, especially one called the Crocodile Rock, were sources of great danger to the coasting ships but the danger has now been removed by the erection of a lighthouse on the Muttam headland. At Colachel, the seaport of South Tmvanoore, the lie of the rocks is such that it would be easy to connect them by short rubble breakwaters and thus to form a very useful little harbour in which coasting craft could easily lie up during the south-west monsoon,

A broken band of younger rocks occupies a very great part of the tract lying between the coast and the Trivandrum-Tinnevelly high road. There can be no doubt that these rocks, not very long since geologically speaking formed an unbroken belt which extended considerably further inland than at present. The denudation they have undergone has been very great, both vertically and laterally, and the remnants left of them are in various places of such trifling thickness that all traces of their former existence will soon be effaced. They show most in the western fart. of South. Travancore where they form small plateaus, which are well marked except to the north, on which side they lap on to the rising surface o£ the gneiss and thin out or are lost sight of in the Kabuk or pseudo laterite formation — a rock resulting from the decomposition of ferruginous beds of gneiss. The surface of the plateaus, where not greatly eroded, is gently undulating and often supports a very dense and varied vegetation. The less compact portions of plateau surfaces are often cut into small, but very deep, rain gullies which render many places impassable for any but foot passengers.

The various geological formations to be found in Travancore may, for convenience of reference, be arranged in a tabular scheme as below:


The Gneissic Series-
“The gneisses are generally of the massive grey section of the series, that is, they are nearest to the rocks of the Nilgiris, though they differ from them in being coarse-grained or more largely crystallized, and in being generally quartzose rocks. So quartzose are they, that there are, locally, frequent thin beds of nearly pure quartz rock which are at times very like reefs of vein-quartz. Often these beds are strongly felspathic, the felspar occurring among the quartz in distinguishable grains or larger crystalline masses, giving the rock rather a granitic appearance. The only other region where I know of somewhat similar beds of quartz rock occurring with other gneisses is in the schistose region of the Nellore District. There, however, the quartz rock becomes often a line compact quartzite; here in Travancore, there are no approaches to such compact forms.

NOTEs: Note: A regular and systematic Geological Survey of Travancore has yet to be undertaken. But in connection with the operations of the Geological Survey of India, Dr. W.King and Mr. R.Bruce Foote have closely examined the country and their observations have been largely utilised in the writing of this section.

‘The common gneisses are felspathic quartozse varieties of white or grey colours, very largely charged with garnets. A particular form of them is an exceedingly tough, hut largely crystallized, dark-grey or greenish felspathic rock. Massive horn-blendic gneisses are not common. Indeed horn-blende maybe said to be a comparatively rare constituent of the Travancore gneisses.

“All the gneisses are more or less charged with titaniferous iron in minute grains; they are likewise — only more visibly — as a rule, highly garnetiferous. In fact, one might say that Travancore is essentially a country of gametiferous gneisses. The garnets themselves are only locally obtainable, it being impossible to break them from the living rock while they are generally decomposed or weathered. They are generally of small size, but are very rich in colour, the precious garnet being very common. Other minerals such as red, blue and yellow sapphire and jacinth, arc found among the garnet sands so common on the seashore at certain places. The sea-sands are also full of titaniferous iron grain. I may instance the beautiful and long known constitution of the shore sands at Cape Comorin where, on the beach, may be seen the strongest coloured streaks or ribbons, of good width, of bright, scarlet, black, purple, yellow and white sands of all these minerals and the ordinary silica.

“The general lie of the gneisses is in two or three parallel folds striking west-north-west to east-south-east. There is, perhaps, rather a tendency of the strike more to the northward in the broad part of the hills about Peermad, and on towards the Cochin territory. Thus between Trivandrum and Tinnevelly on the west coast or for some twelve to twenty miles inland, the dip is high to the South-south-west inland of the terraced or plateau country, or among the first parallel ridges there is a north-north-east dip; then, on the mountain zone, there is again a high dip generally to the south-south-west.

“Thus the inclination of the beds is generally high, right across the strike with a crushed-up condition of the folds; but they are often at a low angle, and the anticlinal on the western, the synclinal on the eastern, side are plainly distinguishable. About Kurtallam (Courtallum), on the Tinnevelly side, the rise up from the synclinal is very well displayed, and in their strike west-north-westward into a broad mountain land, the beds of this place clearly take part in a further great anticlinal which is displayed in a great flat arch of the Peermad strata. With this widening out of the mountain mass there is rather an easier lie of the strata. Southwards from the Ariankow traverse there is much crushing up of the beds; but they roll out flatter again towards the southern extremity, and there are good indications of a further synclinal to the south-south-west in the northerly low-dipping beds of Cape Comorin.

“Foliation is very strongly developed indeed it is here, practically, bedding and lamination, of which there are some wonderful exhibitions. At Cape Comorin, indeed, some of the gneiss in its weathered condition (not lateritized) is scarcely to be distinguished, at first, from good thick-bedded and laminated sandstones and flaggy sandstones.

“There is no special development of igneous rocks either in the way of granites or greenstones, though small veins and dykes are common, generally running nearly with the strike of the gneiss. In South Travancore, or north of the parallel of Trivandrum, there are stronger occurrences of granite in which mica is abundant and in largish masses.

“The great feature about the gneisses in Travancore and indeed also in Cochin and Malabar, is their extraordinary tendency to weather or decompose, generally into white, yellow, or reddish felspathic clayey rocks, which, in many places and often very extensively, ultimately become what is here always called laterite.................. Very soon after one begins to leave the higher ribs the mountains and to enter on the first long slopes leading down to the low country, the gneiss begins to be weathered for some depth into a clayey rock, generally of pale colours, streaked and veined with ferruginous matter, and having always an appreciable upper surface of scabrous or pisolitic brown iron clay, which is, of course, probably largely the result of ferruginous wash, and less so, of ferruginous infiltration. Also the ferruginous s and lateritoid character is devolved to a certain extent according to the composition of the gneisses; but, on the whole, there is no doubt that the upper surface generally over large areas is lateritized to a certain depth irrespective of the varying constitution of the strata. Then as the rocks are followed or crossed westward the alteration becomes more frequent, decided, and deeper-seated; though still, all over the field, ridges, humps, and bosses of the living rock rise up from the surrounding more or less decomposed low-lying rock areas.

“This generally irregular and fitfully altered condition of the gneisses begins at an elevation of about four hundred feet above the sea, and thus it extends as a sort of fringe of varying width along the low slopes of the mountains. At a yet lower level, say from two hundred to one hundred and fifty feet, and so nearer the sea coast, there is a better defined belt of more decidedly lateritized form of weathered gneiss, in which the unaltered rock occurs less frequently, and then always in more or less flatly rounded humps and masses, which never rise above a general dead level. This belt is, in fact, a country of undulating downs or tolerably uniform level stretches of forest land. Occasionally, it also shows a plateau surface or it is broken into small and low flat-topped hills. Always it is very deeply indented by river or stream valleys, or even by some of the backwaters which have high and steep shores.

“It is remarkable of this coastal belt of country that its laterite (an altered or ferruginously infiltrated condition of weathered or decomposed gneiss) is not to be distinguished from any other laterite, except that which is made up of obviously detrital material. Whatever the laterite of Travancore or Malabar may have been originally, it is a useless form of the rock, being crumbly and soft as a general rule, and oftener of a red colour than brown. The character of the climate does, in fact, appear to militate against the changing of the red peroxide of iron in the rock to the brown peroxide, during which change the proper cementing and hardening of the sound rock, such as that on the east coast or in the Deccan is evidently brought about.”*

NOTEs: *General Sketch of the Geology of Travancore, W.King B.A, D.Sc -- Records of the Geological Survey of India, Vol XV

Regarding South Travancore, Mr. Bruce Foote writes:

“In no part of the peninsula, is there a greater and finer display of the ancient crystalline rocks than in the southern Ghauts in their southern half, and in the great spurs and outlying masses on their western or southern side. The disposition of the beds in South Travancore shows the existence of a great synclinal curve, probably an ellipse, the major axis of which passes through or very near to the great mass of Mahendragiri; while the north-western focus (if the ellipse be a complete one will be found somewhere to the north-eastward of Allepy. I had inferred the existence of this great synclinal ellipse from studying the course of the great gneiss beds on the eastern foot and flanks of the mountains southward of Courtallum, and Mr. King’s examination of the gneiss country across the Shencotta pass and southward to Travancore independently demonstrated the existence of the central part of this huge synclinal fold.

“The topographical shape of the ground points strongly to the fold being a true ellipse, the extreme North-western extremity of which is probably hidden under the alluvial bed north of Allepy, while the extreme south-eastern apex lies most likely in the sea to the E. N. E. of Cape Comorin. The curve of the coast from Cape Comorin north-westward to close up to Trivandrum coincides with the south side of the great synclinal, and the different ridges inland also coincide absolutely with the strike of the harder beds of the series. Several southerly dips were noted in the rocks on the coast westward of Kolachel which looks as if the axis of an anticlinal had there been exposed, but they may possibly only represent trifling vandyke-shaped bends or crumples, in the side of the great synclinal. To the north of the area under consideration the rocks roll over northward into a great anticlinal fold.

‘’The true bedding of the gneiss on a large scale is extremely well displayed in the great outlying mass known as the Udagiri or ‘Muroovattoor’ mountain. Both strike and dip are admirably seen from the Travellers’ bungalow at Nagarkoil. One of the finest examples of a sheer naked wall of rock to be seen in Southern India is shown in the tremendous cliff forming the south-east front of the Thiruvana Malai, the great eastern spur of Mahendragiri. This bare precipice must be fully 2,000 feet or more in height, many hundred feet in the central part being absolutely vertical, or even overhanging a little. As might be expected, this great mass has attracted much notice; it forms the Cape Comorin of some sailors, and of Daniel’s famous view of that Cape, though in reality some 16 miles from the nearest point on the coast and 28 miles from the Cape itself. Even the Hindu mind has connected this noble mountain with the name of Hanuman, the famous monkey God, who is said to have planted one foot on each of the two peaks and to have jumped across the Gulf of Mannar and alighted on Adam’s Peak, a standing jump of 220 miles and odd being a trifle for the long-tailed divinity. Another grand precipice occurs on the south-east face of the Taduga Malai at the western end of the Arambuli Pass. The cliff-faces in both these splendid scarps coincide with the great planes of jointing.

“The predominant character of the gneiss rocks in this quarter is that of well-bedded, massive, (quartzo-felspathic granite gneiss), with a very variable quantity of (generally black) mica and very numerous small red or pinkish garnets. This is the characteristic rock at Cape Comorin and very generally throughout South Travancore, and Tinnevelly District as well.

“Scattered grains of magnetic iron are commonly met with in the weathered rocks. No beds of magnetic iron were noted by mo, but some may very likely occur, and would go far to account for the numerous quantity of black magnetite sand cast up on the beach at frequent intervals along the coast and of which the source is at present unknown, unless it has been brought by the south-westerly current prevailing during the south-west monsoon. The source of the garnets which form the crimson sand which is of nearly equally common occurrence, is not far to seek, for it is hardly possible to find a led of rock which does not abound in garnets. The so called ‘fossil-rice’ found at the extreme point of land close to the Cape is merely a local variation of the quartz grains set free by degradation of the rock. They assume the ‘rice’ shape after undergoing partial trituration in the heavy surf which beats incessantly on the southern coast.

“The sub-aerial decomposition of the felspatho-ferruginous varieties of the gneiss produces in the presence of much iron a pseudo-laterite rock very largely developed over the gneissic area described by Dr. King in his Sketch of the Geology of Travancore under the name of lateritised gneiss, a rock which is popularly called laterite in Travancore and Kabuk in Ceylon. In numberless places this peculiar decomposition of the gneiss, which is preeminently characteristic of very moist climates, has altered the rook in situ to variable but often considerable depths, and the original quartz laminae of the gneiss remain in their pristine position, and often to all appearance unaltered, enclosed in a ferruginous argillacious mass formed by the alteration of the original felspar, mica, garnets and magnetic iron. The colour of this generally soft mass varies exceedingly from pale whitish pink to purple, red and many shades of reddish brown and brown, according to the percentage of iron and the degree of oxidation the iron has undergone. The bright colours are seen in the freshly exposed Kabuk or pseudo-laterite, but the mass becomes darker and mostly much harder as the haematite is converted into limonite by hydration, and more ferruginous matter is deposited, as very frequently happens, by infiltration. The pseudo-laterite formed by accumulation of decomposing argillo-ferruginous materials derived from distant points is to be distinguished generally by the absence of the quartz laminae as such. The quartz grains are generally much smaller, and are scattered generally through the whole mass of new-formed rock. One excellent example of the pseudo-laterite formed by the decomposition in situ is to be seen in a steep bank in the Zoological gardens in Trivandrum, close to the Tapir’s den. Equally good examples are very common in many of the cuttings along the high road east of Trivandrum.

“The washed-down form of pseudo-laterite often forms a rock intermediate in character between a true sub-aerial deposit and a true sedimentary one, and consequently by no means easy to classify properly. In fact, in a country subject to such a tremendous rainfall, the sub-aerial rocks must, here and there, graduate into sedimentary ones through a form which may be called ‘Pluvio-detrital.’ Such pluvio-detrital forms occur very largely in South Travancore, but it is impossible in most cases to separate them from the true sedimentary formations they are in contact with.”*

NOTEs: * Records of the Geological Survey of India, Vol XVI


The Varkala Cuddalore Sandstone Series

To quote Dr. King again —

“The next succeeding rock formations, namely, the Quilon and Warkilli beds, occur as a very small patch on the coast between the Quilon and Anjengo backwaters. The Quilon beds are only known through the researches of the late General Cullen who found them cropping out at the base of the low laterite clifts edging the backwater of that place, and again in wells which he had dug or deepened for the purpose. I was myself not able to find a trace of them#. They are said to be argillaceous limestones, or a kind of dolomite in which a marine fauna of univalve shells having a eocene facies was found; and they occur at about forty feet below the laterite of Quilon, which is really the upper part of the next group.

NOTEs: # Mr. Logan says that these have since been satisfactorily identified as occuring at a place called Parappakkara on the Quilon backwater about 6½ miles north-east of the Residency.

“The Warkilli beds, on the other hand, are clearly seen in the cliffs edging the seashore some twelve miles south of Quilon, where they attain a thickness of about one hundred and eighty feet, and have the following succession in descending order —

Laterite (with sandstone masses.

Sandy clays (lithomarge.

Sandy clays (with sandstone bands .

Alum clays.

Lignite beds with logs of wood &c..

“The bottom lignite beds rest on loose white sand, and nothing is known of any lower strata.

“It will be seen how this set of strata has an upper portion, or capping of laterite, which is however clearly detrital. On the landward edge of the field of those Waikilli beds, there is in places only a thin skin, representative of these upper beds, of lateritic grits and sandstones lying directly on the gneiss, which is itself also lateritized; and it is very hard as may be supposed, to distinguish the boundary between the two unless the detrital character of the former deposits is well displayed. Thus the upper part of the formation has overlapped the gneiss. It is also this upper portion which overlies the Quilon beds, which arc also apparently overlapped.

“These Warkilli beds constitute, for so much of the coast, the seaward edge of the plateau or ten-aced country above described, and they present similar features. The Warkilli downs are a feature of the country—bare, grass-grown, long, fiat undulations of laterite, with, about Warkilli itself, small plateau hills forming the higher ground — one hundred and eighty to two hundred feet above the sea. These downs, too, and the small plateaus or fiat-topped hills, are partly of the Warkilli laterite and partly of the lateritoid gneiss.

“Whatever form of denudation may have produced the now much- worn terrace of the gneissic portion of the country, the same also had determined the general surface of the Warkilli beds. Indeed, it gradually dawned on me while surveying this country, having the remembrance of what I had seen of the plateaus and terraced low lands in Malabar in previous years, that here, clearly, on this western side of India is an old marine terrace which must be of later date than the Warkilli beds. These are, as I have endeavoured to show in another paper,* of probably upper tertiary age and equivalent of the Cuddalore sandstones of the Coromandel. Hence this terrace must be late tertiary or post-pliocene, and it marks, like the long stretches of laterite and sandstones on the eastern side of the country, the last great or decided elevation of Southern India, prior to which, as is very probable, the Indian land rose almost directly from the sea by its Western Ghauts and had an eastern shore line which is now indicated very well by the inner edge of the Tanjore, South Arcot, Madras, Nellore and Godaveri belts of laterite and sandstone.

NOTEs: * The Warkilli beds and reported associated deposits at Quilon - Records of the Geological Survey of India, Vol. XV

“Mr. Foote has already generalised in this way for the eastern side of Southern India in particular but I think he makes the elevation too great, including, as he does in his laterite deposits, patches of the laterite gravels and rock masses ranging up to a height of live hundred feet at least which are not so definitely part and parcel of the proper coastal developments.”

The following account of the Cuddalore Sandstone series, marine beds, blown sands, coral reefs and soils is extracted from the very exhaustive paper on The Geology of South Travancore by Mr. Bruce Foote from which we have already quoted —

“A very careful examination of the beds near Quilon by Dr. King who had the advantage of seeing the fresh cuttings made through plateaus of these rocks in connection with the new tunnel at Warkilli has unfortunately thrown no positive light on their true geological position. The vegetable remains associated with lignite beds at base of the series proved insufficient to allow of determination of their own character and consequently most unsuitable to assist in settling the homotaxy of the strata they occurred in. The sedimentary beds forming the belt of small plateau fringing the coast of South Travancore must, on petrological grounds, be unhesitatingly regarded as extensions of the Quilon beds, or Warkilli beds of Dr. King.

“None of these formations which I traced from Villinjam, nine miles south-east of Trivandrum, down to Cape Comorin afforded the faintest trace of an organic body thus no light was thrown on the question of the geological age or homotaxy, but somewhat similar sandstones and grits are found on the Tinnevelly side of the extreme south end of the Ghauts range, and in a coarse gritty sandstone, much resembling some of the beds in Travancore, a bed of clay is intercalated, in which occur numerous specimens of Arca-rugosa and Cytherea of a living species. The locality where these fossils of recent species were found occurs on the right bank of the Nambi-ar, about two miles above its mouth and a few hundred yards from the bank of the main stream. All the sub-fossil shells I found here are of living species hence the deposits enclosing them cannot be regarded as tertiary; and if the agreement of these Nambi-ar beds with the Warkilli and South Travancore beds, on the one hand, and the Cuddalore, Madras, and Kajamundry beds be assumed, as they must be on petrological grounds, the Cuddalore sandstones and their equivalents elsewhere must be accepted as of post-tertiary age. As far as it goes the evidence is clear and distinct; but more evidence is required as to the age of some of the intermediate connecting beds, such as those south and east of Kudankulam.

“The typical section of the Warkili Rocks near Quilon, given by Dr. King shows the following series —


with which we may compare the series seen in the fine section formed by the beautiful clifts in Karruchel bay, 11 miles south-east of Trivandrum.

“The section here exposed shows the following series of formations: —

4. Soil—dark red, sandy loam, lateritic at base—8 to 10 feet.

3. Sandstone—hard, gritty, purplish or blackish—?

5. Sandstone—gritty, rather soft, false-bedded, often clayey in parts (lithomargic), variegated ; in colour red, reddish Brown purplish whiteyellow—40 to 50 feet.

1. Sandstone—gritty, rather soft, false-bedded, red, purple, pink, white, variegated ; shows many white clay galls producing conglomeratic appearance in section—40 feet.
Base not seen, hidden by sandy beach.

“The total thickness of these beds I estimated at about 100 feet; the upper part is obscure, from pluvial action washing down the red soil over the dark grits. The middle and lower parts of the section are extremely distinct, and: the colouring of the beds very vivid and beautiful; but the bed are by no:means, sharply defined.

“The beds dip north-easterly (inland, and from the slope of the ground on the top of the cliff the angle of dip may be inferred to be from 20° to 30°. Further inland, near Pinnacolum, the dark gritty sandstones lie horizontally, at a considerably lower level than at the top of the Karruchel cliffs, but rise again to the eastward. The middle gritty series is exposed along the western* aide ot the Karruchel lagoon, but is highly, lateritised by weather action. Three miles to the north of the lagoon, purplish gritty beds show strongly and form a small well-marked plateau overlooking the valley in which lies the village of Cottukal. That the gritty beds are sometimes replaced by clays is shown by the materials turned out of two deep wells sunk into the plateau at two points several miles apart; one of these wells lies rather more than half a mile to the northward of Mullur. Here the section, which is from 80 to 100 feet deep passes through mottled gritty sandstone and into blue and white mottled clay. The other section revealing clays below the gritty beds is a well sunk close to the new road from Valrampur to Puvar.

“A section in the low cliff forming the small bay immediately east of Villinjam shows a mottled vermiculated clayey rock showing mostly no bedding at all. Traces of bedding are, however, revealed as the cliff is followed south-ward by the appearance of thin bands of grit near the base of the section which rests on the underlined quartzo-felspathic garnetiferous gneiss. This mottled clayey, rock I believe to represent the bluish white mottled clay turned out of the lower parts of the well section near Mullur before referred to. It is locally considerably discoloured and stained by the percolation of water through the overlying pseudo-lateritic dark-red sand. As will be seen by any one who follows the coast line these Warkilli sandstones rest upon a very rugged and broken gneiss surface. Many great tors and knolls of granite gneiss protrude through the sandstone plateau or tower over them from adjacent higher ridges, which have been completely denuded of the younger rocks.

“The greater part of the surface of the tract occupied by these Warkilli beds west of the Neyar is thickly covered by sandy loam, generally of dark red colour, which conceals the sub-rock very effectually, excepting where the loam is deeply eroded. A well marked patch of purplish grit forms a knoll, about a mile southwest of Valrampur. Traces of the former more easterly extension of these beds are to be seen at intervals along and to the north of the Trivandrum-Tinnevelly road between Valrampur and Neyatankarai.

“In the tract lying east of the Neyar few sections exhibiting the grits &c., were met with, and all were small and unsatisfactory’. The surface of the country is either largely covered with the deep red soil or else the extremely broken surface of the gritty beds is extensively lateritised. The appearance of the country, when seen from elevated points is, however, characteristically very different from the gneiss and Kabuk tract lying to the northward. This may be well seen from Colatoor Trigonometrical station hill, as also from the high ground close to Cauracode, but yet more striking from the Kodalam Pothai, a hill 2 miles west-north-west of Paurashalay. Sections in which the fine character of the rock is to be seen occur on the high ground close to the junction of the new roads leading from Puvar and Martanda Putentorai respectively to Paurashalay, also to the southward near Shoolaul, where a large rain gully cuts deeply into the grits and underlying clayey beds; also along the ridge of high ground north and north-east of Yeldasaput. Traces of the former eastward extension of the grits were noted on the eastern flank of the Kodalam Pothai and on high ground half a mile or so to the northward of the Cutcherry at Paurashalay. The beds composing this patch of Warkilli rocks have undergone greater superficial denudation than those in the Karruchel patch to the north-west.

“In the small patch lying east of the Kulitorai river some instructive sections of hard rock grits and underlying clayey grits of the usual, reddish, bluish, and white mottled colour are to be seen south of Killiur. Some of the sections show regular miniature ‘canons’ 15' to 20' deep, with vertical sides and numerous well-formed pot-holes. Hard purplish grits show on the surface between Killiur and Pudukaddi and soft mottled grits in a well section close east of the D. P. W. bangalow at Tengapatnam. At the southernmost point of Killiur patch, the grits become coarsely conglomeratic over a small area. A little to the north of this the grits, when resting on the basset edge of a bed of granular quartz rock, present the characters of a perfect arkose, made up of the angular gneiss debris. In places this arkose might be most easily mistaken for a granitic rock.

“A distinctly conglomeratic character is shown by the grit beds close to Madalam. This Madalam patch of Warkilli sandstones is on its southern side deeply cut into by a gully which exposes regular cliffs with from 35 to 40 feet of coarse or conglomeratic mottled grits, capped by thick red soil. The grits contain many large clay galls and lumps of blue or mottled colour.

“In the Kolachel patch the grits are extremely well exposed in deep cuttings (miniature canons) made by the stream rising just west of Neyur. They are of the usual mottled description. Where seen at the eastern side of the patch near the Eranil Cutcherry they are quite conglomeratic. They are exposed also in a gully crossing the road which runs north from Kolachel to join the main road, and in a well section on the high ground a mile north-eastward of the little town. The south-eastern part of the patch is entirely obscured by a great thickness of dark red soil. They peep out, however, below the red soil at the western end of the great tank 3 miles south of Eranil.

“A very thin bed of conglomeratic grit underlies the teri, or red sand-hill, capping the high ground north of the Muttum headland. Further east a few poor sections only of whitish or mottled grit prove the extension of the Warkilli beds in that direction, nor are they well seen again till close into Kotar, where they show in various wells and tanks, but are still better seen in a deep rain gully south of the Travellers’ bangalow at Nagarkoil and in a broad cutting immediately to the east of the bangalow. The variegated gritty sandstones here seen are very characteristic, and strongly resemble some of the typical varieties in South Arcot and Madras districts.

“To the south of Kotar the grits are to be seen in stream beds opening to the Purrakay tank, and in a series of deep rain gullies on the eastern slope of a large red soil plateau to the south-west of Purrakay.

“A small patch of gritty sandstones of similiar character to the above occurs immediately north and north-west of Cape Comorin. As a rule, they are badly exposed, being much masked by the red blown sand of a small teri. The most accessible section is a small one seen in the bottom of a good sized bowrie, a little south of the junction of the roads coming from Trivandrum and Palamcotta. This section can only be seen when the water in the bowrie is low. A considerable spread of similar greyish or slightly mottled grits is exposed about half a mile to the north-east of Covacolum and 1½ miles north-west of the Cape. Lying between the two exposures just mentioned, but separated from either by spreads of blown sand, is a different looking vermiculated mottled grit of much softer character. This is extensively exposed in the banks of a nullah and head water gullies falling into the Agusteshwar. The colour of this soft grit ranges from red, through buff to whitish. The beds roll to the northward. This grit is full of vermicular cavities filled with white or reddish Kankar (impure carbonate of lime). The grit seems to graduate upward into a thick red gritty soil full of small whitish red, impure (gritty calcareous concretions. There is good reason, however, for thinking that this graduation is merely apparent, and that the red gritty soil is only the base of a red sand-hill, or teri, undergoing change by percolation of calciferous water. A hard brown grit is exposed for a few square yards just north of the junction of the two roads above referred to. This rook has, except in colours, considerable resemblance to the red-white grit just described, and both probably overlie the pale mottled grits near Covacolum.

“The last patch of grits to be mentioned forms almost the extreme easterly angle of the Travancore territory and lies to the eastward of the southernmost group of hills and along its base. Not many sections of the grit are here exposed owing to a thick red soil formation which laps round the base of the hills, and is only cut through here and there by a deep rain gully or a well. The grits here seen are like those exposed near the Travellers’ bangalow at Nagarkoil; but show much more bedding and are almost shaly in parts. The colour of the grit is white, pale drab or grey mottled with red and brown in various shades.

They lie in depressions in the gneiss, and were either always of much less importance and thickness than the beds to the west, or else have been denuded to a far greater extent. They are best seen in gullies to the south-west and west of Russhun Kristnapur, 7 miles north of Cape Comorin, and in the beds of the small nullahs west and north-west of Comaravarum opposite the mouth of the Arambuli pass. None of these Warkilli grit beds occurring between Trivandrum and Cape Comorin have yielded any organic remains as far as my research has gone, and I fear none will be obtained by subsequent explorers. The alum shales occurring in Dr. King’s Warkilli section have not been traced in South Travancore, and I had not the good fortune to come across any lignite. It is said to occur not unfrequently to the south of Kolachel, and to be turned up by the people when ploughing their fields. I have no reason to doubt this, for it is extremely probable that some of the clayey beds should contain lignite. From the configuration of the ground, too, the paddy flat along the southern boundary of the Kolachel grit patch would coincide in position with some of the clayey beds near the base of the series which are lignitiferous at Warkilli; and why not at Kolachel?

“The recent discovery of lignite in the Cuddalore sandstones at Pondicherry adds greatly to the probability of the correctness of Dr. King’s and my conclusion (arrived at by us separately and independently before we had an opportunity of comparing notes that this gritty bed in Tinnevelly and Travancore should be regarded on the grounds of petrological resemblance and identity of geographical position as equivalents of the Cuddalore sandstones of the Coromandel Coast.


Marine Beds

“At Cape Comorin and two other places along the coast to the northward are formations of small extent but very considerable interest, which, by their mineral constitution and by the abundance of fossil marine shells they enclose, show themselves to be of marine origin, and thus prove that the coast line of the Peninsula has undergone some little upheaval since they were deposited. These beds are to be seen close to the Cape at the base of a small cliff which occurs immediately south of the Residency bangalow and only about two hundred yards west of the Cape itself. The rocks seen in the surf and immediately behind it on the beach are all gneiss. The base of the small cliff is composed of friable gritty calcareous sandstone, full of comminuted shells. The base was not exposed at the time I examined the section, some heavy gale having piled up the beach sand against the foot of the cliff, and for this reason it was impossible to trace the probable connection of the sandstone with another exposed at a slightly lower level at a few yards distance to the west. This lower bed is similar in mineral character, but very hard and tough, and offers great resistance to the surf but has nevertheless been deeply honeycombed and in places quite undermined.

“The roofs of the miniature caves thus formed have in some cases fallen in, but have been partly re-cemented by deposition of the calcareous matter in the lines of fracture. To return to the cliff section, the basement sandstone is overlaid by a similar but slightly harder yellowish friable bed, which contains many unbroken shells (all of living species), in addition to a great quantity of comminuted ones. The base of the lower bed is hidden by sands, but from the proximity of the gneiss it cannot exceed 5 or 6 feet in thickness, while the overlying shelly bed measures about the same. It is overlaid in its turn by a massive bed, 6 to 10 feet thick locally, of a kind of travertine formed of altered blown sand, composed mainly of fully comminuted shells. This travertine contains immense numbers of shells and casts of Helix vittatta the commonest land shell in the south. Owing to the soft character of the marine sandstones, the cliff has been much undermined by the tremendous surf which breaks on this coast in bad weather, and great masses of the hard travertine of the Helix bad have fallen on to the beach, forming a partial breakwater against the inroads of the sea.

“The shells contained in the upper sandstone bed were all found to be of living species, where sufficiently well preserved for specific identification; the majority of the specimens are too ill preserved for specific identification. Four miles north-north-east from the Cape, stands the little stone-built fort of Wattakotai, which is built upon a small patch of calcareous sandstone, full of marine shells, exposed in the most along the north face of the long curtain wall which joins Wattakotai fort with the extensive series of fortifications known as ‘Travancore lines’. The marine limestone may be traced for nearly half a mile inland in the bottom of the moat. This marine bed is overlaid by a very thin bed ot travertine limestone full of Helix vittata; it has been cut through in the formation of the moat. The thickness of the shelly marine bed is unknown, but the Helix bed is not seen to exceed 10” or 1” in thickness. As far as seen in the very small exposure, both formations lie nearly horizontally. Another small exposure of the marine bed occurs at the western end of a little backwater to the north of the fort. The sandstone here contains many well-preserved marine shells, all of living species; but further west, where the bed is exposed below the Helix bed in the moat, the enclosed shells are all broken and comminuted. The surface of sandstone, as seen at the end of the little backwater, is raised but a very little distance above the sea-level, probably not more than 4 or 5 feet at the outside. The rise of the ground along the moat is extremely small, and even at the furthest point from the sea at which the sandstones are exposed the elevation is probably not more than 10 or 12 feet at most, which would correspond with the top of the sandstones as seen in the little cliff at Cape Comorin.

“About two miles north-east-by-north of Wattakotai fort a small patch of white shelly limestone occurs peeping out of the low bait of blown sand which fringes the coast at that spot. The village of Kannakapur which lies immediately to the north is the last within the Travancore boundary. The limestone only stands out a few inches above the surface of the surrounding sands, and no section could be found to show its thickness, but in point of elevation above the sea-level it agrees perfectly with the Waitakotai and Cape Comorin beds. The limestone which is fairly hard is quarried for economic purposes, and unless a good deal more of the bed than now meets the eye remains hidden under the sands, it will, before many years are over, have been removed by human agency.

“The shell remains occur as impressions and casts of great beauty and perfectness, but the shelly matter has disappeared entirely, being probably slightly more soluble than the enclosing limestone. The limestone contains a large number of specimens of Helix Vittetta which were evidently carried out to sea and there entombed in a shallow water formation. To any one who has noticed the enormous numbers of this Helix living in this neighbourhood, and in the southern districts generally, the large numbers of it occurring fossil in this marine bed will be a matter of no surprise.

Blown Sands

“Two very marked varieties of Aeolian rocks occur along or near the coast of South Travancore, as well as along that of Tinnevelly. They are the red sands, forming the well-known teris of Tinnevelly, where they are developed on a far larger scale, and the white sands forming the coast dunes. In South Travancore, as far as my observation went, the red sand hills are no longer forming; all are undergoing the process of degradation by atmospheric agencies at various rates of speed. The red sands have in many places ceased to yield to the influence of the winds and have arrived at a condition of fixity and compaction caused by the action of rain falling upon the loose sands percolating through them and during heavy showers flowing over their surfaces and washing the lighter clayey and smaller, though heavier, ferruginous particles down the slopes of the hills or into hollows on the surface, where, on drying, a fairly hard, often slightly glazed, surface of dark red loam has been formed. This loam is very fairly fertile and soon becomes covered with vegetation, which further tends to bind the mass together and render the surface secure from wind action.

“The loose sand, deprived of the clayey and finer ferruginous particles, would, unless unusually coarse in grain, be carried off by high winds elsewhere or remain in barren patches on the surface. I believe this process has gone on extensively over many parts of South Travancore, and explains the existence, on the surface of the country and resting indiscriminately on the gneiss and the younger rocks as the Warkilli sandstone, of the great thick sheets of pure red loam which have not been brought there by ordinary aqueous deposition nor formed in situ by the decomposition of the underlying rocks. The percolation of the rain water through the mass has in many places given rise to the formation of concretionary ferruginous masses, which are often strongly lateritoid in their aspect. The quantity of clayey matter and of iron ore in the form of magnetic iron is very great in the sand of many of the teris. The greater quantity of the water falling on the teris, as on their blown sand surfaces, escapes by percolation, and it is a common phenomenon to find springs issuing around the foot of the sand mass during the rainy season and becoming dry in the hot or rainless season.

“The teris in South Travancore which still retain their character as accumulations of moving red sands are four in number and all very small, the largest not measuring one sq. mile in area. They are all close to the coast and with one exception stand high and conspicuous to ships passing along at a fair distance. The largest and most conspicuous is that at Muttum which caps the high ground with a new lighthouse. The process of fixation has gone on here largely and the moving sands cover a much smaller space than does the fixed portion. The same may be said of the teri resting on the south-eastern extremity of the Kolachel sandstone plateau. To the north-west of Koluchel are two much smaller teris at the distance of 3 and 5½ miles respectively. In both of these also the area of the fixed sand far exceeds that of the loose. Especially is this the case in the more northerly teri near Melmadalathorai. Here the fixed part has undergone tremendous erosion and is traversed by long and deep rain gullies, with vertical sides up to 20 or 25 feet high. Gullies on a yet larger scale are to be seen at the south-east corner of the Kolachel sandstone patch and at the eastern side of the Muttum patch. Very large but shallower gullies are to be seen at the south-east corner of the Nagarkoil patch, where there is a very large fixed teri.

“The small teri immediately behind the Cape Comorin is a very poor specimen of its kind, and, in fact, hardly deserves to rank as one owing to its pale colour and poverty in iron sand, but it will not do to class it as a coast dune, as it consists mainly of silicious sand, while the true dune at the Cape consists mainly of calcareous sand composed of comminuted shells, corallines, nullipores &c.

“The sand of the typical teris is silicious or ferruginous (magnetic iron, the former being well rounded and coated with a film of red-oxide of iron, which is removable by boiling in Nitric acid for a few seconds. Common as garnet sand is on the beaches of South Travancore, I never yet found a grain of it in the teri sand, where the latter was pure and had not been mixed with beach sand.

“The coast dunes of South Travancore are, except close to the Cape, in no way remarkable. A large pat;h of small hillocks to the north-west of the mouth of the Kulitorai river was caused by the wind shifting a great mass of sand turned out when the new canal was dag and heaped up on the north bank of the canal.

“Some tolerably high ridges occur three miles south-west of Kolachel. The sand here contains so much fine magnetic iron that it looks in parts of a dark grey colour, shading here and there almost into absolute black.

“A considerable quantity of blown sand fringes the coast from the Muttum headland eastward to Cape Comorin, and between Pullum and Culladevella forms some considerable hills. At Covacolum the highly calcareous beach sand which forms many low hillocks has been solidified in several places into coarse shelly limestone. The Helix bed at Cape Comorin already referred to, when treating of the Marine beds, is really an altered sand dune, the calcareous matter of which has, by percolation of acidulated water, been dissolved and re-deposited, on evaporation of the water, as a sub-aerial travertine. Countless thousands of Helix vittata and a considerable number of shells of Nanina tranqucbarica, the two commonest land shells in this part of India, have been enclosed and fossilised in the formation of this travertine, which is evidently in constant progress. The immense wealth of shell fish of all kinds, added to large quantities of corallines and nullipores, incessantly thrown up by the surf, furnishes an abundant supply of calcareous sand for the formation of this travertine, which forms a bank more than a mile long and rising some 80 feet or more above the sea at its highest point. Its inland extent cannot be ascertained, as it is covered by loose sands. It probably only extends 300 to 400 yards inland and abuts against a low ridge of gneiss”.

Coral Reefs

“A few tiny fringing reefs are to be seen half to three-fourths of a mile west of the Cape, half in the surf at low tide, and wholly in it at high tide. They are now to be considered as dead reefs, abandoned by the polypes that built them. I examined most of them carefully, without finding any live coral, and was inclined to doubt the correctness of my inference, drawn from their tabular shape and many shallow basin-like cavities; but later on, when examining some identical fringing reefs off the Tinnevelly coast to the south of Kudankulam Trigonometrical station (the south point of the Cape Comorin baseline), I found a considerable quantity of live coral lining the sides of the little basins and equally large quantities of coral quite recently dead in adjoining basins.

“A great deal of shell debris, sand and broken stone, is included in the mass of the reefs which in several places have formed around masses of rock standing in rather shallow water, and joined up many loose blocks of stone tossed on to them by the surf into tremendously coarse conglomerates. Some similar reefs but of rather larger size, occur along the coast to the north-east of Cape Comorin; in these the tabular mass extends from 10 to 40 and 50 feet in width, from the shore to the constantly surf-beaten outer edge. In one or two places parts of the reef had evidently been founded on sand, which had been washed away, leaving an unsupported surface of many square yards in extent which the surf of the next high tide or first gale of wind would either break up or else again support with sand washed under it. These little reefs are worthy of much closer examination than I was able to bestow upon them.

“The coral fauna of the Cape Comorin sea is on the whole a remarkably poor one, as far as one may judge by what is to be found thrown up on the beach. Dredging might reveal much more, but unfortunately no boats are found there, only Kattumarams (Catamarans) which would not be the most convenient form of craft from which to carry on scientific observations. The sea here is, however, so very rich in animal life in many forms, that it could assuredly afford a rich reward to any one having a suitable vessel at command. I obtained in a very short time, a far larger number of species of shells here than at any other place on the Indian Coast.



“The prevalent soils (of South Travancore) are red ones varying in the quantity of their ferruginous element. The red soils seen inland near the main trunk road are chiefly formed of gneissic debris by sub-aerial decomposition. The origin of the deep red sandy or clayey loams has already been discussed. They occupy no inconsiderable area. True alluvial soils occur very rarely, if at all, now-a-days; those which fill the bottoms of the many valleys and creeks in which paddy is cultivated being greatly altered from their original condition by centuries of cultivation, and the addition of various mineral, vegetable and animal manures. Estuarine beds full of sub-fossil shells, Cytherca, Pottamides, Melania &c., of living species are exposed in the salt pans at the mouth of the Kolachel nullah.

“The Alluvium in the valley of the Paleyar, which flows south from the west flank of Mahendragiri past Nagarkoil is, where pure, a coarse gritty silt.”

Smooth Water Anchorages

There are two anchorages on the Malabar Coast, known to mariners from early times. The bottom of these anchorages consists of a very fine, soft, unctuous mud which has over and over been supposed to act as a barrier against the force of the waves of the sea. Ships can not only ride safely in these roads, but they can also sometimes take in fresh water alongside, the sea beneath them being so diluted with fresh water from inland sources. At times the smooth surface on one of the banks may be broken by huge bubble “cones” as they have been called, of water or mud from the sea-bed, and even roots and trunks are reported to have floated up with these ebullitions.

Again the banks of mud are not fixed in position but move along the coast within ranges of some miles in extent; or one of them remains comparatively stationary while the other moves, and these movements do not take place year by year with the monsoons but continue over many years. Similar, though insignificant, patches of smooth water banks are found in various points along the Malabar Coast. But the best-marked and most generally known are those near Cochin and Alleppey. That near Cochin or the Narakal bank may be said to lie between Cochin and the Cranganore river 11¾ miles to the north. For many years its position has been about the middle of the range. The Alleppey bank ranges from a mile or two north of Alleppey to Poracad, a distance of 12 to 15 miles. It is now at the southern end of this range and indeed is often called the Poracad mud-bank. The mud-banks lie close along the beach but extend some miles seaward presenting a more or less semicircular or flat crescentic edge to the long rollers and tumbling waves of the monsoon weather.

Ordinarily the sea is tolerably smooth only rolling on the shore with more or less of a surf, and these patches are only to be distinguished by the soundings of mud below them. It is only a few days after the bursting of the monsoon, when the whole line is affected and the mud in these particular places stirred up, that the patches are distinguishable. Then the muddy waters calm down and remain so for the rest of the monsoon.

The mud itself is essentially characteristic and unique. It is of a decided dark green colour slightly tinged with brown, very fine in texture, very soft and oily feeling, altogether just like a very fine soft ointment or pomatum. After a time it dries and hardens, loses its oily feel and becomes harsh like ordinary mud. Its oily consistency has been proved beyond doubt; the specimens analysed have been found to give off, when subject to distillation, some brownish yellow oily matter lighter than water and looking not unlike petroleum. The muds also contain a considerable quantity of foraminiferal and infusorial remains. Capt. Drury thus wrote on the origin of these banks —

“The origin of this deposition of so large a quantity of mud in the open sea about two or three miles from the shore and so many miles from any bar or outlet from the backwater has never been satisfactorily accounted for. From the circumstance of there being no natural outlet for the vast accumulation of waters which are poured down from the various mountain streams into the basin of the backwater nearer than thirty-six miles on either side, it is not improbable that there exists a subterraneous channel communication with the sea from the backwater through which the large quantity of mud is carried off and thrown up again by the sea in the form of a bank”.

Mr. Crawford, for a long time Commercial Agent at Alleppey, was of opinion that the perfect smoothness of the water in the roads and at the Alleppey beach was attributable not so much to the softness of the mud at the bottom as to ‘the existence of a subterranean passage or stream or a succession of them which, communicating with some of the rivers inland and the backwater, became more active after heavy rains particularly at the commencement of the monsoon than in the dry season, in carrying off the accumulating water and with it vast quantities of soft mud”. He found that at the periods of deficient rain the mud-banks were less effective as anchorages. He also observed that after or during heavy rains the beach suddenly subsided, slightly at first but gradually as much as five feet, when a cone of mud suddenly appeared above the water, bursting and throwing up immense quantities of soft soapy mud and blue mud of considerable consistence in the form of boulders with fresh water, debris of vegetable matter decayed and in some cases fresh and green.

Mr. Rhodes, the successor of Mr. Crawford, confirms the above observation and states that he has seen mud volcanoes bursting up in the sea during the rainy season, which appeared “as if a barrel of oil had suddenly been started below the surface”. He thinks that the mud thus formed is gradually floated away to the southward by the littoral current and fresh banks are formed whenever the hydraulic pressure of the inland backwater increases sufficiently to overcome the subterranean resistance of the stratum of fluid mud which is formed at certain places; and as a further proof, he adduces the fact that the extent of the mud-bank at Alleppey increases and diminishes as the level of the inland water rises and falls, as was most observable in 1882*.

NOTEs: * In regard to the formation of the bank, Mr. Philip Lake of the Geological Survey in his Note on the Mud-banks says: - "The chief point then in which I differ from pervious observers is in considering that the Alleppey bank is formed not from the backwater mud but from an older river deposit found only at particular points along the coast. This would explain its non-appearance at other points where the conditions seem equally favourable. With regard to the existence of subterranean channels, it may well be doubted whether any could exist in such unstable deposits as are found here"

The range of the coast exhibiting the phenomena is about 92 miles long tolerably straight, without any indentation giving the form of a bay except at the extreme ends, viz., at Quilon and Cranganore. There is no indication of a bay near Alleppey, the name ‘bay’ having perhaps been adopted from an imaginary bay of smooth water enclosed within the semicircle of breakers outside. The shore line is straight, low lying or only a few feet above sea level and made up of alluvial deposits and sand. Between Alleppey backwater and the sea there is no visible communication, the principal rivers that enter it flowing northwards behind the range of the mud-bank. To all appearance the flat lands of the coast are entirely recent alluvial deposits consisting of layers of sand and mud overgrown with vegetation. The humps of blue cliffs described by Mr. Crawford as turned up in the cones of Alleppey, answer to the lumps of clay of the lower part of the Varkala cliffs already described. Mr. Crawford also mentions his having passed through a crust of chocolate-coloured sandstone or a conglomerate mixture of the sandstone and lignite corresponding to certain rocks at Varkala.

It is clear that both the Alleppey and Narakal banks have practically the same constitution, behave similarly and have the same accompaniments with the exception of the violent discharges of mud or oil which are confined to the Alleppey bank.

It has already been remarked that the mud of these banks is full of organic matter and that it contains a sensible amount of oil probably partly derived from the decomposition of organisms. The mud is easily stirred up on all seasons and never settles down into a uniformly compact deposit but the upper stratum is in a greater state of liquidity than its lower depths. It occupies particular areas and within these well defined limits its movement is from north to south.

Regarding the water over the mud, Dr. King says#: —.

“It is only known to calm down during the S. W. Monsoon. The calming of the anchorages does not take place until after the monsoon has commenced and there has been a stirring up of the sea and mud. The quieting of the waters is intensified according to the amount of rainfall during the monsoon but even if no rainfall, there is a certain amount of quiescence. The calmness continues throughout the monsoon, apparently without any fresh stirring up of the mud. In one locality at least, the water is subject at times to violent agitation through the bursting up of gigantic bubbles of water, mud or gas, — it is not quite clear which; and these features also appear to be intensified during heavy rainy weather in the monsoon periods. The water over the banks becomes considerably freshened even to the extent — as I was told by Mr. Crawford — of being drinkable also according as the monsoon rains are light or heavy. At such times, also, the water gives off fetid odours, and the fish inhabiting it are killed off in large numbers; but whether owing to the freshening of the sea-water, or the exhibition of poisonous matter and vapour in the water, is not clear perhaps this destruction of life may be due to both causes.

NOTEs: # Considerations on the smooth-water anchorages, or mud-banks of Narakal and Alleppey on the Travancore Coast - Records of the Geological Survey of India, Vol XVII

The soothing of the troubled waters of the sea must surely be due to the oily constitution of the mud. An experiment performed sometime ago in the harbour of Peterhead, when a stream of oil was cast upon the heavy seas at the harbour’s mouth with such success that vessels were enabled to run in with comparative ease clearly proves this. Thus the action of oil on troubled waters is confirmed not only by tradition and anecdote but by actual fact; but the long continuance of the quiescence without any fresh stirring up is not easily accounted for. The amount of oil derived from the decomposition of the animal and vegetable matter of the organisms in the mud would be hardly sufficient to account for the features exhibited; hence we must look to other sources for the oil and even for the continued supply of mud itself which is evidently carried away and distributed by littoral currents.

The consensus of opinion certainly leads to the conclusion that there is an underground discharge of water at any rate into the sea from the lagoon and river system behind the Alleppey-Poracad Coast during flood-time, the inland waters being at a higher level than the sea. This passage of underground waters must, more particularly during heavy rains, force cut large quantities of the mud on which the Alleppey Poracad land rests like a floating bog, as it were, elastic and capable of yielding to pressure or exerting pressure by its own weight, while a continuous stream of the same oil and mud may be kept up under the lower pressure of the ordinary backwater level. In the monsoon time the heavy floods, which however occur only at long intervals, cause great discharges of mud, oil and gases and at such times new banks might be formed, the old ones being distributed down the coast by littoral currents arid finally dissipated into the open sea.

The presence of petroleum has to be accounted for by the fact that besides the alluvial deposits large lumps of clay or compact mud, more or less decayed, and vegetable remains are brought to the surface during the prevalence of the violent ebullitions. Such clays are met with in the Varkala deposits associated with lignite beds, in which occur trunks and roots of trees in every stage of decay. It is probable that the Varkala deposits may extend north under the Alleppey Poracad alluvium and even again at Narakal, where also fragments of similar clays are thrown up by the sea; and that it is in these deposits as being deeper-seated, older and lignitiferous that the earth-oil is generated.

Thus according to Dr. King, the mud banks, their smoothening influence, and their position within certain ranges of the coast, may be entirely due to the following causes —

“1. The discharge of mud from under the lands of Alleppy, Poracand and Narrakal, being effected by the percolation or underground passage of lagoon water into the sea.

2. The presence in this mud of oily matter, derived perhaps in part from the decomposition of organisms, but principally from the distillation of oil in subjacent lignitiferous deposits belonging presumably to the Warkilli strata.

3. The action of littoral currents which, slowly and through long periods of years, carry the mud down the coast to certain points whence it is dissipated seawards, — by the Quilon river at Narrakal, and at Poracaud because it is there beyond the range of replacement. “

1ch3 #Economic Geology

According to Mr. Bruce Foote, valuable minerals and metals are conspicuous by their absence in South Travancore and this remark may be truly applied to the whole of Travancore.

The development of the gold industry in Southern India having raised hopes of gold likely to be found among the quartz out-crops of Peermade and the adjacent country, Dr. King was requested to examine those parts and report on the same. His report is conclusive. He says: —

“These out-crops are not reefs as usually understood but are true beds of quartz rock lying between and running w4tli other beds of the country rock which is of the crystalline or gneiss series, Reefs or veins of quartz generally run across the country rock as in Wainad or in the Kolar region of Mysore. Secondly the size of these out-crops is small, only one of them being sufficiently large to allow any expectation of what might be called a good tonnage of stone. Thirdly, and most important of all, the quartz of the out-crops, though it shows on a close assay traces of gold, is certainly not rich enough to be called auriferous quartz in the usual acceptance of the term.”

He found on examination that the ordinary crop of the Peermade Hills consists of a thin bed of quartz rock, largely made up also of felspar. He says that in all of the main outcrops of Peermade,
“the rock is more or less of the same constitution, that is, a quartz rock with very often a good deal of felspar distributed through it in small crystalline masses sometimes as large as peas, generally coarsely crystallised dull white and glassy quartz and less often a more compact rock like that of vein or reef. It is generally of a white colour, but at times it is stained red or even a golden yellow from ferruginous matter and scattered through it, there is often a small quantity of iron pyrites or frequent small particles of magnetic iron ore.


General Cullen was the first to discover graphite in 1843. In 1865 Dr. Royle discovered some specimens which were lamellar and soft but brilliant. Some samples were forwarded from a place south of Trivandrum for examination but were considered too soft and scaly for the manufacture of pencils. The matrix appeared to be a pseudo-laterite formed of decomposed gneiss in situ. Deposits were also found near Vellanad, the veins in which plumbago occurs being said to cross the strike of the gneiss. The plumbago found here is much purer than others. Mining work is carried on in three mines viz, Vellanad and Cullen mines in Ooozhamalakal Proverty, Nedumangad Taluq, and the Venganur mine in the Kottukal Proverty, Neyyattinkara Taluq.

The total output of plumbago during the last four years was as follows —


Messrs. Parry and Co. and The Morgan Crucible Company who work these mines pay a nominal Royalty to the Government of 4 or 6 Rs. per ton according to the quality of the plumbago mined.

Iron — Iron ore is found throughout Travancore in large quantities but as imported iron is much cheaper than the locally manufactured iron, the industry is given up. In the Shencottah Taluk iron is obtained as black sand in the brooks in Pulangudiyiruppu and Achanputhur villages. It is said that two persons working daily can take up 7½ Kottas or 126 Parahs of the sand in a month, and that 4 Parahs of this sand smelted with 40 Parahs of charcoal and ashes yeild about 80 pounds of iron. The selling price of this iron is 4 Rs. while the cost of manufacture comes to about 5 Rs. Hence the industry has been given up. It is also found at Pralakat in Cheranallur Proverty, Kunnattur Taluk, where an unlimited quantity of the ore is obtainable. Here the out-turn is said to be 10 lbs. for every 100 pounds of the ore. Iron ore is reported to be found at Aramboly in large quantities at a depth of 15 or 10 feet. This place was once noted for its iron smelting industry. As large quantities of foreign iron began to be imported the industry had to be given up here also.

At Myladi till about thirty years ago the people earned their livelihood by gathering iron ore at the foot of the Poranathumala after heavy showers when the ore is washed down from the top of the hill. This they used to remove in baskets to the nearest rock and holding up the baskets at sufficient height, allow the contents to drop down by degrees against the smart and steady breeze which carried away the sand and rubbish leaving the ore behind. They used to take the ore thus sifted to their houses where they smelt it into lumps of varying size and sell the same to the blacksmiths, who turned them into agricultural implements &c. It is reported that tools made of this iron would last considerably longer than those made of imported material.

Limestone — This is found in considerable quantities near Layam in the Tovala Taluq, Tirupurathur in Neyyattinkara and Kazhakuttam in Trivandrum. It is dug out from pits varying from about 5 to 8 feet and it is reported that limestone of a superior quality is obtainable at greater depths. The lime made here is chiefly sold to the Public Works Department. It is used for paving sides of wells and tanks and for making tubs.

Granite — The gneiss near Cape Comorin is generally like those of the Nilgiris but more quartzose. The Cape Comorin type of rock abounding in South Travancore is a well-bedded massive quartzo-felspathic granite gneiss abounding in small rich-coloured garnets. The rock also contains mica in glistening scales. Granite is used chiefly for metalling roads and erecting buildings, bridges &c. In the Chengannur Taluq which is noted for its excellent workmanship in granite, some good specimens of images, flutes, rose-water sprinklers &c. are made out of it.

The supply of beautiful building stones is practically unlimited in South Travancore but not much use is made of them except for temples and fort walls. The extensive Travancore lines are mostly built of gneiss, the Vattakotta Fort being a very fine sample of excellent well-cut masonry. To the extreme south end of the lines, blocks of marine sandstone have been employed in the walls to some extent but have been much affected by weathering.

Mica — This occurs chiefly in the Eraniel Taluk. It is worked by regular mining operations. The out-put for 1899 was 12,706 lbs. The following is an extract from a letter from Messrs. Henry Grail and Co., London, dated 11th May 1900 regarding the quality and quotation of Travancore mica —

“Several parcels of Travancore mica have been offered and sold here lately and to-day’s values are as follows with a good demand and good prospects for the future.


Travancore amber mica would come into severe competition with Canadian, hence the necessity of careful preparation.”

But the mineral has already become very scarce, the income to the Sirkar in 1903—1904 being only about 30 Rs.

Before concluding this part of the subject, it maybe well to state that according to the Royal Proclamation issued on the 14th June 1881 (2nd Mithunam 1056). Government have reserved to themselves the right to all the metals and minerals discovered on private properties. It has also been notified on the 30th July 1898 that prospecting for or mining of metals and minerals, whether in Sirkar or private lands, is strictly prohibited except under a license obtained from the Government in accordance with the rules in force for the purpose.

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V1C2 #, CHAPTER II Climate, Rainfall, and Meteorology

Climate, Rainfall, and Meteorology
Diurnal variation
Annual variation
Annual variation
Periods of deficient rainfall
Variation of wind velocity

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“Sing a hymn, pleasing to Varuna the king. He sent cool breezes through the woods, put mettle in the steed (the sun), milk in the kine (clouds), wisdom in the heart, fire in the waters, lightning in the clouds, placed the sun in the heavens, the Soma on the mountains. — He upset the cloud-barrel and let its waters flow on Heaven, Air, and Earth, wetting the ground and the crops. — He wets both Earth and Heaven, and soon as he wishes for those kine’s milk, the mountains are wrapt in thunder-clouds and the strongest walkers are tired.” (Rig Veda)


A warm humidity is one of the special features of the climate of Travancore. Small as the country is, its high mountain ranges, its valleys and plains and its coast-line greatly influence the atmospheric condition. The temperature varies according to the height of the locality above the level of the sea. But the most noticeable variations are common only in the mountains. The climate of the plains is much more constant and is subject to comparatively few irregularities. The thermometer rarely shows a higher reading than 90° and even in the coldest season it never falls below 70°. This uniformity of temperature is explained to be due to (1) the superheated condition of the surface soil, (2) the cool sea-breezes and the abundance of rain throughout more than half of the year and (3) the process of evaporation.

In the whole of Malabar and Travancore, there is no thick layer of cool earth on the surface capable of quickly absorbing the sun’s rays, as in the Temperate Zone. Hence the surface soil becomes very heated and is constantly radiating its heat day and night, and consequently a uniform high temperature is maintained.

The cool sea-breezes, always saturated with moisture, blow steadily and regularly every day during the hot weather. These, combined with the abundance of rain that falls in the country, moderate the intensity of the heat and maintain a uniform temperature.

In the process of evaporation a large amount of heat becomes latent. This goes on in the hours of the hottest sunshine. As the country is well equipped with back-waters and rivers and as it is on the sea-board, evaporation plays an important part in moderating the heat and reducing the temperature.

The hills present every degree of temperature from the fever heat at their base to near the freezing point upon the summit. At the foot of the hills and in places beyond the influence of the sea-breeze, the thermometer rises 5° or 6° higher. On the hills, the temperature varies with the elevation. In the Periyar valley near Peermade, the country being completely shut up by high land, the extreme range of temperature is very great, varying from little more than 45° to over 90°. As we go higher, the air is naturally much cooler. The Kanni Elam hills, one of the divisions of the Cardamom Hills, are about 3,000 to 3,500 feet high and are within the influence of the sea-breeze and consequently pretty free from bad fevers. But the Makaram Elam hills, though higher, are during some months very unhealthy. From July to January they are healthy and the temperature is low; but from the end of February or early in March, fevers of the worst type prevail and continue till June.

On the High Ranges the thermometer ranges from 45° to 60° in March and April and between 29° to 60° in November, December and January. The meteorological effects of the whole of India, if not of the whole world, are thus presented to us in Travancore in a small compass. On some of the peaks we have the pinching cold of the northern regions of Europe. Lower down on an elevation of between three and four thousand feet (the Ashamboo or Peermade Range for instance, one meets with the bracing temperature of England. The genial warmth of an Italian sun with its clear and cloudless sky is experienced all over the country for a few weeks after the cessation of the monsoons.

From January to May there is intense heat which in some Taluqs present the aspect of a true equatorial region and epidemics rage with virulence. The three months after the partial cessation of the rains are the most agreeable and salubrious, “the air being cool and refreshing and the face of the country clothed with a luxuriant verdure”. The dewy season is not agreeable to the working classes. On the whole, the climate of Travancore is enervating, depressing the nervous system and retarding the recovery of strength when it has been prostrated by illness.



Our ancient Sanskrit writers have divided the year into six seasons or Rithus, each comprising a period of two months. Of these the first, Vasanta Rithu or Spring, is the season of mirth and gaiety and begins in March. “The mango is then covered with fragrant blossoms of which Manmatha the Indian Cupid makes his shafts and the landscape is gay with the beautiful and the sweet-scented flowers of the kakke or Indian laburnum. The southerly breezes that blow daring the night are the voluptuous zephyrs of this vernal season.”

The next two months are designated Grishma Rithu or the Summer season. Varsha Rithu or the rainy season comes next. The South-west monsoon blows steadily during this period. During the next season, Sarad Rithu or Autumn, the fruits of the earth ripen. This season closes with the change of the monsoon. The Hemanta Rithu or Winter next sets in with chilly mornings and bright sunny days. The Sisira Rithu or cold season closes the circle of the year.

The year in Travancore may, however, be divided into four seasons, viz. , the Dry or dewy season, the Hot weather, the South-west monsoon proper or wet season and the Retreating South-west monsoon period, based on the mean data of the meteorological elements given in the following tables, I and II, obtained from the Trivandrum Observatory.


The following table gives means for the four seasons corresponding to the data of Table I.


The dry season lasts from December to February, and is characterised by moderate humidity and cloud, and by very light rain and absence of thunderstorms. This is the dewy season or the cold weather, but referred to here as the dry season on account of the fact that the air contains the least aqueous vapour in this season.

The hot weather lasts from March to May, it’s most prominent features being moderately high temperature, occasional rain (increasing in quantity with the advance of the season) and frequent thunder-storms. Throughout this season, there is an intense and oppressive heat which is very intolerable in March and April. No doubt the season is slightly relieved by a few showers; but still the continued heat is insufferable and some of the places present the aspect of a true equatorial region from which it is not far distant. The country of Nanjanad though fully exposed to the severity of the suns heat, is relieved of much of its intensity by the strong sea-breezes which sweep across the plains. During these months, in the lower hills, the violence of the heat is extreme. As we recede from the coast, the country becomes le«s healthy. During this and the previous season, fever, generally in the hills and in the valleys, and some of the epidemics, especially small-pox and cholera, break out occasionally with very great virulence. The borders of the lakes, however, always afford an agreeable climate.

The South-west monsoon proper or wet season continues from June to September, and characterised by clouded skies, high humidity, copious rain and absence of thunderstorms. Sometimes the monsoon commences towards the end of May and the regular rains are ushered in by thunder and lightning. Till the end of August the rains are very heavy and by September the rainfall becomes much lighter.

The retreating South-west monsoon period includes the months of October and November. Its chief feature is rain diminishing in amount with the advance of the season. The rains are, as a rule, preceded by thunder-storms of greater or less intensity. But the greater part of the rain registered in Travancore is brought by the S. W. monsoon. The amount varies considerably, being least in South Travancore, but gradually increasing along the sea-board to its northern limit. Towards the end of October, the N. E. monsoon begins and all through the month of November, a heavy shower is experienced in the afternoons though the mornings are generally fine.

By the beginning of December, the rains become less frequent and the country begins to dry up; by the end of December, the dry weather is fairly begun. Dewfall begins at nights in November and lasts till February. The sudden changes in the temperature of this season, from intense heat in the day to excessive cold in the night, often generate and foster the development of the epidemics, especially cholera. The land winds that prevail in the months of November, December and January produce many unpleasant ailments such as rheumatism, coughs, disordered stomach and pains all over the body. Jungle fever prevails near the foot of the hills; the moist heat at this part of the year is very depressing and is the cause of the above mentioned disorders.


Diurnal variation. In Trivandrum, the mean epoch of minimum temperature occurs at 4-51 a. m. on the average of the whole year. Thence the temperature goes on increasing till it agrees exactly with the mean temperature of the day at 8-16 A.M. and attains its maximum at 1-34 P.M. Thenceforward the temperature goes on decreasing till it is once more identical with the mean of day at 6-58 P. M. and finally reaches its minimum again at 4-61 A.M. The following table exhibits the diurnal oscillation of temperature at Trivandrum during the four seasons and for the whole year —

NOTEs: * For the account of temperature, rainfall, winds, storms and earthquakes, I am indebted to Mr. Velu Pillai, Head Assistant of the Trivandrum Observatory


Annual variation: Temperature increases [with fair regularity from the middle of December to the beginning of April. It then falls, at first very slowly in April and May and then slightly more rapidly in June and the first half of July, to a secondary minimum in July (76.3° on the 13th, differing only by 0.08° from the absolute minimum on the 16th and 17th of December.

During the remainder of the year, the mean daily temperature ranges irregularly within narrow limits (between 76.2° and 77.5°), indicating that the normal seasonal changes of temperature of this period are very small compared with the variations due to local and occasional actions or causes, such as rainfall &c. The chief feature of the progression of temperature during this period, however, appears to be that it increases slightly and somewhat irregularly from the 13th of July (76.3°) to the 28th of September (77.5°) and thence decreases with approximate regularity to the 15th of December. The following table gives, in brief, data of the chief maximum and minimum epochs of the variation of temperature during the year.


It may be observed that the average or normal daily temperature is above the mean of the year for only 115 days, i.e., from the I5th of February to the 9th of June and is below it during the remainder of the year. The mean diurnal range of temperature for the 12 months and for the year is given below: —


Table VI gives the mean actual daily and monthly temperatures at Trivandrum derived from the series of observations taken during the period 1856-1864, and Table VII gives the mean hourly temperatures for each month and for the whole year.



The following table gives the data for the diurnal variation of the amount of vapour present in the air and also for the diurnal variation of humidity for each of the four seasons of the year and the average for the year in Trivandrum:


The territorial distribution of rainfall in Travancore exhibits two well-defined characteristics. One is the gradual diminution of rainfall from Parur to Cape Comorin, and the other the gradual increase of the fall proceeding from the coast towards the mountains. Besides, it is also true that up to a certain height the rainfall over the mountains gradually increases in amount. Considering the variation of the mean annual rainfall, Travancore may be divided into three narrow belts, namely, (1) the littoral or the lowland, (2) the submontane or the central and (3) the mountainous or the upland belt. The littoral belt has an average annual rainfall of 67.6 inches, the submontane 92.9 inches and the mountainous or the upland 110.1 inches. Thus it is seen that the amount of the precipitation of vapour increases from the coast towards the ghauts, the weight of the fall over the mountains being a little less than twice the weight of the fall near the coast.


The S. W. monsoon winds blowing over the Arabian sea take a north-westerly bend before they come into contact with the coast lands of Malabar and are felt as north-north-westerly to west-north-westerly winds in Travancore. The direction of the wind partly depends upon the trend of the coast-line, and the rainfall will depend on the angle which the monsoon currents make with the ghauts. It is not improbable that the maximum of precipitation occurs at the place of incidence of the monsoon current on the Malabar coast, which may vary in position from year to year. The law of the variation of rainfall along the coast is one of gradual decrease from this point, as the cm-rent reaches nearer and nearer to the Cape. A slight variation from this rule resulting in a diminution of the amount of rainfall at Shertallay, Kartikapalli and Karunagapalli is also perceptible, but it is difficult to offer an explanation for this diminution.

The mean annual rainfall at some important stations on the coast is given below:—


The Kottayam Division receives three times as much rain as the Padmanabhapuram Division, while Trivandrum has nearly 71% of what Quilon receives. Though the most favoured locality in Travancore as regards rainfall is apparently the Cardamom Hills, data are wanting to corroborate the belief. Of individual stations, Peermade has the greatest rainfall averaging to 198.4 inches annually. Todupuzha has the next greatest amount, viz., 145.2 inches. The least recorded fall is seen at Aramboly where it averages to 29.1 inches.

Annual variation
The annual variation of rainfall in Travancore follows a regular curve that has two maxima and two minima. The absolute maximum and minimum occur in June and January respectively, while the secondary maximum and minimum fall respectively in October and September. The least amount of rainfall is received in the month of January. Precipitation then goes on moderately increasing till the commencement of the S. W. monsoon, which takes place generally about the last week of May. June is preeminently the month of maximum rainfall throughout Travancore. Then a slight diminution takes place in the amount of the rainfall received in the several stations during the months of July and August, and the secondary minimum is arrived at in the month of September. There is a sudden increase in the amount of rainfall in the month of October. This rain is locally known as Thulavarsham. The fall then decreases slowly in the month of November and rapidly through December and January, which last is the driest month of the year. More than 87% of the annual rainfall is received during the prevalence of the S. W. monsoon, viz., from May to November.

Periods of deficient rainfall

As for periods of deficient rainfall, it is on record that the year 1860 was a year of famine in South Travancore. The rainfalls in Trivandrum for 1855 and 1870 also indicate years of scarcity. Beyond this, it is impossible to accurately determine the years of deficient rainfall before 1885, as it was only from that year that an extensive system of rainfall observations was begun. During the year 1881, however, rainfall records were received from 13 stations, and the amount of rainfall in all of them was far below the normal, the actual amount in one of them being 64% less than the normal. In 1880 and 1890 the fall was below the normal at 27 and 30 stations respectively out of the 86 stations at which rainfall was gauged. At the stations at which the rainfall was below the normal, the deficiency was 28% of the normal in 1886 and 23% of the normal in 1890. In 1894 and 1895 the rainfall was below the normal by 518.25 and 565.37 inches respectively i.e., by 17.0% and 18.6% of the normal.

Out of the 36 stations, 30 stations in 1894 and 31 stations in 1895 had rain below the normal. In the years 1892 and 1893, a considerable deficiency in the amount of rainfall seems to have taken place in the Padmanabhapuram Division alone. The actual amounts received were 65.6% of the normal in 1892 and 63.3% in 1893. Thus it may be inferred with a fair degree of accuracy that the years 1886 and 1890 were years of deficient rainfall throughout Travancore. The biennial period of 1894 and 1895 must also have been more than usually dry throughout Travancore. The years 1892 and 1893 seem to be years of drought in South Travancore though the intensity of the drought may have been feeble.

A table giving the mean monthly and annual rainfall at 36 stations in Travancore is given below:


Wind. About the general character of the air movement at Trivandrum, Mr. J. Elliot writes* —

NOTEs: * Indian Meterological Memoirs; Part I, Vol. X

‘’During the period from November to April when north-east winds generally obtain in the south and centre of the Bay of Bengal and the air movement is continued across the Deccan, Mysore and South Madras as north-easterly to easterly winds, Trivandrum is sheltered by the high Travancore hills from these winds. The air motion at Trivandrum during this period consists of an alternating movement between land and sea (i.e., land and sea-breezes) and of a feeble general movement from directions between north and west common to the Konkan and Malabar coasts at this period. The direction of the movement is apparently determined in part at least by the trend of the coast.

“During the remainder of the year, from about the middle of May to November, South-west monsoon winds of greater or less intensity prevail in the Arabian sea. They usually set in on the Travancore coast in the last week of May. They have their greatest extension and also the greatest intensity in the months of July and August. They begin to fall off in strength in September and continue to decrease in intensity in the south of the Arabian Sea in October and November, but withdraw gradually during these months from the north and centre of the sea area, being replaced by light variable winds. During the period of the full extension of the South-west monsoon over the north of the Arabian sea into upper India in July and August, the current in the south-east between the Laccadives and Maladives and the Malabar coast not only falls off to some extent, but in the lower strata instead of rising directly and surmounting the Travancore hills it tends to be deflected towards the south by these hills and to pass south-eastwards along the coast and join that part of the current which passes to the south of Ceylon and enters the Bay. There is hence a slight northerly shift of the winds on the Malabar coast from the beginning to the middle of the South -West monsoon.”

Variation of wind velocity.

The annual variation in the strength of the winds in the south and. centre of the Arabian sea is reflected in the winds at Trivandrum. The air movement is least at Trivandrum in December, or at the end of the S. W. monsoon. It increases slightly during the next three months and rapidly from April to July and is absolutely greatest in August. It falls off very rapidly in October and November attaining the minimum in December.

The diurnal variation of velocity differs considerably in character at different seasons of the year. From November to April it is determined by the alternating movement of the sea and land breezes. There are hence during this period two maxima and two minima, the former corresponding with the greatest intensity of the land and sea breezes, and the latter with the average of the shift from one to the other which, of course, varies considerably from day to day. The day maximum of the sea-breeze is very strongly exhibited as is also the evening minimum. The morning maximum and minimum of the land-breeze are, as might be expected, less marked than the corresponding phases of the sea-breeze, but are clearly shown.

They are most pronounced in December, January and February; and it is hence in these months that the land and sea breezes are probably most prominent and form the chief feature of the air movement. The land winds are strongest at about a little after sunrise and the sea-breeze at 2 P.M. or at nearly the same instant as the maximum of temperature. The morning minimum is accelerated as the season advances, whilst the evening minimum is retarded. The effect of the increasing temperature from January to April is hence to lengthen the period of the sea-breezes and diminish that of the land-breezes (by a total amount of 5 hours) between January and April. The diurnal variation during the remainder of the year, May to October, consists of a single oscillation, the maximum velocity occurring from about 2 p. m. and the minimum shortly after midnight. The ratio of the maximum to the minimum velocity in the diurnal variation is fairly constant throughout the period.

The following is a picturesque description of the setting in of the monsoon in Travancore by Mr. J. A. Broun F. E. S., a late Director of the Trivandrum Observatory: —

“There is no place in India where the magnificent phenomena which precedes the bursting of the monsoon can be seen and studied with more ease than on the Agustia Peak. For a month or more before the final crash of the tempest, the whole operations of the great atmospheric laboratory are developed at our feet, while the summit of the mountain itself is rarely visited by the storms which rage over its western flanks. In the morning, chains of finely formed cumuli seem to rest over the sea horizons of Malabar and Coromandel. Frequently it is evident that what appears a serried file of cloud masses is only cumuli irregularly distributed over the country; their shadows, projected near noon, spot and chequer the plains and the undulating country below from sea to mountain. Early in the morning the vapours begin to rise near the western precipices; the cloud accumulates and seeks to pass by the lowest cols into the eastern valleys; it seems opposed by a repulsive influence, for no breath of air is felt; it ascends at last, after noon, in mighty masses crowned with cirrous clouds which spread eastwards like an immense parasol over our heads.

“Then the lightning begins to play, darting in varied and ramiform circuits from cloud to cloud; the thunder rolls, at first in sharp separate crashes, and at last continuously; the rain is heard drenching the forests below. After an hour, or several hours, according to the distance from the monsoon, the clouds quit the mountains, move more westwards, and then disappear; the sun shines out again over the western sea, assuming before setting the most fantastic forms; the stars sparkle in all their beauty, and the morning again appears with its chains of clouds on the horizon. As the time for the monsoon draws near, the cloud masses seek with more and more energy to pass the mountains eastwards; sometimes two such masses present themselves, — one creeping up an eastern valley, the other entering the col from the west. Nothing can be more interesting than to watch this combat of the vapours. Day by day the western clouds enter a little farther; at last they come driven on by a giant force, — rise to the tops of the mountains, and pour over their walls into the eastern hollows, like the steam from a great caldron; they plunge first downwards Niagaras of cloud and then as they curl upwards, they disappear, absorbed in the hotter eastern air. The storm, with deluges of rain, sweeps over the mountain, and the monsoon reigns over the low lands of Malabar.”*

NOTEs: * Trevandrum Magnetical Observations, Vol. 1

Storms. The storms that usually frequent the Indian Peninsula and the adjacent seas belong to the class called “Cyclones”. In a cyclone, the wind blows in spiral curves, more or less circular in form, round a centre of low pressure, increasing in force as it approaches the centre. The whole cyclone thus constituted, besides turning round a focus, has a straight or curved motion forwards, so that, like a great whirlwind, it is both turning round, and, as it were, rolling forwards at the same time.

It is an important feature of -the climatology of Travancore that it is mostly free from the track of storms of any kind. The chief causes that contribute towards this end are its geographical position and its natural features providing it with a mighty wall of mountains on its eastern border. It is well known that the immediate vicinity of the Equator is never frequented by cyclones. According to Mr. Elliot, Lat. 8° N. appears to be the boundary line to the south of which cyclonic storms are seldom or never generated. Further, cyclones do not form so generally on land as over sea area, and Travancore is effectively protected by its mountains from the few storms that, having originated in the Bay of Bengal, enter the Arabian sea across the Peninsula.

Mr. Elliot says: — “It is probable that it is only storms which extend to an exceptional height into the upper atmosphere which sui-mount this obstacle It may be taken as generally true that any storm crossing the Peninsula into the Arabian sea, no matter what its original or subsequent intensity, will have relatively little influence on the weather over the narrow strip of land intervening between the Ghauts and the Arabian sea or over the sea adjacent to the west coast of the Peninsula.”

This is because of the circumstance that on the storm encountering the Ghauts, the whole of the lower circulation is broken up, and the descent subsequently effected is carried out slowly, not by the sudden and abrupt descent of the disturbance, but by a gradual downward extension of the cyclonic motion into the unaffected surface strata of the air. Hence it is not till the cyclone has advanced to some distance from the coast-line that the full effects of the phenomenon are experienced, and that the storm becomes fully recognisable. Thus the occurrences of storms in Travancore are few and far between. Besides, it is only a heavy torrential rain accompanied by a barometric depression that is often felt on land as the effect of the passage of many a cyclone through the Arabian sea near the Travancore coast.

Two instances can, however, be traced of severe storms that have been felt in Travancore, one in April 1779 and the other in December 1845. About the middle of April 1779 a hurricane was felt off Anjengo in which the East India Company’s ship Cruiser was lost. At the close of November 1845, a cyclonic storm was formed over the Bay of Bengal, which passed across the Indian Peninsula and travelled north-westward into the Arabian sea. That this storm raged throughout Travancore can be inferred from the following excerpts: —


The wind blew very strongly at 1 a. m. of the 3rd December, and a violent gale lasted from 2:30 a. m. to 3 a. m. The wind then abated for half an hour after which it recommenced with greater violence than ever, and continued till about day-break. Three inches of rain fell during the second. The barometer fell three-tenths of an inch between 8 a. m. on the 2nd and 2 a. m. on the 3rd, while it rose upwards of 0.3 inch during the next 7 hours. The barometric readings at Trivandrum during the passage of the storm are given below.


QUILON.— The Master Attendant wrote: — “The gale commenced at 10 PM. of the 2nd and continued till 7 a. m. 3rd.”

Alleppey. — The Master Attendant wrote: — “A gale of wind with rain commenced about midnight, 2nd, and continued till day-light, 3rd when it blew a hurricane.”

Mr. Bailey wrote to General Cullen from Kottayam — “We were visited at Kottayam, on the morning of the 3rd instant by the same gale of wind to which you refer. Many trees were blown down or rather broken off near the roots. A good many tiles were blown off the roof of our printing office. Many persons had very narrow escapes, and three individuals at some distance from us lost their lives, and it is supposed many more”



Earthquake shocks of greater or less intensity have passed through some portion or other of the Travancore territory on the following dates —

1. February 1823
2. 19th September 1841
8. 23rd November 1845
4. 11th August 1856
6. 22nd August 1856
6. 1st September 1856
7. 10th November 1859
8. 8th February 1900
9. 28th May 1903

A short account of the occurrence of each of these earthquakes is given below. —

February 1823. This shock was felt at Palamcottah slightly, and by the Rev. C. Mault at Nagercoil, and, an account of the shock as felt at the latter place was published in the Madras Government Gazette, by Captain Douglas, then stationed at Nagercoil. Nothing further is known of this earthquake.

19th September 1841. The shock as felt at Trivandrum seems to have been pretty severe, as the people at church at the time of the shock, immediately left it, fearing that the building might come down on them. The vessel supplying water to the Wet Bulb thermometer in the Observatory was shaken off its stand and broken, and several mud houses were thrown down in the Fort and elsewhere. It began in the east and passed off to the west. This shock was felt throughout South Travancore and at Palamcottah. The time noted at the Trivandrum Observatory was 11 h. 20 m. A. M.
23rd November 1845. Rev. B. Bailey (in a letter to General Cullen dated 8th December 1845 wrote —

“ On Sunday the 23rd ultimo (November) we were visited at about 2 o’clock p.m. by a slight shock of earthquake, succeeded by a rumbling noise resembling that of distant thunder... when my house was shaken to the foundation and the whole of the beams and timber gave a sudden crack as if the house rocked east and west. The shock was felt all over Kottayam”. This shock does not appear to have been perceived at Trivandrum.

11th August 1856. A shock was felt on this date at 5h. 51m. 25 s. A.M. as noted down by the Assistant on watch in the Observatory. The shock lasted 20 seconds. The magnetic instruments do not seem to have had any vibration or change of mean positions. The shock has also been felt at Parassala, Quilon, Courtallam and Pallam. It was not felt near Cape Comorin nor at Nagercoil and Agastyamala. Mr. Broun considered that the shock must have come from a direction between north and west.

This earthquake was thus described by Mr. Broun in a letter to the Madras Athenaeum in 1856 —

“The Assistant in the Trivandrum Observatory having the watch on the morning referred to (11th April 1856), was entering an observation when he heard a low rumbling sound which he thought at first was distant thunder towards the north-east; in about 3 seconds the rafters of the building began to crack, the windows to rattle and a mirror resting on the table to shake; he immediately looked at the clock and found the time 5h. 51 m. 30s, which allowing for the clock error would give the mean Trivandrum time of the commencement of the sound 5h. 51 m. 25s. He then went out to look towards the north-east and immediately thereafter the sound ceased with a louder ‘boom’; on looking again at the clock the time by it was 5h. 54 m. and he estimated the duration of noise and shock at nearly 20 seconds. He now examined the magnetical instruments, but could perceive neither vibration nor change of mean position. It is not impossible however that the magnets might have had swinging or dancing motions without being remarked by the observer as vibrations round a vertical axis only are noted. An examination by myself since, of the observations made before and after the shock, confirms the fact of the steadiness of all the magnets.

The velocity of the winds from north-west was nearly as usual at the same hour; the sky was nine-tenths clouded, the clouds moving from north-west, the temperature of the air was nearly 73°, the maximum temperature of the day being nearly 78°. The shock it seems was felt at Quilon about six o’clock’ and Mr. Liddell at Charlios Hope near the road between Quilon and Courtallam says, ‘we had a smart shock of an earthquake about 10 minutes before six on Monday morning.’

“I was on the summit of our highest mountains, the Agustier Malay (about 30 miles W. N. W. of Trivandrum) on Monday the 11th but did not perceive any shock. The testimony on the whole seems to indicate a southerly and easterly point as the direction of the origin, all agreeing that the sound was heard before the shock was perceived”.

22nd August 1856. The shock was felt at 4h. 25m.10s. P.M. The magnetic instruments were found dancing up and down with sharp jerks and a brass weight hanging in a closed box was observed by means of a telescope to dance perceptibly 15 m. after the shock. The shock passed from west-north-west to east-south-east. The Bifilar magnetometer vibration at 4 h. 30m. was 3.0 scale division, whereas at the hours before and after, it was only 0.6 scale division. This shock was also felt at Quilon about 4 h. and 16 m. and at Pallam. No shock was felt at Cochin or at Courtallam, nor to the south of Trivandrum.

1st September 1856. The time of the shock was 12 h. 44 m. 58 s, noon*. The direction of the shock as ascertained by a lead weight hung by a silk thread 17 feet long was from N. 30° W. to S. 30° E. The Bifilar magnetometer vibrated through 14.6 scale divisions at 1h.30m. This shock was felt at Cape Comorin, Nagercoil, Neyyur, and the Tinnevelly District. It does not seem to have been felt at any place north of Trivandrum.

NOTEs* In a letter published at Page 113, Vol 1 New series, of the Madras Journal of Literature and Science, Mr. Broun, the then Government Astronomer gives the time as 15 m. 0s afternoon

10th November 1859. A shock was felt at 10h.31m.47s. A.M. both the Unifilar and the Bifilar magnetometers were observed to dance up and down. The long pendulum referred to above had a slight motion from N. 30° W. to S. 30° E.

8th February 1900. A pretty severe shock was felt at 2h. 56m. A.M. On this date the magnetic instruments were not observed. The shock was felt to pass from N. to S.

28th May 1903. A slight shock was felt at 2h.46m. P.M. The magnetometers were visibly affected, and the Bifilar vibrated through 10.7 scale divisions.

Besides the above, the magnetic instruments in the Observatory have often indicated the occurrence of earthquakes elsewhere but not felt in Travancore. The most important of such indications were those of the shock that passed through the Districts of Madura and Tinnevelly on March 17th 1856 and the famous Calcutta earthquake of 12th June 1897. An examination of the magnetometer observation on the night of the 17th March 1856 at Trivandrum and Agastyamala shows that the shock may have passed the line of the Ghauts and Trivandrum before 11h.30m p.m. Mr. Broun says, “the time of the night and the little habit the natives have of observing, may partially explain the fact that the shock was not felt at Trivandrum”.

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Valuable Timber Trees
Teak | Malabar Blackwood | Ebony
Sandalwood | Anjili | Thambagam
Venga | Thembavu | White Cedar
Red Cedar | Ventekku | Jack
Irul | Mayila | Manjakadambu
Ceylon Oak | Manimaruthu | Mango
Malampunna | Cheeni | Pathiri
Cotton Tree | Karuntagara or Vaga | Malakanjiram
Iron-wood | Nedunar | Shurali
Indian Copal | Malavuram | Kalagan
Kollamavu | Arayanjili | Aval
Venkotta | Mukkampala | Palagapayani
Maruthu or Pumaruthu | Kanakaitha | Kar Anjili
Mulluvenga | Pambarakumbil | Kattu Iluppa
Puthankalli | Karuva | Kalpayin
Shenchandanam | Kattu Puvan | Wynaad Shingle-tree
Vellakasavu |

Trees yielding Gums, Resins and Dyes

Avenue Trees

Cycads and Palms

Bamboos and Reeds

Fibrous Plants

Medicinal Trees and Plants
Vettila Kasturi | Peruntutti | Kuppameni
Nayuri | Vasamboo | Adatoda
Bilva | Chittaratta | Lemon grass
Vilamicham | Karuntumba | Samudrachedi
Perumarundoo | Nirmulli | Kattu Atthi
Alpam | Erukkalai | Modakattan
Seema Agathi | Karuva | Elumichai
Sankhapushpam | Nervalam | Mavilangam
Kuvamanjal | Kasturimanjal | Veliparuthi
Karusalankanni | Mullumurunga | Devadaram
Kammatti | Karunochi | Choratti
Kazhanchi | Narunindi | Kodagapala
Maravetti | Modirakanni | Vallarai
Orelatamara | Indian Jalap | Shevatai
Kattumallika | Kattamanakku | Vembu
Champaka | Thottavadi | Karuveppila
Wild nutmeg, Jatikkai | Sweet Basil | Tulasi
Nelli | Kilanelli | Pevetti
Black Pepper | Kodiveli | Pomegranate
Nagamalli | Karinghota | Sandalwood
Belamodagam | Ealettadi-maravara | Senkottai
Agathi | Kandankathri | Tooduvala
Tanikai | Indian Almond | Kadukai
Sirukanjori | Nerunji | Peppodal
Narumpanel | Chembara valli | Ginger
Jujube |

Flowering and Ornamental Plants
Allamanda Cathartica | Samstravadi | Mandarai
Porasu | Saralkonnai | Chirutekku
Sankhapushpam | Kasturimanjal | Murunga
Gloriosa superb | Champaruthi | Adakodien
Thetti | Kattumallika | Kattujirakamulla
Manimaruthu | Nedumchetti | Champaka
Indian Cork tree | Vellila or Vellinoiadantai | Lotus
Sweet-scented Oleander | Parijatakam or Pavazhamalli | Alli
Kaitha | Venga | Nandiyavatta

Concluding remarks

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Righteous Rama, soft-eyed Sita, and the gallant Lakshman stood
In the wilderness of Dandak, — trackless, pathless, boundless wood,
But within its gloomy gorges, dark and deep and known to few,
Humble homes of hermit sages rose before the prince’s view.

* * * * * *
Creepers threw their clasping tendrils round the trees of ample height,
Stately palm and feathered cocoa, fruit and blossom pleased the sight,
Herds of tame and gentle creatures in the grassy meadow strayed,
Kokils sang in leafy thicket, birds of plumage lit the shade.
Limpid lakes of scented lotus with their fragrance tilled the air.
Homos and huts of rustic beauty peeped through bushes green and fair,
Blossoms rich in tint and fragrance in the checkered shadow gleamed,
Clustering fruits of golden beauty in the yellow sunlight beamed! “
Ramayana (R C. Dutt).

The special characteristics of Travancore flora are its diversity, beauty and economic value. The peculiar climate of the country, its rich forest soil and the extraordinary rainfall foster the growth of the several species of the indigenous trees and shrubs. From the middle of June to the middle of December the hills and plateaus are filled with rank vegetation and present a rich green appearance. During this period several valleys are impervious to men and some glens are inaccessible even to day-light. Hundreds of shrubs rise in the shade of the gigantic trees and entwine themselves with the climbing creepers that almost cover the trees. The rains cease with the beginning of December and most of these shrubs and creepers probably die before January closes. In the hot months, the dried underwood may be seen burning on all the hill tops. These fires are sometimes caused by excessive heat of the sun but more often by the hill Kanis for purposes of cultivation.


Of the forest trees, the Teak is the most valuable, being fit for all purposes where strength and durability are required. The Poon is found in the less accessible spots and is specially fitted for masts by its height and straightness. The Anjili affords excellent planks which are largely used in house-building. The stately Cotton tree is generally used for boat-making. The Arayanjili and the Caryota yield good fibres specially adapted to the manufacture of cordage and ropes. The Bamboo and the allied reeds are plentiful on the river banks. The wild Mango, the wild Jack, and the black, red and iron wood trees are common everywhere; those yielding gamboge, dragon’s blood, Muttippal and other kinds of aromatic gums are met with amongst the species of resin trees. Travancore seems to’ be the home of the Palm of which there are at least six species in the forests, two cultivated — the Borassus flabelliformis or Palmyra palm and the Corypha unbraculifera or the Talipot palm, and four wild — Pinanga dichronii, Caryota urens, Bentinckia condapana and Arenga Wightii.

The plains are not so thickly wooded and in certain places are bare as in parts of South Travancore, though this part of the country and the adjacent districts of Pandi must have been at one time covered with dense jungle. The low country trees are of the ordinary type and there is a lamentable absence of good fruit trees. The Jack and the Mango, generally of the inferior sort, are met with in every compound and garden. The Palmyra abounds in South Travancore as does the Cocoanut in Central and North Travancore; the Tamarind is but poorly represented considering the facilities for its growth. The Bamboo is practically unknown in the plains though the banks of rivers and channels afford fine soil for its growth. The avenue trees are chiefly Banyan, Arasu, Poo-arasu, Ichi and Naval interspersed occasionally with the Mango, Jack and Tamarind. There is a large variety of medicinal plants, and those yielding fibres, gums, resins, and dyes, a reference to which will be made later on.

Mr. T. F. Bourdillon, the Conservator of Forests, after commenting on the similarity of the flora of Travancore and Assam thus observes in an interesting article on the Flora of Travancore*: —

“From this it is reasonable to infer that one continuous forest of uniform character stretched from the west coast of India to Assam and Burma, and that the plants now found in the opposite extremes of India are the descendants of a common ancestor. The forests that still remain are the relic and the development of the great forest that covered the continent, and in the interests of science, the preservation of these remains from complete destruction has not come a day too soon.”

NOTEs: *The Malabar Quarterly Review June 1903

Of the general characteristics of the Travancore flora, he writes: —

“Undoubtedly the most remarkable feature of the forests of Travancore is the extent and variety of the Flora. Many writers have commented on the small number of the species in temperate and arctic climates as compared with the variety of species in tropical countries from the time that Darwin published his ‘Voyage round the world.’ Readers of that inimitable work will remember his description of the dark and sodden forests that clothe the Island of Tierra del Fuego, composed of one species of tree only.

“The most recent authority who has referred to the subject is Gamble, in his preface to the new edition of his Manual of Indian Timbers. He there places ‘the limiting number of species in the woody vegetation of India at 5,000. This includes shrubs and climbers as well as trees. With this he compares the 397 species mentioned in the Forest Flora of France, which includes many quite small plants, and the 134 species mentioned in Hooker’s Student’s Flora, as occurring in England.

“Now in Travancore more than 600 species of trees are known to occur which attain a height of 20 feet and upwards, excluding climbers and bushes of all sorts, and so little do we know of the trees that inhabit the interior that it is very probable that another 50 to 60 species will be added to the list when all parts of the forests have been explored. We may say that in this State which covers an area of about 7,000 square miles, there are to be found no fewer than 700 kinds of trees or one new kind of tree for every 10 square miles. When it is remembered that about half of the area is open inhabited country, rich in paddy fields and cocoanut topes and watered by numerous lakes and rivers, the variety of species becomes the more remarkable. This variety is due no doubt to differences of elevation from — 9,000 feet and to differences of aspect and of rainfall, for according to the locality, the rain falls in different months, and the amount varies from 20 inches to 300 during the year.
But there is the result, this astonishing wealth of species, surely nowhere equalled in any other part of the world.

“In one respect this great variety of species may be looked on as an advantage, in another as a disadvantage. Among so many hundreds — nay thousands of trees and shrubs and herbs, there might be a large number capable of producing useful products — timber or fruits, gums, oils, or medicines. The field of work is wide — the results to be obtained both useful and interesting. Who will devote himself to the study? And it must be remembered that there is no finality about the work. We may examine one species of tree or plant and decide that it has no properties which will ever be of any use to man, and the timber, the fruit and the resin may be regarded in the present state of our knowledge as worthless. Let us therefore destroy the plant wherever found, to make way for the betters. But next year some chemical discovery may bring to light the fact that this very despised plant has certain properties possessed by no others, such for instance as the peculiar property of dulling the taste of sweet things, possessed by the pretty little creeper Cymuehttt sylvestre. One of the commonest trees in our low country forests is the Charei or Chera, Holigarna ferruginea. From its stem, from its leaves and from its fruit issues a blistering juice, of which nothing is known at present except that when it touches the skin of certain persons, the results are swelling and much pain. The immediate conclusion to be arrived at is that such a tree should be exterminated wherever found, for its timber is soft and worthless and is not suitable even for fuel, but who can say that within a dozen years, we shall not be asked to collect the acrid juice of this tree as a valuable medical agent? In this way the great variety of our Flora is interesting because it opens up such a wide field for study, and because it foreshadows the great possibilities and the great discoveries yet to be made.

“But from another point of view the variety is a disadvantage. In his report on the Forests of Ceylon written some 20 years ago, Mr. Vincent expressed the opinion that not more than 2 per cent of the species of trees to be found in Ceylon were of any commercial value, and judged by the standard of our present knowledge, the proportion of useful trees in Travancore is very small. There is an unlimited demand for certain timbers, but for others, hardly inferior to the favoured ones, and much appreciated in other parts of India, there is no demand. Who will be so enterprising as to experiment with the despised woods? Many times have we offered them for sale, and promised their good qualities, but in vain. The ordinary Timber merchant will buy the 20 kinds which he knows readily. All the rest are ‘Palmaram’, useless species to him and only to be consumed as fuel.

“It has often been said that the trees and plants of. India have no flowers and that such flowers as they have are without scent, and that except for the mango and the pine-apples there is no fruit worth eating. This by comparison with Europe. But the comparison is hardly fair. The truth is that the wild products of the one continent are as good as those of the other. Our cultivated plants and fruits are indeed vastly inferior to those of Europe, and the reason is not far to seek. They have not been selected and improved in the way that they have been improved in Europe, because the class of market gardeners and florists, and that of wealthy landowners interested in scientific agriculture does not exist in India, but the material from which to evolve the better product is not wanting.

“It is in the spring time that in Europe the earth puts on her garment of beautiful flowers. Our spring time is in September. It is then that the grassy uplands are covered with balsams, with white and pink orchids and yellow stone-crop. Most of the herbaceous plants blossom then, the pleasantest time of the year when the rains have poured their water on the soil, and the air is cool with soft breezes. So far as the wild flowers go, I do not think that Travancore is far behind other countries. We have no primroses or violets with their sweet scent but we have many beautiful orchids and others such as lilies, and amaryllis all awaiting the art of the horticulturist to improve them almost out of recognition.

“As regards fruits, we have the wild Jack and Mango which bear insipid or acid fruit in the wild state. The difference between the wild and the cultivated forms shows what can be done by cultivation. One of our commonest trees in the forests is the Longan — Nephdium longana — which in China produces a fruit of great excellence. It is largely exported from that country. The wild fruit is the size of the top of the thumb, round and wrinkled. Its appearance would not lead one to suppose that it could ever be improved into a fruit for the dessert table. The hillmen recognise many other fruits as fit for food even in their wild state. Some of them are not bad eating, and are at least much better than the wild mango. Perhaps the best of these is the fruit of Clausena villdenovvi— the ‘Potti’ of the Hillmen, of which Beddome said, it is ‘very delicious, as large as a large cherry, succulent as a grape, and somewhat of the flavour of black currant’. The fruit is not unlike a white grape but instead of growing in bunches, 6 or 8 fruits grow along a common stalk. This and many other wild fruits are well worthy of improvement and cultivation but this Clausena in particular. It does not like being moved from the climate and surroundings in which it is generally found.

“The vegetation and Flora of Travancore are of exceptional interest first, because they are the relic and development of flora which was at one time uniform over a large part of India, secondly, because of the extraordinary variety of species occurring within a small area, and thirdly because many of these species have been taken as types of plants with which others from all parts of the world have been compared.”

This chapter* is treated under the following heads: —

(1 Valuable timber trees

(2 Trees yielding gums, resins, and dyes

(3 Avenue trees

(4 Cycads and palms

(5 Bamboos and reeds

(6 Fibrous plants

(7 Medicinal plants

(8 Flowering and Ornamental plants

NOTEs: * The information for this chapter is based on Mr. Bourdillon’s exhaustive “Report on the Forests of Travancore” and his “Notes on some of the coninioner trees of the Travancore forests”, Dmry’s “Useful plants of India”, and Balfour’s “Timber trees of India”. The draft as originally prepared, from which this one is condensed, has been kindly corrected by Mr. Bonrdillon himself.

Valuable timber trees. There are nearly 650 indigenous trees in the forests of Travancore. This number includes many species occurring in North India and others peculiar to Ceylon. The uses only of a very few trees are known in Travancore. Others are considered useless and are popularly known as Palmarangal. In other parts of India these trees are highly valued. As the trees which are now considered valuable are getting rarer, the latter trees will in future be looked upon by the people as valuable and will be utilized.

1. Teak, Tekku — Tectono grandis

This is rightly called “the monarch of the woods” as it is the most highly-priced timber under favourable circumstances and is perhaps the most useful of all the timber trees of India. It generally grows to a height of 80 to 100 feet to the first branch with a girth of 22 feet. In Travancore the tree seldom attains a height of more than 50 feet to the fork and a girth of 10 feet. It thrives best with a rainfall of from 120 to 150 inches and in a temperature ranging from 60° to 90° and attains its maturity in from 80 to 100 years and is sometimes found 400 years old. It grows in open forest, wants much room and light and never occurs in heavy moist forest from sea-level up to 8,000 feet elevation. The teak tree is usually found with such trees as Dalbergia latifolia, Pterocarpus marsupium, Terminalia paniculata, Anogeissus latifolia, Schleichera trijuga, Gmelina arborea, Sterospermum xylocarpum, Careya arboreay Phyllanthus emblica and others. It grows best at an elevation of 1,000 — 2,000 feet. The Idiyara valley has long been celebrated for the quality and size of its teak. Fifty or sixty years must pass after plantation before the tree can yield serviceable timber. The wood is brown in colour and when fresh sawn has the fragrance of rosewood — hard yet light, easily worked, strong and durable though porous. Its strength and durability are well known; for house-building and furniture it is the best of woods.

The Malabar teak is generally esteemed the best. For ship -building purposes, it is superior to every other sort of wood, being light, strong and durable whether in or out of water and hence it is extensively used for that purpose. A cubic foot of seasoned wood weighs about 40 lbs, that of unseasoned 55 lbs. or more. Burma teak is much lighter and Kole teak is heavier. A commercially valuable oil is extracted from the teak wood.
Kole teak is teak occurring in hard and unsuitable soil and hence growing not more than 3 feet in girth. Most of the teak in the low country if Ifdi tef aj|d its wood is close-grained and heavier than the ordinary

2. Malabar Blackwood (Rosewood, Eattie — Dalbergia latifolia

There are two species which yield blackwood, found in Travancore, viz., D, latifolia and D. sissoides. It attains an enormous size in Malabar and is often crooked. It is one of the most valuable trees of the Travancore forests. It is heavy and close-grained admitting of fine polish and is much used for furniture but seldom for building. The wood is white externally; in the centre of the trunk and the large branches it is purple or purplish black, often mottled or with light coloured veins running in various directions. The tree grows to a height of 60 to 80 feet and requires a temperature slightly cooler than that in which teak thrives, with a rainfall averaging from 50 to 150 inches. In strength it excels teak, but is very scarce and of slow growth, and less adapted for plantation than the teak. It does not seem to prefer any particular soil. It grows in the Travancore hills at an elevation of 0-3,600 feet and prefers a rather higher elevation than teak. One cubic foot of seasoned wood weighs 52 lbs; unseasoned 60 - 66 lbs.

8. Ebony, Karungali — Diospyros assimilis

This is a large tree 80 or 90 feet in height and 6 or 8 feet in girth growing in the Travancore forest at an elevation of 0-2,000 feet. It requires a considerable rainfall, but still it is very sparingly distributed. The heart-wood is black, hard and heavy, and is most valuable. In strength it excels teak. It is not much used as a building material for the pimple reason that wood of this kind, more than 6 inches square, is very seldom obtained. When young the wood is white, but as the tree advances in age the black portion increases until at last in the later stages of its growth the black heart is of considerable size. But there is always a large quantity of sap-wood even in old trees. It is used chiefly for ornamental work, furniture, inlaying, mathematical instruments, rulers &c.

The tree is of very slow growth. More than 100 years should elapse before an ebony tree attains a diameter of 1 foot. It is not suited for plantations. There are nearly 20 other kinds of Diospyros, but none of them have blackwood except D. ebenum which is extremely rare. One cubic foot of seasoned wood weighs 81 lbs; unseasoned 90-100 lbs.

4. Sandalwood — Santalum album

This small tree (height never more than 20 feet grows in the Travancore hills at an elevation of 3,000 feet, and is celebrated for its highly scented and valuable timber. It is very sparingly distributed in Travancore, being found only in the Anchanad valley. Three varieties of sandalwood are known in commerce, the white, the yellow, and the red — the two former coming under Santalum album now under notice. The timber is eminently fitted for carving and other ornamental work such as small boxes, walking sticks, pen-holders and other fine articles. From this wood is produced the paste Chandanam which is used by Hindus for their caste marks. A valuable oil is distilled from the wood, 1 pound of the wood yielding about 2 drams of oil. The fragrance increases as the tree advances in age.

This also is a tree of slow growth, reaching its full development in 60 to 100 years, by which time the tree will have a diameter of one foot of heart- wood. It is well adapted for plantations if suitable land is selected, i. e., land with good soil and elevation not less than 1,000 feet and a light rainfall of 20 to 50 inches.

5. Anjili, Ayani — Arfocarpus hirsuta

This lofty and handsome tree (height 100-160 feet, girth 16 feet grows in the Travancore forests at an elevation of 0-8,000 feet. It yields the valuable wood so well known on this coast for house-building, furniture, frame works, boats etc. It grows very rapidly on yellow loam with a rainfall exceeding 60 inches, reaching its maturity in 25 to 40 years. Its wood is bright yellow turning to brown with age, very straight-grained and free from knots and takes a fine polish. The bark yields a brown dye and the fruit is edible. The tree is well suited for plantations. Weight of seasoned wood 42 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 48 lbs.

6. Thambagam — Hopea parviflora

This lofty tree (height 100 feet, girth 15 feet thrives best in heavy forest at an elevation of from 800 to 8,000 feet. It is also found to some extent along the banks of rivers in the low country. The wood is close-grained, heavy and yellow becoming darker with age. It is used for bridges and buildings of all sorts and occasionally for boats. It stands exposure when sawn into scantlings but cracks if sawn into thin planks. It is not attacked by white ants.

This tree grows nearly as fast as Anjili but is difficult to raise from seed. It is well suited for plantations.

7. Venga — Pterocarpus marsupium

This is a large and very beautiful tree, especially when in flower at the beginning of the rains (height 80 to 90 feet, girth 10 feet). It yields one of the most abundant and useful timbers, the Venga wood of South India. It is widely diffused and is found in large numbers in the forests of Travancore. It grows best on stiff soil at an elevation of 0-3,000 feet and is found in company with Eattie, Thembavu and other trees. It is found in abundance where teak is scarce. It is a fast grower and attains maturity in about 60 to 80 years and grows to double that age, but is not suited for plantation as it is not gregarious. The timber is as strong as teak, heavier, and less liable to split after long exposure. The colour of the wood is dirty yellow darkening with exposure. It is never used for house-building in Travancore, as, when wet or unseasoned, it imparts a yellow stain and gives out to wet lime a dark rusty brown colour. It is specially useful for fine furniture and resembles fine Mahogany but must be well seasoned to avoid the yellow stain. Seasoned wood weighs 56 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 65-70 lbs.

This tree yields a resinous substance which is exported in large quantities. This is the gum Kino of commerce used largely for dyeing and calico-printing.

8. Thembavu — Terminalia tomentosa

This is another huge tree (height 80 to 120 feet, girth 12 feet) growing in open grass forest at an elevation of 0-3,000 feet in company with blackwood, teak and other trees. Its growth is fairly fast; it reaches maturity in 80-100 years and lives for more than 200 years. The wood is dark brown, hard and heavy, and is much used for house-building. In matured trees, the wood is exceedingly heavy, of the same weight as water and is not easily worked. It is a disappointing timber. Its strength and durability are uncertain or it would be used even more largely than it is. The weight of seasoned wood is 60 lbs. a cubic foot, and that of unseasoned 75-80 lbs.

The ashes of the burned bark produce a kind of chunam which contains much potash. The bark is used in tanning and the leaves for manuring the paddy fields. The leaves form the food of the Tusser silk worm. A dyeing substance is obtained from the bark of this tree, which is used for brown colouring.

9. White Cedar, Vellai Agil — Dysoxylum malabarivum

This lofty tree (height 120 feet, girth 16 feet) is found only on the West Coast of India from Canara to Cape Comorin and there, it is abundant and well distributed. It grows in moist forest at an elevation of 0-3,000 feet and attains its greatest size at an elevation of 1,400 feet. The wood is pale yellow with a smooth silky vein, sweet-scented and easily worked and is used for oil casks. It does not stand exposure. Seasoned wood weighs 42 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 52 lbs.

The cedar is a tree of moderate growth, 500 years being the limit of its life; it grows more rapidly in its younger stages.

10. Red Cedar, Madagiri Vembu — Cedrela toona

This large and valuable tree (height 60 feet) is abundant in Travancore. It grows at an elevation of 0-4,000 feet and is common on the Peermade hills. This is well suited for plantations and grows well with Anjili. The wood, coarse, red and sweet-scented, is used for furniture of idl kinds, house-building and carving and is called the “Mahogany of India” which it resembles closely, though lighter and not so close in the grain. It admits of fine polish. It is used also for tea boxes, shingles and cigar boxes.

11. Ventekku — Lagerstroemia lanceolata

This is a large tree with a straight stem, (height 120 feet, girth 12 feet), with a smooth, very pale bark scaling off in thin flakes not much thicker than paper and found only on the West Coast from Bombay to Cape Comorin. It grows to its largest size in the forests of the north at a low elevation of 200 to 300 feet; it is never found in the dense moist forests. It lives for more than 200 years but grows very slowly and is not therefore suited for plantations. The wood is light brown, straight-fibred and elastic but splits easily. It is not strong and does not stand exposure to the weather.

12. Jack, Chakka or Pilavu — Artocarpus integrifolia

This valuable fruit and timber tree is much planted and grows largely all over Travancore. It grows best in rich red soil with a rainfall of not less than 50 inches. It grows rapidly when young, but after it has attained a diameter of 2 feet its growth is slow. It lives for more than 200 years. It is much cultivated in the low lands for fruits and along the roods for shade. It attains a height of about 80-100 feet with thick spreading branches. The fruit is very large weighing from 30 to 40 lbs. The green fruit is used in curries. The tree bears fruit in about 7 years, the fruit appearing in all parts even at the very root. Hence the proverb:— വേണമെങ്കിൽ ചക്ക വേരിലും കായ്ക്കും

The wood is excellent and is highly valued; it is yellow when cut, afterwards changing into dull red or mahogany colour. It admits of fine polish. It is used both for building purposes and for furniture of various kinds, such as chairs, tables &c., musical instruments and ornamental work. Of late years jack wood has been superseded by blackwood in the matter of furniture making. The weight of seasoned wood is 42 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 50 lbs.


There are several varieties of the Jack tree, but what is called Varikka or the honey Jack is the sweetest and best. The fruits yield a good red dye.

13. Irul — Kodaxylia dolabriformis

This tree is not found in South Travancore, but is common in North Travancore. It is a large tree growing to a height of 80-100 feet with a girth of 9 feet. It is always found in company with teak and requires a rainfall of not less than 100 inches. The wood is dark red, hard, heavy, durable and close-grained but not easily worked. It is used for boats, sleepers, posts, carts, house-building etc. It lasts a long time under water and is hence used in the construction of bridges, but in small scantling it is inclined to split and warp if exposed. It is however not much valued in Travancore. The weight of seasoned wood is 58 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 70 lbs.

14. Mayila — Vitex altissimia

This is a large tree with a height of 80 feet and a girth of 12 feet, widely distributed throughout Travancore at all elevations between sea-level and 3000 feet. It is a moderately fast grower. It increases in diameter 1 inch in 5 years and lives to be nearly 300 years old. The wood is hard, durable and flexible, with a coarse grain, is light brown in colour and does not split nor warp. It is highly esteemed in other parts of India for buildings, carts &c., but here in Travancore the people prefer other trees for such purposes. The unseasoned wood weighs 63 lbs. a cubic foot, and seasoned wood 53 lbs.

The Vernacular name covers two other varieties viz., Vitex pubescens and V. leucoxylon,

15. Manjakadambu — Adina cordifolia

This lofty tree (height 100 feet, girth 9-16 feet) is found only in the open moist forests between sea-level and 3,000 feet elevation; it is particularly abundant and reaches a very large size in the forests near Konniyur and in North Travancore. The wood is light yellow seasoning to nut brown, close-grained, smooth and light, and admits of a fine polish but does not stand exposure to water. It is used for building, furniture, boxes, turnings &c., in other parts of India, but in Travancore it is not much used. Weight of seasoned wood 42 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 50 lbs.

16. Ceylon Oak, Puvan — Schleichera trijuga

This is a large handsome tree of slow growth (height 100 feet, girth 15 feet). It lives to a great age of nearly 300 years but is not suited for plantation as its growth is too slow and its value too small. It is found in Travancore with Irul, Maruthu &c., on the deciduous forests 0-2,000 feet. Its wood is strong and durable, seasons and polishes well and is used for carts, sugar and oil mills, and a variety of other useful purposes. Weight 67 lbs. a cubic foot.

17. Manimaruthu – Lagerstraemia flos-regina

This is a medium-sized tree of very ornamental appearance on account of its handsome pink flowers, found along the banks of streams and in the open forests. It lives to be nearly 200 years old. Its wood is pale red, tough and very durable under water but it decays under ground and is seldom used in Travancore. Seasoned wood weighs 38 lbs. and unseasoned 48 lbs. a cubic foot. Silkworms feed on the leaves of this tree.

18. Mango, Mavu — Mangifera indica

This useful tree is found wild in our moist forests at all elevations up to 2,000 feet. In the low country it is much planted for its fruit. It is not a very rapid grower and lives for a century and a half. The wild fruit is hardly edible but the low country fruit is very wholesome and when unripe is much used in curries, preserves &c. Its flowering time is January, February and March and the fruits ripen from May to July, There are several varieties found in Travancore. The wood, dull grey and porous, is very serviceable for planks when not exposed to wet and hence much used for house purposes. It can also be used for canoes as it bears the action of salt water well. Seasoned wood weighs 42 lbs. a cubic foot and unseasoned 55 lbs. The leaves form an excellent food for silkworms.

19. Malampunna — Calophyllum tomentosum

This is a handsome tree of very large size reaching a height of 120 feet or more and a girth of 10 feet, found all through Travancore in the dense evergreen forests from 300 feet elevation to 400 feet. It requires a rainfall of not less than 100 inches and thrives on very poor soil where no other tree will succeed. The wood is reddish, loose-grained, long-fibred and elastic. In the coffee and tea plantations it is used for reapers, packing cases, rough planking and furniture; its chief use however is for spars of vessels, its great length, lightness, straightness and elasticity making it most suitable for this purpose; a single spar sometimes realises 1,000 Rs. but the demand is uncertain and unequal. The Pinnakai oil so largely used for burning lamps is made from the seeds of the Alexandrine Laurel, Calophyllum inophyllum, a small tree abundantly planted in the low country.

20 Cheeni — Tetrartules nudiflora

This is a very lofty tree (height 120 feet) with grey shining bark and small flowers, widely distributed in Travancore. It requires a very heavy rainfall, grows very fast and lives for more than 200 years. Its wood, dirty white, exceedingly light, soft and even-grained, takes a good polish and paint and is used for canoes, boats and catamarans, carved toys &c. , but it is neither strong nor durable and white ants eat it. This tree is not suited for plantations on account of its low value.

21. Pathiri — Stereospermum chelonoides

This is another large and handsome tree (height 100 feet, girth 8 feet) with very beautiful pinkish flowers and occurs in Travancore from sea-level up to 3,000 feet both in the dense moist forests of the hills and in the open forests and in grass land, associated with teak and other trees. It is much planted on account of its ornamental appearance. Its wood, orange or reddish brown, is close and even-grained, elastic, durable and easily worked, gives a smooth surface and is used for house-building and for furniture and makes excellent fuel. This is a moderately fast growing tree and lives for more than a century. Seasoned wood weighs 48 lbs. a cubic foot; unseasoned 58 lbs.

22. Cotton Tree, Ilavu — Bombax malabaricum

This large and stately tree (height 150 feet or more, girth 18 or 20 feet) with very large and showy flowers occurs in Travancore from sea-level up to 3,000 feet attaining its greatest height and girth in moist forests at the foot of the hills. Its wood is whitish, coarse-grained and brittle, but stands the action of water well and is hence used for floating rafts and packing boxes. Cotton or the wool of the pods is used for stuffing pillows, cushions &c. This is a fast-growing tree and lives for more than 200 years. Silkworms feed on the leaves of this tree and the large honey bee makes its nest chiefly in this tree.

28. Karuntagara or Vaga — Albizzia procera

This is a moderate-sized, fast-growing tree (height 30 feet, girth 6 feet) occurring in moist situations as on river banks. It flourishes best in open situations and is not found south of Trivandrum. The sapwood is yellowish white and not durable while the heart-wood is brown, straight and even-grained, seasons well, works freely, and admits of fine polish and is hence good for furniture, boxes, agricultural implements.

Weight averages 46 lbs. a cubic foot.


These are the most valuable timber trees of Travancore. Among the other useful trees employed in the low country and having some market value may be mentioned the following: —

1. Malakanjiram — Anogeissus latifolia

This tree is common in the drier districts of South Travancore and on the Peermade hills near Kambam and in the deciduous forests near Konniyur. The wood is dark-coloured and strong and is used for bandy poles and agricultural implements. A valuable gum is obtained from its stem which is used in cloth-printing and its leaves are used for tanning.

2 Ironwood, Nangu — Mesua ferrea

This tree is abundant in the evergreen forests from 0-6,000 feet. Ito wood is very heavy, hard and durable; but for its great weight it woul be more commonly used for building. It gives out great heat when burnt and makes first rate charcoal.

3. Nedunar — Polyalthia fragrans

This is a straight tree abundant in the forests of North Travancore. The wood is light and very elastic and is very well adapted for masts and yards.

4 Shurali — Hardwickia binata

A very large tree yielding timber of an excellent quality for beams and a variety of uses, found only on the Western Ghauts from South Canara to Cape Comorin. The wood is brown and exudes a sticky oil resembling Copaiba balsam for which it may be substituted.

5. Indian Copal, Payin — Vateria indica

This beautiful tree which is so much planted in gardens and along avenues for the fragrance of its flowers and which is very abundant in the moist forests, is sometimes cut for boats. It is better known for its gum called white dammer, an excellent varnish resembling copal

6. Malavuram — Ptcrospermum rubiginosum and P. heyneanum

These are felled for building and boats; the former especially is said to be very good wood and is an exceedingly handsome tree.

7. Kalagan — Odina eodier

This is a small-sized tree with a light reddish wood, very useful for furniture and house-building.

8. Kollamavu — Machilus macrantha

A moderate-sized tree of light wood growing in the moist forests, much used for boats.

9. Arayanjili — Antiaris toxicaria

An immense tree-of the dense moist forests with light wood, not strong or durable, used for boats, tea boxes Ac. Its inner bark is composed of very strong tenacious fibres and seems excellently fitted for cordage and matting.

10. Aval — Holoptclea integrifolia

Another tree of immense size common in the moist forests of the north. The wood is light and fairly durable if smoked; it is sawn into planks or fashioned into boats.

11. Venkotta — Lophopetalum wightianun

A lofty tree found in the evergreen forests and on river banks U-3000 feet. Wood is light, white, useful and durable if smoked.

12. Mukkampala — Alstonia scholaris

A large and handsome tree common in the deciduous forests 0-3000 feet with a milky juice; wood white, and very light but not durable, used for rough planking.

13. Palagapayani — Oroxylum indicum

A tree of moderate size, occasionally cut into boats.

14. Maruthu or Pumaruthu — Terminalia paniculata

A large tree and one of the commonest of the deciduous forests. Wood is strong and durable but not much appreciated in Travancore, used for buildings to a small extent.

15. Kanakaitha

Two botanical names come under this, viz., Miliusa velutina and Bocagea dalzelli. These are very elastic woods which may be used for carriage shafts, spear handles and such purposes. The former is found in the deciduous forests, while the latter occurs only in the moist forests.

16. Kar Anjili — Dipterocarpus bourdilloni

A large tree resembling Anjili, generally felled for boats; grows in the moist forests of North Travancore.

17. Mulluvenga — Bridelia retusa

Wood hard and heavy, used only to a limited extent in Travancore, though much valued in other countries.

18. Pambarakumbil — Trewia nudiflora

A moderate-sized tree, possessing light wood used for carving; the image put up in Roman Catholic churches is commonly made of this timber.

These are the only trees yielding timber commercially valuable; many other trees there are, indigenous to the country, used for rough house-building, for posts or for the construction of jungle wood-roofs but they have no commercial value and are used only by the poor or for temporary buildings.


The following is a list of trees exclusively used by the planters living at elevations between 1500 and 4000 feet

1. Kattu Iluppa or Pala, of which there are two species viz., Dichopsis elliptica and Chrysophylhum roxburghii.

The latter has very poor timber, while the former yields a reddish brown timber with straight grain, easily worked when young, but hardening with age, and used for shingles. A sticky milky juice exudes from both of them, which is commercially valuable.

2. Puthankalli — Paeciloneuron indicum

A large tree occuring in the moist forests up to 2,000 feet yielding a hard, heavy and durable reddish wood used for building.

3. Karuva — Cinnamomum zeylanicum

A large tree common in the Peermade plateau; wood dull white resembling mango wood, used for rough planking and building.

4. Kalpayin — Dipterocarpus turbinatus

This is another very large tree common in the evergreen forests 0-8,000 feet. It yields soft resinous wood used for reapers, but which decays rapidly with exposure.

5. Shenchandanam — Gluta travancorica

A very large forest tree, confined to the extreme south of the Peninsula and ascending the hills to an elevation of 4,000 feet. It yields a beautiful red wood suitable for furniture but not strong.

6. Kattu Puvan — Niphelium longana

Wood, hard, yellowish red; suitable for buildings if cut in large scantlings but liable to crack if sawn thin.

7. Wynaad Shingle-tree, Malakonnai — Acrocarpus fraxinifolius

Found only in places where the climate is dry; wood pink and splits easily used for shingles as well as for buildings and furniture.

8. Vellakasavu— Hemicyclia Venusta

A small tree common in the evergreen forests growing at an elevation of 2,000 to 4,000 feet, with a white, hard and heavy wood used for turning and posts, H.elata another tree of the same species possessing a like wood.


Trees yielding gums, resins and dyes

First comes the beautiful Venga tree, Pterocarpus marsupium, already described, which yields the dragon’s blood or gum kino of commerce. The gum is collected by incisions in the bark. Of dammer there are two varieties, the white dammer or Vella Kundrikam, the product of Vateria indica or the Payin tree, and the black dammer, the product of Canarium strictum or Thellimaram, a lofty tree very abundant in our dense moist forests from 0-5,000 feet. The gum exudes from all parts of the tree and is semi-transparent in small pieces, but black in masses and tastes like fennel. It is collected and used for bottling and varnishes. A solid oil is also obtained from the seeds of Vateria indica, known as vegetable tallow, of which candles are made, which diffuse an agreeable fragrance and give a clear light with little smoke. The oil is used also as a local application in chronic rheumatism.

The lofty Ailantus malabarica, common in the evergreen forests of North Travancore, yields a fragrant resinous juice known as Muttipal which is burnt as incense and used also for medicinal purposes. Reference has already been made to the Shurali or Hardwickia binata yielding a gum said to be as useful as copaiba. Butea superba as well as its allied species B. frondosa or the Palasa tree yield a kind of East Indian kino flowing from fissures in the bark, which becomes opaque and dark-coloured after a time. This gum which dissolves in hot water imparting to it a fine red colour contains a large proportion of tannin which might render it useful in the arts and in tanning leather especially for thick hides. The fruit of the Panichimaram, Diospyros embryopteris, contains a large proportion of tannin and a gum used for fishing lines &c.

The Kattucheru or Holigarna arnottiana is one of the trees yielding the well-known black lacquer varnish. The juice of the fruit is used by painters and also for fixing indelible colours figured on linen cloths. The small and thorny Karuvelam tree. Acacia arabica, yields a valuable transparent gum which is used as a substitute for gum Arabic, which itself is the product of A. vera. The bark of this tree is used for tanning leather and also for medicinal purposes. The Pattathamara, Macaranga indica a very common tree in Travancore, produces a gum of a light crimson colour used for taking impressions of leaves, coins, medallions &c. The stem of the Vilatti or wood-apple, Feronia elephantum, yields a transparent gummy substance which is used for mixing with painter’s colours, in dyeing and also in ink and varnish. The gum called in Tamil Velan pishin, resembles the true gum Arabic and is also used for medicinal purposes. The Vembu, Melia azadirachta, the Iluppa, Bassia longifolia, the Bilva, Æegle marmelos and the Cashewnut, Anacardium occidentale are some of the other common trees yielding useful gums.

The Gamboge tree, Garcinia pictoria, abundant in the moist forests yields a very bright orange pigment which is excellent and equal to the best gamboge. Two other trees of the same species also are said to yield good pigments, viz., G. morella and G. travancorica. The Kamila dye is the product of Ponnagam, Mallotus philippinensis, a middle-sized tree found in the secondary and open forests from 0-5,000 feet. Kamila is the powder rubbed off the capsules and is also found though in smaller quantities on the leaves and stalks of the plant. It is of a rich red colour, used all over India especially for silk to which it imparts a fine yellow colour. Two species of myrabolans are gathered from the Kadukai or Terminalia chebula and the Tani or T. Belerica, the former especially being in good demand. They are very astringent and are used for tanning, also for making ink; with alum they make a good yellow dye. The Manjanatti or Morinda tinrtoria, a very common tree, frequently met with in gardens as well as in the forests, yields a yellow timber which takes a polish equal to jack wood, the interior wood of the old trees yielding a dye.

The Noonamaram or Morinda umbellata a common climbing plant, yields a dye of permanent yellow from its root; with the addition of sappan wood a red dye also can be prepared from the same. It is said that the colours dyed with this as well as the other species of the Indian mulberry plant are for the most part exceedingly brilliant and the colouring matter far more permanent than many other red colours and that with improved management the dye would probably rival that of madder. The Manjadi or Adcnunthera pavonina also yields a red dye. And lastly we have the Sappan wood. Ceasalpina sappan, a small tree whose wood called the red wood of commerce is extensively used in dyeing and is exported for that purpose. It grows freely without any care and is of the first quality in Malabar. It yields a first class dye much used on the other coast.

Avenue trees

Foremost among the avenue trees comes the Banyan or Alamaram, Ficus bengalensis, an immense tree with branches spreading over a large area. It is remarkable for the singular property of letting a gummy kind of rootlet fall from its branches. These on reaching the ground soon form a natural support to the larger branches of the tree, and several of these extending and increasing from year to year forming a vast assemblage of pillar-like stems, rover a considerable area round the original trunk. This tree is wild throughout India, and is much planted for avenues everywhere. It is of rapid growth and grows best from large cuttings 6 or 7 feet long planted in the ground. In Travancore it is found both in the moist and deciduous forests from sea-level to 4,000 feet. The wood is light, coarse-grained, brittle and not durable, but lasts under water and is hence used for wells, water conduits &c. The root ‘drops’ are tough and elastic and are used for tent poles, cart yokes &c. Bird-lime is made of the milky juice which abounds in every part of the tree. The leaves are used as plates and the fruit is occasionally eaten. Birds are very fond of it.

The Arasu or Ficus religiosa is found wild in our subalpine forests but is not abundant. It is however very widely planted everywhere near temples and along avenues. It does not ascend the hills to any elevation. It is sacred tree and is much respected by the Hindus who are very unwilling to cut it down at any time. The wood is white, light and perishable. It is used for fuel, charcoal and packing cases. Elephants eat its leaves and branches and the silkworms feed on its leaves. Stick-lac is produced from it and the glutinous juice which exudes from the stem is made into bird-lime.

Eight other varieties of the Ficus species are found in Travancore, viz., Ficus tomentosa, F. altissima or Kal-atthi, F. benjamina, F. tsiela, F. Infectoria F.asperrima or Theragam, F. hispida or Erumanaku and F. glomerata, or Atthi, of which the last is the most important. This is found throughout Travancore in the secondary and open forests 0-3,000 feet. It grows rapidly and gives a light pleasant shade. It is much planted in coffee estates. The wood is white, light and not durable except under water; it is used for well rings. Bird-lime is made from the milky juice and the leaves are largely used as fodder for elephant and cattle.

The Naval or Eugenia jambolana is a very large tree found in the evergreen forests and much planted for avenues. The wood is reddish or dark brown, close-grained, but not straight; it is hard, and heavy but difficult to work and is therefore unsuitable for any use. The fruit is eatable, and the loaves and bark are used in native medicine.

The Poo-arasu or Thespesia populnea is another tree planted for roadside avenues, being remarkable for its easy and rapid growth from cuttings and yielding a good shade. It yields when ripe a very strong, hard and durable timber with a colour like mahogany, but its use is limited on account of the difficulty of getting it in large size.

The other trees planted for avenues are the Casuarina, the Tamarind, the Jack, the Mango, the Margosa, the Alexandrine laurel, the Payin and the Cashew-nut trees. Of these the jack, mango and payin have already been noticed under the valuable timber trees. The casuarina does not grow in the Travancore forests except when planted, as its introduction into Southern India itself from Chittagong, its native province, is only of recent date. It may however be of interest to state that the timber of casuarina which grows well from seeds and is a very rapid grower is without exception the strongest wood known for bearing cross strains and very valuable for fuel.

The Tamarind or Puli, Tamarindus indica, is planted largely for its fruit; it also runs wild in the dry forests from 0-2,000 feet. This is a graceful avenue tree of slow growth but attaining great size. The timber which is hard, heavy and durable is converted to many useful purposes in building, for mills and the teeth of wheels etc., and makes excellent fuel. The pulp of the pods is used both in food and in medicine. The natives have a prejudice against sleeping under the tree as its shade is considered unhealthy, and the tree haunted.

The Margosa or Vembu, Melia azadirachta, is a small and beautiful tree much planted in the low country for ornament and shade. Its uses are referred to a little later under medicinal plants.

The Alexandrine Laurel or Punna, Calophyllum inophyllum is another beautiful tree common on the banks of rivers and “not less esteemed for its ornamental appearance than for the delicious fragrance of its flowers”.

The Cashew-nut or Parangimavu, Anacardium occidentale, originally belonging to the West Indies is now common all over India. As the vernacular name implies, this seems to have been introduced by the Portuguese and has now run wild in the maritime forests all over Western India. Two kinds of oil can be prepared from the hard fruit borne at the end of the fleshy peduncle, viz., (1) a sweet nourishing table-oil from the kernels, pronounced equal to almond oil and superior to olive oil, and (2) a brown blistering oil from the rind (cardol). But this is scarcely done, the kernels being used only as a table-fruit. The wood is of no value but is largely used as fuel.


Cycads and Palms

The most important of the indigenous cycads is the Eentha or Cyras circinalis, a small tree very abundant in the deciduous forests 0- 3,000 feet. It produces a good abundance of spherical fruit containing a kernel. The hillmen and the low country people in some parts collect these fruits and convert the kernels into an insipid flour which is baked into cakes. The fruit forms the staple food of some of the hill-tribes for several months together.

Exclusive of the Cocoanut and Areca palms, whose cultivation forms such a striking feature of the garden lands of Travancore, 6 other varieties of palms are known, of which 4 are wild. They are — the Palmyra or Borasus flabelliformis, the Talipot or Corypha umbraculifera the Bastard Sago or Caryota urens, the Bentinckia condapana, the Pinanga dichronii, and the Arenga wightii.

The palmyra is much planted in the drier districts of South Travancore. The fruit is not much used and the tree is valued mainly for the juice which is either drunk as toddy, distilled into arrack or made into jaggery. The leaves are used for several purposes like those of the cocoanut palm and the wood is valuable for rafters. The mighty talipot is doubtfully indigenous and is found all through our forests. Its large broad fronds are used for thatching and also for writing on with an iron style. The dried leaf is very strong and is commonly used for umbrellas. A kind of flour or sago is prepared from the pith of the trunk. As observed by Mr. Bruce Foote, late of the Geological Survey of India,

“The most striking feature in the flora of South Travancore is the immense forest of fan palms (Borasus flabelliformis) which covers a great part of the country. The fan palms, or palmyras, attain here to much greater height than they generally do elsewhere. Trees measuring from 90 to 100 feet in height are not uncommon in places, and with their stems greatly covered by white or silvery grey lichens, they present a much finer appearance than the comparatively stunted specimens one is accustomed to see in the Carnatic or on the Mysore and Deccan plateaus. Whether these Travancore trees owe any part of their greatly superior height to superior age, as compared with the palms in the great Palmyra forest in South Tinnevelly, I could not make out but the white colour of their stems, added to their great height certainly gives them a much more hoary and venerable appearance.”

The Bastard Sago, Caryota urens, common in the evergreen forests 0-3,000 feet, is a large tree yielding toddy. Sago is prepared from the stem. The tree is valued for the good quantity of sap it yields and also for its fibre. In times of scarcity these trees which are planted about the low country, are felled, and the pith is mixed with water and the resulting fluid is strained, and a flour is prepared from it.

Bamboos and Reeds

The Bamboo is the most gigantic of the grasses and consists of several species all useful to man in a variety of ways. Seven species are known in Travancore, of which the most useful is the ubiquitous bamboo, Bambusa arundinacca commonly called Mungil or Mulah. The uses &c., of this and the other species of bamboos in general are thus described by Drury: —

“These gigantic arborescent glasses which cover the sides and tops of the mountains throughout the continent of India form one of the peculiar as well as the most striking features of Oriental scenery. Few objects present a more attractive sight in the wild forest of this country than a clump of these beautiful plants with their tall bending stems and delicate light-green foliage. With the exception of the Cocoa and some other palms perhaps, the Bamboo is the most useful and economical of all the vegetable products of the East. In no other plant is strength and lightness combined to that degree which renders this so important an article in building houses, lifting weights, forming rafts and a thousand other uses which might here be enumerated. It attains a considerable height, — some 70-80 feet — and has been known to spring up 80 inches in 6 days. At the age of 15* years, the bamboo is said to bear fruit, a whitish seed-like rice, and then to die. These seeds are eaten by the poorer classes.

NOTEs: * According to Mr. Bourdillon, 30.

“The purpose to which different species of bamboo are applied are so numerous that it would be difficult to point out an object in which strength and elasticity are requisite, and for which lightness is no objection to which the stems are not adapted in the countries where they grow. The young shoots of some species are cut when tender and eaten like asparagus. The full-grown stems, while green, form elegant cases, exhaling a perpetual moisture, and capable of transporting fresh flowers for hundreds of miles. When ripe and hard they are converted into bows, arrows, and quivers, lance-shafts, masts of vessels, bed-posts, walking-sticks, the poles of palanquins, to floors and supporters of rustic bridges, and a variety of similar purposes. In a growing state, the spiny kinds are formed into stockades, which are impenetrable to any but regular infantry, aided by artillery. By notching their sides, the Malays make wonderfully light scaling ladders, which can be conveyed with facility where heavier machines could not be transported.

Bruised and crushed in water, the leaves and stems form Chinese paper, the finer qualities of which are only improved by a mixture of raw cotton and by more careful pounding. The leaves of a small species are the material used by the Chinese for the lining of their tea-chests. Cut into lengths and the partitions knocked out, they form durable water-pipes, or, by a little contrivance are made into excellent cases for holding rolls of papers. Slit into strips, they afford a most durable material for weaving into mats, baskets, window-blinds and even the sails of boats. Finally, the larger and thicker truncheons are exquisitely carved by the Chinese into beautiful ornaments.

No plant in Bengal is applied to such a variety of useful purposes as the bamboo. Of it are made implements for weaving, the post and the frames of the roofs of huts, scaffoldings for buildings, portable stages for native processions, raised floors for granaries, stakes for nets in rivers, rafts, masts, yards, oars, spars, and in boat-decks. It is used for building bridges across creeks, for fences, as a lever for raising water for irrigation, and as flag-poles. Several agricultural instruments are made of it, as are also hackeries or carts, doolies or litters and biers, the shafts of javelins or spears, bows and arrows clubs and fishing-rods. A joint of bamboo senses as a holder for pens, small instruments and tools. It is used as a case in which things of little bulk are sent to a distance; the eggs of silkworms were brought into a bamboo cane from China to Constantinople in the time of Justinian. A joint of bamboo answers the purpose of a bottle, and a section of it is a measure for solids and liquids in bazaars.

A piece of it is used as a blow-pipe and as a tube in a distilling apparatus. A small bit of it split at one end, serves as tongs to take up burning charcoal, and a thin slip of it is sharp enough to be used as knife in shelling betel-nuts &c. Its surface is so hard, that it answers the purpose of a whet-stone upon which the ryots sharpen their bill-hooks and sickles.”

2. Male Bamboo or Kalmulah — Dendrocalamus strictus. This species of bamboo (culms up to 3 inches in diameter and 30 feet high has great strength and solidity and is very straight hence it is better suited far a variety of uses than the common bamboo. The natives make great use of it for spears, shafts &c. It is clearly a distinct species, growing in a drier situation than other bamboos. In Travancore its habitat is the Anchanad valley 3,000-4,000 feet.

3. Arambu — Oxytenanthera bourdilloni, A species of thornless bamboo growing on rocky cliffs found only at elevations between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. It attains a diameter of about 4 inches and a height of 40 feet. The hillmen use this for making combs and other household implements.

4. Oxytenanthera thwaitesii. Found in the evergreen forests 3,000-6,000 feet; reeds not exceeding 1 inch in diameter and 10 feet high.

5. The Eetta or Eeral reed — Ochlandra travancorica. This forms the undergrowth in many parts of the Travancore forests and is used by the hillmen for temporary huts, the reeds themselves being employed for frame work and the leaves serving as thatch. The reeds are also used for fencing, basket-making, mats &c., and an excellent paper is made out of the fibre.

6. Teinostachyum wightii. Another reed found on the hills and evergreen forests 3,000-4,000 feet; reeds not exceeding 1 inch in diameter and 10 feet high.

7. Amma — Ochlandra rheedii. Found on the banks of rivers in the low country; reeds up to ¾ inch in diameter and 10 feet high, used for basket-making.

There are also many other kinds of reeds not yet identified. Of grasses the most important is the lemon grass, Andropogon schaenanthus from which the famous lemon grass oil is extracted.


Fibrous plants

The Vakkanar, a very strong and durable fibre exclusively used for the dragging of timber by elephants, is made of the bark of Sterculia villosa, a small tree of rapid growth with straight trunk and smooth bark. All the layers of this tree can be stripped off from the bottom to the top with great facility and fine pliable ropes are formed from the inner layers while the outer ones yield coarser ropes. The fibre is unusually strong as the strands not only run lengthwise but are formed into a net-work by other strands crossing them diagonally. Sterculia guttata is another tree of the same species yielding a useful fibre which is generally used for making coarse bags.

The Arayanjili, Antiarius toxicaria, yields, as we have already noticed, strong fibres which are excellently fitted for matting, sacking and cordage. The Kaivanar so largely used by the Chalpans of Trivandrum, and the low-caste dhobies of Central and North Travancore for making coarse cloths, gunny bags and sacking is obtained from the bark of Valampiri or Helicteres isora which occurs as an undershrub in most of the lower and outer forests of Travancore. The fibres are strong and white-coloured and are well adapted for ropes and cordage. A fortnight’s soaking of the fresh stems in running water yields a fibre of very good colour with a pearly lustre.

Strong fibres are also made from the bark of Pulimanji or Hibiscus cannabinus and its allied species H. tilaceus (Nirparuthi), of Cherutali or Antidesma bunias and Nagavalli or Bauhinia scandens and from the roots of Butea superba and its allied one Butea frondosa. A species of Crotalaria resembling Crotalaria juncea or sunn-hemp is largely grown in Shencottah and the northern districts of Ampalapuzha, Shertallay, Vaikam, Alangad, Kunnatnad and Parur, especially in Vaikam. Here the plant as well as its fibre are called Wuckoo, the latter being largely employed in the manufacture of fishing net and tackle. Some specimens of strong canvas made of this fibre were sent to the Madras Exhibition of 1851, which have been much approved of by competent judges from the compactness and strength of the manufacture.

The Erukkalai plant, Calotropis gigantea, a plant growing wild in Travancore, generally on hot stretches of bare sand as well as in dry, rocky and exposed situations, yields useful fibres which are soft, white, silky and very tenacious. But the comparative shortness of the staple and the difficulty of extracting the fibres probably explain the sparing use made of them in the arts and manufactures. The fibre possesses many of the properties of the European flax and can be spun into the finest thread for sewing and weaving cloth. The white silk-like material of the pods has been successfully tried to mix with silk.

Among other common plants of Travancore yielding useful fibres may be mentioned, the Indian hemp largely grown for Ganja, Inja, Chiyakka, Jack and Anjili, Rattans, Ilavu, Mul Ilavu, Murunga, some species of Banyan, Nedunar, Poonga, Venga and Pooarasu. Of the plants yielding useful leaf-fibres the commonest are the plantains, of which there are several species. A regular industry has grown up on the plantain fibre, an account of which is given in the Chapter on Arts and Industries. Next come the Aloes, of which the Mexican aloe or Anakkattazha and the green aloe of St. Helena have become naturalised in the country. The pine-apple which is now regularly cultivated in some of the districts, especially in the South, yields an excellent fibre which from its silky lustre and great strength has been suggested as a fair substitute for flax.

The fibre of the palms requires special mention. The cocoanut, the palmyra, the talipot, the bastard sago and the wild dates, all yield good fibres which are “characterised by extreme tenacity, a certain degree of elasticity, firmness and gloss”, and are specially adapted for the manufacture of brushes, cordage, ropes and cables. The Kittul fibre of commerce is obtained from the fronds of Caryota urens which is much valued for its sago and toddy as well. Coir, the produce of the cocoanut palm, is not a true fibre but only a seed-hair like cotton and other vegetable flosses.

Medicinal trees and plants

The number of medicinal plants seems to be legion. The native doctors use a very large variety of plants and shrubs for medicinal purposes. A short notice of only a few of them is attempted here.

We will start with those trees that are poisonous as well as medicinal. Of these, the Yettimaram or Kanjiram, Strychnos nux-vomica comes first. It is a tree of middle size common throughout Travancore. The seeds are most valued both in native and European medicine, and the well-known poison Strychnine is prepared from the kernel of the fruit. The pulp of the fruit is harmless and eaten by birds, monkeys and cattle.

It is believed that the seeds of the fruit if taken for two years one or two every day have the effect of rendering innoxious bites of poisonous cobras. The Tettankotta or Strychnos potatorum is harmless and is used for several medicinal purposes. The seeds of this tree have the singular property of clearing muddy water, if it is poured into a vessel of which the sides have been rubbed with bruised or sliced seeds. They are devoid of all poisonous properties and are used as a remedy in diabetes and gonorrhoea.

The Odallam, Cerbera odollam a small tree growing largely on the banks of canals and backwaters, yields a very poisonous fruit somewhat resembling a mango. The Vellai-oomatha, Datura alba, and the Karioomatha. Datura fastuosa, are both very common weeds famous for the intoxicating and narcotic properties of their fruits. Their medicinal and poisonous properties are well known. Of the two, the former is said not be quite so virulently poisonous as the latter. Both are used as anodyne and antispasmodic. Among other poisonous plants mention may be made of Sapium insigney a small tree growing on the upper hills, from which exudes a very poisonous and acrid juice, and the Chera or Holigarna ferruginea, a lofty tree found both on the slopes of the hills up to 3,000 feet and in the low country. This latter yields a sap which on exposure to air becomes dark like tar and when it falls on the body raises large blisters. The root of Mettonni or Gloriosa superba, a very handsome climbing plant, “one of the most ornamental plants any country can boast of,” is used medicinally by the natives and is commonly believed to be very poisonous. It is applied in paste to the hands and feet of women in difficult parturition; mixed with honey it is given in gonorrhoea. It is not poisonous in twelve-grain doses; on the contrary it is alterative, tonic and antiperiodic.

The following are some of the commoner medicinal plants arranged in the alphabetical order of their botanical names: —

Vettila Kasturi — Abelmoschus moschatus, A very common plant in Travancore, whose seeds have been given with the best effect in counteracting bites of venomous reptiles, being applied internally and externally.

Peruntutti — Abutilon indicum. The leaves of this shrub in decoction are used by European and native physicians as an emollient fomentation and an infusion of the roots is given as a cooling drink in fevers. The root is also used in leprosy and the seeds are reckoned laxative.

Kuppameni — Acalypha indica. The root of this small plant bruised in hot water is employed as cathartic, and the leaves as a laxative in decoction; mixed with salt the latter are applied externally in scabies. A decoction of the plant mixed with oil is a specific against gout and mixed with chunam is applied externally in cutaneous diseases.

Nayuri — Achyranthes aspera. The seeds are given in hydc0phobia and in cases of snake-bites, as well as in ophthalmia and cutaneoas diseases. The flowering spikes rubbed with a little sugar are made into pills and given internally in cases of dog-bites, while the leaves taken fresh and rubbed to a pulp are considered a good remedy for scorpion-bites. The root is used as a sort of tooth-brush in some parts of India.

Vasamboo — Acorus calamus. An aromatic bitter principle exists in the rhizomes of this plant, on account of which they are regarded as useful additions to tonic and purgative medicines, being much given to children in cases of dyspepsia, especially when attended with looseness of bowels. It is also beneficially employed in chronic catarrh, asthmatic complaints and intermittent fevers.

Adatoda— Adathoda vasica. The flowers, leaves and root are all considered antispasmodic and are given in cases of asthma and intermittent fever. The leaves given in conjunction with those of Tooduvala aad Kandankathri are employed internally in decoction as anthelmintic.

Bilva - Aegle marmelos. The root, bark, leaves and the fruit are all medicinally used. The half-ripe fruit, especially newly gathered, is a very good remedy for chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. The root, bark is a remedy in hypochondriasis, melancholia and palpitation of the heart and the leaves in decoction are used in asthma.

Chittaratta — Alpina galanga. The tubers which are faintly aromatic, pungent and somewhat bitter are the larger galangal of the shops and are used as a substitute for ginger. They are given in infusion in fevers, rheumatism and catarrhal affections.

Lemon grass — Andropogon schaenanthus. An infusion of the fragrant leaves which are bitter and aromatic is given to children as an excellent stomachic. It is also diaphoretic. The oil prepared from it is a most valuable remedy in rheumatism applied externally.

Vilamicham — Andropogon muricatum. An infusion of the roots is given medicinally as a gentle stimulant and a grateful drink in feverish cases. The roots reduced to powder are given in bilious affections, and mixed with milk and applied externally as cooling applications to the skin when irritated. They are delightfully fragrant and aromatic and contain a volatile oil used in perfumery. The root in infusion is also used in cases of gout and rheumatism.

Karuntumba — Anisomeles malabarica. The juice of the leaves of this shrub is given to children in colic and indigestion and fevers arising from teething; it is also employed in stomachic complaints, dysentery and intermittent fevers.

Samudrachedi — Argyreia speciosa. The leaves are used in the preparation of emollient poultices and also in cutaneous complaints being applied externally to the parts affected.

Perumarundoo — Aristolochia indica. The root which is nauseously bitter is said to possess emmenagogue and antarthritic virtues. It is said to be a valuable antidote to snake-bites, being applied both internally and externally. Mixed with honey the root is given in leprosy and the leaves internally in fever.

Nirmulli — Asteracantha longifolia. This plant is commonly met with by the side of paddy fields and other damp situations. The roots are considered tonic and diuretic; administered in decoction, they are aim employed in dropsical affections and gravel.

Kattu Atthi — Bauhinia tomentosa. The dried leaves and young flowers are administered in dysenteric affections and a decoction of the bark of the root is given in cases of liver and phlegmatic complaints and also as a vermifuge. The bruised bark is also occasionally applied to tumours and wounds.

Alpam — Bragantia wallichii. This is peculiar to the Malabar Coast. The whole plant mixed with oil and reduced to an ointment is said to be very efficacious in the treatment of inveterate ulcers. Bartolomeo refers to this plant as “the only Malabar plant which I can with certainty call an antidote to poison’’. The root is powdered and administered in warm water to those who are poisoned. The familiar Malayalam proverb is “Alpam akathu visham porathu” i e., as soon as the Alpam root enters the body, poison leaves it.

Erukkalai — Calotropis gigantea. The acrid milky juice flowing from every part of this shrub is used by the natives for medicinal purposes in many different ways, besides preparations of the plant itself in epilepsy, paralysis, bites of poisonous animals, as a vermifuge &c. The root, bark and juice are used as powerful alteratives and purgatives. The plant as we have seen already is also valuable for the fine strong fibres with which it abounds.

Modakattan — Cardiospermum halicacabum. The root of the plant is diaphoretic and diuretic and is given in decoction as an aperient; the leaves are administered in pulmonic complaints and mixed with castor oil are internally employed in rheumatism and lumbago, and the whole plant boiled in oil is rubbed over the body in bilious affections. The leaves mixed with jaggery and boiled in oil are a good specific in sore eyes.

Seema Agathi — Caasia alata. The juice of the leaves mixed with lime-juice is a useful remedy for ringworm; the fresh leaves simply bruised and rubbed on the parts affected sometimes remove the eruption. The plant is also considered a cm*e in all poisonous bites, besides cutaneous affections.

Karuva or Kattulavangam — Cinnamomum zeylanicum. This small tree is very common in the jungles on the western coast. The seeds bruised or mixed with honey or sugar are given to children in dysentery and coughs and combined with other ingredients in fevers.

Elumichai — Citrus medica. Lime-juice is much used in medicine by native practitioners, possessing all the virtues attributed to that of the English lemon. It is considered to possess virtues in checking bilious vomiting and to be refrigerent, astringent, stomachic and tonic; diluted with water and sweetened it forms a refreshing drink. The dried rind of the fruit also is used as a vegetable drug.

Sankhapushpam — Clitorea ternatea. The seeds of this common creeper are a useful purgative. The root is used in croup; it is also given as a laxative to children and is diuretic.

Nervalam — Croton tiglium. The seeds of this small plant yield the well-known Croton oil. They are of the size of a sloe and are considered one of the most drastic purgatives known. The oil is chiefly employed in incipient apoplexy, visceral obstruction and occasionally in dropsy. The seeds mixed with honey and water are often applied to obstruct buboes. The expressed oil of the seeds is a good remedy externally applied in rheumatic and indolent tumours.

Mavilangam or Nirmathalam — Cratava religiosa. This small tree is abundant on river banks from 0-5,000 feet. The bark, leaf and root are all used medicinally. The leaves are slightly aromatic and bitter and are considered stomachic. The root is supposed to possess alterative properties. The juice of the bark is given in convulsions and flatulency and boiled in oil is externally applied in rheumatism.

Kuvamanjal — Curcuma angustifolia. An excellent kind of arrowroot is prepared from the tubers of this species, especially in Travancore, where the plant grows in great abundance, and this is a favourite article of diet. The flour powdered and boiled in milk is an excellent diet for sick people or children.

Wild Turmeric, Kasturimanjal — Curcuma aromatica. This is an ornamental and beautiful plant abounding in our forests. The root is used as a perfume and also medicinally both when fresh and dried. It possesses aromatic and tonic properties and is less heating than ginger.

Veliparuthi — Daemia extensa. This twining plant abounds in milky juice. In medicine the natives use the whole in infusion in pulmonary affections; if given in large doses it will cause nausea and vomiting. The juice of the leaves mixed with chunam is applied externally in rheumatic swellings of the limbs.

Karusalankanni — Eclipta erecta. The whole plant is alterative, tonic, purgative and diuretic. In paste with gingelly oil it is a good remedy for elephantiasis, applied externally. It has a peculiarly bitter taste and strong smell. The root has purgative and emetic properties assigned to it, and is also used in case of liver, spleen and dropsy.

Mullumurunga — Erythrina indica. The leaves and bark of this prickly tree are used in cases of fevers. The leaves pulverised and boiled with ripe cocoanut are also applied to venereal buboes and pains in the joints, and mixed with jaggery are apphed externally to the stomach in grips and colic.

Devadaram — Erythroxylon monogynum. The young leaves and tender shoots of this small tree are reckoned refrigerent. Bruised and mixed with gingelly oil they are applied as a liniment to the head. The bark is occasionally administered in infusion as a tonic.

Kammatti — Excoecaria camettia. This shrub grows abundantly along our backwaters and canals. It abounds in an acrid milky juice which is poisonous and blinding and is known as the “Tiger’s milk tree”. The juice is applied with good effect to inveterate ulcers. The leaves also are used for the purpose in decoction.

Karunochi — Gendarussa vulgaris. The leaves and tender stalks of this shrub are prescribed in certain cases of chronic rheumatism. The leaves in infusion are given internally in fevers, and a bath in which these leaves are saturated is very efficacious in the same complaint. The juice of the leaves is administered in coughs to children and the same mixed in oil as an embrocation in glandular swellings of the neck and the throat; mixed with mustard seed it is also a good emetic.

Choratti — Gomphia angustifolia. The root and leaves which are bitter are given as tonics in these parts. A decoction of the leaves is given in heart-burn and also applied in ulcers. The leaves, flowers and fruits boiled in water arc administered as a wash in gingiva and for strengthening the gums. The root boiled in milk and mixed with cummin seeds is said to allay vomiting and the root and bark pulverised and mixed with oil are made into an ointment for scabies and other cutaneous affections.

Kazhanchi — Guilandina banduc. The kernels of the nuts are very bitter and said to be powerfully tonic. They are given in cases of intermittent fevers mixed with spices in the form of powder. Pounded and mixed with castor oil they are applied externally in hydrocele.

Narunindi or Nannari — Hemidesmus indicus. This is the country Sarsaparilla very common in Travancore. The root is used largely for the thrush in children, a drachm every morning and evening of the powder fried in butter. Dried and reduced to powder and mixed with honey, it is reckoned a good specific in rheumatic pains, boils &c., and in decoction with onions and cocoanut oil is internally recommenced in haemorrhoids, and simply bruised and mixed with water in diarrhoea. This has been employed as a chief and efficacious substitute for Sarsaparilla in cachectic diseases, increasing the appetite and improving the health. The milky juice of the fresh plant boiled in oil is applied externally in rheumatism and an infusion of the whole plant is given in fevers. Carivilandi or Smilax ovalifolia also possess all the virtues of the true sarsaparilla.

Kodagapala — Holarrhena antidysenterica. This is a common but handsome flowering shrub in the Malabar Coast. A medicine is prepared from the long pods, which is efficacious in cases of dysentery. The plant has astringent and tonic properties in its bark and is a remedy in fevers.

Modirakanni — Hugania mystax. This is a handsome shrub with beautiful golden yellow flowers. The bruised roots are used in reducing inflammatory tumours, as a febrifuge and anthelmintic, especially for children, and also as a remedy in the case of snake-bites.

Maravetti — Hydnocarpus wightiana. The fruit if eaten occasions giddiness. An oil is extracted from the seeds given in cutaneous diseases and ophthalmia, causing an excessive flow of tears.

Vallarai — Hydrocotyle asiatica. The leaves of this wildly distributed herb are roasted and given in infusion to children in bowel complaints and fevers. They are also applied to parts that have suffered from blows and bruises as anti-inflammatory. The plant is also said to be an excellent specific for leprosy.

Orelatamara — lonidium suffruticosum. The fruit in infusion is diuretic, and is a remedy in gonorrhoea and affections of the urinary organs. The leaves and tender stalks are demulcent and are used in decoction and electuary; also employed mixed with oil as a cooling liniment for the head.

Indian Jalap, Shevatai — Ipmoea turpethum. The fresh bark of the root is employed as a purgative mixed up with milk. Being free from any nauseous taste or smell, the root possesses a decided superiority over jalap for which it might well be substituted.

Kattumallika — Jasminum angustifolium The bitter root of this twining shrub ground small and mixed with lime-juice and Vasamboo root is considered a good remedy in ringworm. The leaves of its allied species, Jirakamulla or J. sambac if boiled in oil exude a balsam which is used for anointing the head in eye-complaints. It is said to strengthen the vision. An oil is also expressed from the roots used medicinally.

Kattamanakku — Jatropha curcas. The seeds of this shrub are purgative occasionally exciting vomiting. A fixed oil is prepared from the seeds useful in cutaneous diseases and chronic rheumatism applied externally, also for burning in lamps. The leaves warmed and rubbed with caster oil are applied to inflammations when suppuration is wished for, and the juice of the plant is used for haemorrhoids. The oil is a very much more powerful purgative than castor oil but very uncertain in its action. The Chittamanakku or ordinary castor oil plant belongs to a different species, Ricinus communis whose oil is used largely as a mild laxative and for burning lamps.

Vembu or Neem tree — Melia azadirachta. This is a beautiful tree whose leaves, bark, seeds and oil are all medicinally used by the natives. The bark which has a remarkably bitter taste is considered & most useful tonic in intermittent fevers and chronic rheumatism, administered either in decoction or powder. The oil which is of a deep yellow colour and much used for burning lamps, is a useful remedy in leprosy and is moreover anthelmintic and stimulant, being used externally in bad ulcers and as a liniment in headaches and rheumatic affections.

Champaka — Michelia champaca. The bark of the root is red, bitter and very acid and when pulverised is reckoned emmenagogne the flowers beaten up with oil are applied to fetid discharges from the nostrils, and all parts of the tree are said to the powerfully stimulant.

Thottavadi — Mimosa puidica. This is the common sensitive plant. Mixed with gingelly it is given as a drink in gonorrhoea.

Karuveppila — Murraya koeningii This is the curry-leaf tree whose leaves are used for flavouring curries. The leaves are further used in dysentery and to stop nausea; the root is laxative and both bark and roots are stimulants and are used externally as remedies in eruption and in infusion to check vomiting in cholera.

Wild Nutmeg, Jatikkai — Myristica laurifolia. This is a large tree common in the evergreen forests. The mace of this kind of nutmeg has not the same virtues as that of the common one, Mixed with honey it is administered in coughs and pectoral afifections but generally in combination with other ingredients.

Sweet Basil, Vellatulasi — Ocimum bacilicum. The whole plant is aromatic and fragrant. The seeds are cooling and mucilaginous and are said to be very nourishing and demulcent. An infusion is given as a remedy in gonorrhoea, catarrh, dysentery and chronic diarrhoea, and the juice of the leaves is squeezed in the ear in ear-ache. It is said the seeds are a favourite medicine with Hindu women for relieving the after-pains of parturition.

Tulasi — Ocimum sanctum. The juice of this plant is given in catarrhal affections in children and mixed with lime-juice is an excellent remedy in cutaneous affections, ringworms &c. The root is given in decoction in fevers.

Nelli — Phyllanthus emblica. The seeds are given internally as a cooling remedy in bilious affections and nausea, and in infusion it makes a good drink in fevers. They are are also used in diabetes. The bark of the tree is used for dysentery and diarrhoea, and mixed with honey it is applied to aphthous inflamations of the mouth. The fruit is pickled or preserved in sugar. The young branches of the tree are put into wells to impart a pleasant flavour to the water, especially if it be impure from the accumulation of vegetable matter or other causes.

Kilanelli — Phyllanthus niruri. The root, leaves and young shoots are all used medicinally, the two first in powder or decoction in jaundice or bilious complaints and the last in infusion in dysentery. The juice of the stem mixed with oil is employed in ophthalmia.

Pevetti — Physalis somnifera. The root of this shrub is said to have deobstruent and diuretic properties. The leaves moistened with wann castor oil are externally employed in cases of carbuncle. They are very bitter and are given in infusion in fevers. The root and leaves are powerfully narcotic; the latter is applied to inflamed tumours, while the former in obstinate ulcers and rheumatic swellings of the joints mixed with dry ginger.

Black Pepper, Nallamilagu — Piper nigrum. This is Indigenous to the forests of Malabar and Travancore. For centuries past pepper has been an article of export to the European countries and even to-day a considerable quantity is annually exported from Travancore. The cultivation of this very common vine is described elsewhere. The berries medicinally used are given us stimulant and stomachic, and when toasted have been employed successfully in stopping vomiting in cases of cholera. The root is used as a tonic, stimulant and cordial. A liniment is also prepared which is used in chronic rheumatism. The watery infusion is used a gargle in relaxation of the uvula. As a seasoner of food, it is well known for its excellent stomachic qualities. Pepper in over-doses acts as a poison by over-exerting the inflammation of the stomach and its acting powerfully on the nervous system. It is also successfully used in vertigo, and paralytic and arthritic disorders.

Kodiveli — Plumbago zeylanica. The fresh bark bruised is made into a paste, mixed with rice conjec and applied to buboes. It acts as a vesicatory. It is believed that the root reduced to powder and administered during pregnancy will cause abortion.

Pomegranate, Mathalam — Punica granatum. All the parts of this tree are used medicinally. The rind of the fruit and flowers which are powerfully astringent are employed successfully as gargles, in diarrhoea and dysentery; the pulp is sub-acid, quenching thirst and gently laxative, while the bark is a remedy for tape-worm given in decoction.

Nagamalli — Rhinacanthus communis. The fresh root and leaves of this shrub bruised and mixed with lime-juice are considered a useful remedy in ringworm and other cutaneous affections. Milk boiled in the root is reckoned aphrodisiacal and the roots are used as a cure for bites of poisonous snakes.

Karinghota — Samadera indica. This tree grows abundantly in Travancore and Cochin. The bark has febrifugal properties and is used by the natives for this purpose. An oil extracted from the kernels of the fruit is extensively used in rheumatism.

Sandalwood — Santalum album. Sandal reduced to powder is supposed to possess sedative and cooling properties and is hence prescribed in fever and gonorrhoea. Mixed with butter it is applied in headaches. Internally it is given in fevers and bilious affections and externally in prickly heat and cutaneous eruptions. It yields by distillation a pale* yellow volatile oil, which is stated to be a successful remedy in gonorrhoea.

Belamodagam — Scœvola kœnigii. The leaves of this common shrub made into a poultice are powerfully emollient in tumours. Boiled in water a drhik is prepared from them and administered internally to excite the flow of mine and in lochial obstructions.

Ealettadi-maravara — Scindapsus pertusus. The pericarp of this singular looking plant common in the jungles between Quilon and Courtallam is used in leprosy and scabies generally combined with other ingredients and in infusion for cough and rheumatism. Anattippili, Scindapsus officinalis, another plant of the same species, is reputed to have stimulant, diaphoretic and anthelmintic virtues.

Senkottai—Semecarpiis anacardium. The acrid juice of the shells is given in small doses in leprous and scrofulous affection. An oil is prepared from the kernels useful in rheumatism and sprains; undiluted it acts as a blister.

Agathi — Sesbania grandiflora. The bark is powerfully bitter and is used as a tonic. The tender leaves, lagumes, and flowers are all eaten by the natives in their curries. An infusion of the leaves is given in cases of catarrh.

Kandankathri — Solanum jacquini. There are two varieties of this prickly creeper. The fruit is bitter and sub-acid and considered as an expectorant by the natives and given by them in coughs and consumptive complaints; also in decoction in humoral asthma. They are said to be good for the digestion.

Tooduvala — Solanum trilobatum. This is another creeper of the same species, much used in native medicine. The roots and leaves are given in decoction or powder in consumptive complaints, while the berries and flowers are given in decoction for coughs. Cheruchunda or Solanum indicum is also used largely in medicine.

Tanikai — Terminalia belerica. The kernel of the nut mixed with honey is given in certain cases of ophthalmia. The juice of the bark and root is given in decoction with rice and milk in colic. The fruit is astringent in taste, and is tonic and attenuent; it is also used in dropsy, diarrhoea, piles and leprosy, as well as for coughs. In large doses it becomes a narcotic poison.

Indian Almond, Vadankotta — Terminalia catappa. The kernel of the nuts of this tree has the taste of an almond and may be used for the same purposes but does not contain so much oil. The juice of the leaves with infusion of rice is given for bile, headache and colic pains. An ointment is made from the young leaves and milk of the nut, which is applied medicinally in scabies, leprosy and similar cutaneous affections.

Kadukai— Terminalia chebula. The gall-nuts when rubbed with an equal portion of catechu are used in aphthous complaints and considered a valuable remedy. The unripe dried fruits are recommended as purgative by the natives; mixed with honey the fruit is given in infusion in dropsy and diabetes, and haemorrhoidal affections and externally in cases of sore eyes &c.

Sirukanjori—Tragina cannabina. The root of this stinging plant is considered diaphoretic and is prescribed in decoction as an alterative; also in infusion in ardent fevers.

Nerunji — Tribulus lanuginosus. The leaves and root are said to possess diuretic properties, and are prescribed in decoction, while the seeds powdered are given in infusion to increase the urinary discharge, also in dropsy and gonorrhoea. The herb is said to be astringent and vermifuge and the seeds cordial.

Peppodal — Trichosanthes cucumerina. The seeds are reputed good in disorders of the stomach and the tender shoots and dried capsules are very bitter and aperient and are reckoned among the laxative medicines- In decoction with sugar they are given to assist digestion. The juice of the leaves is emetic and that of the root very purgative, while the stalk in decoction is expectorant.

Narumpanel — Uvaria narum. This climbing shrub seems peculiar to Travancore. A sweet-scented greenish oil is obtained from the roots by distillation, which as well as the root itself is used in various diseases. The roots which are fragrant and aromatic are also used in fevers and hepatic as well as cutaneous diseases.

Chembaravalli — Vitis indica. The juice of this plant mixed with oil is applied to affections of the eyes. The root beaten up and mixed with oil and cocoanut milk is said to be a cure for carbuncles, pustules and boils, and the juice of the root mixed with sugar is cathartic.

Ginger, Inji — Zingiber officinale. The ginger plant is extensively cultivated all over Travancore and its method of cultivation is described elsewhere. The ginger from Malabar is reckoned superior to any other. Ginger from its stimulant and carminative properties is used in toothaches, gout, rheumatism of the jaw and relaxed uvula with good effect and the essence of ginger is said to promote digestion. It is said to act powerfully on the mucous membrane though its effects are not always so decided on the remoter organs as on those into which it comes into immediate contact. Beneficial results have been arrived at when it been administered in pulmonary and catarrhal affections. Headaches have also been frequently relieved by the application of ginger poultices to ihe forehead. The native doctors recommend it in a variety of ways, externally in paralysis and rheumatism, and internally with other ingredients in intermittent fevers.

Jujube, Elantha — Zizyphus jujuba. The fruit of this small tree is sweet and palatable, and the seeds are given internally with other ingredients to allay irritation in the throat, coughs &c. Mixed with buttermilk the seeds are also given in bilious affections, and mixed with oil externally in rheumatism. The bark of root powdered and mixed with oil is supplied to ulcers. A drink prepared from the leaves boiled in milk is given in virulent gonorrhoea; the leaves boiled and applied to the navel in the form of a plaster take away dysuria and strangury, and the juice of the root mixed with castor oil seeds is used as a purgative in bad stomachic complaints.


Flowering and Ornamental plants

Allamanda cathartica. This showy plant was introduced into India from Guiana in 1803. It has become quite naturalised and is one of the handsomest ornaments of gardens. If allowed to climb up large trees, the effect is very striking and beautiful owing to the clusters of bright yellow flowers it is covered with.

Samstravadi — Barringtonia acutangula. This as well as its allied species, B. racemosa, are both handsome trees with long pendulous racemes of scarlet flowers, commonly to be met with along the banks of our backwaters.

Mandarai. There are two varieties. The Velutha mandarai, Bauhinia acuminata, is a favourite shrub in gardens, the large white fragrant flowers having a pretty appearance; the Chuvanna mandarai, Bauhinia variegata, is a small handsome and ornamental tree in gardens having beautiful purple flowers.

Porasu, or Palasa — Butea frondosa. This is a middle - sized tree which when in flower has a very striking appearance from its bright scarlet corollas. The natives are fond of offering the flowers in their temples and the women by intertwining the rich scarlet blossoms in their hair assume a very attractive and pleasing appearance.

Saralkonnai — Cassia fistula. This is easily recognised by its beautiful and fragrant long pendulous racemes of yellow flowers and is used largely in medicine. The flowers form a favourite offering to the God Siva.

Chirutekku — Clerodendron serratum. This is a very ornamental shrub cultivated in Travancore. Its flowers are pale blue with lower lip indigo-coloured.

Sankhapushpam — Clitorea ternatea. This a very common creeper with pretty blue or white flowers. It is very ornamental for trellis work but by its quick spreading it is apt to become a little troublesome in gardens.

Kasturimanjal — Curcuma arcmatica. An ornamental and beautiful plant, abounding in the Travancore forests with flowers, largish, pale-rose coloured with a yellow tinge along the middle of the lip.

Murunga — Erythrina indica. A small tree with scarlet flowers much used in these parts for the support of the betel vines and serving as an excellent hedge plant from its being armed with numerous prickles.

Gloriosa superba. This splendid creeper with flowers yellow and crimson-mixed is commonly met with in the Travancore forests. It is considered one of the most ornamental plants any country can boast of,

Chemparuthi — Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. This shrub is generally cultivated in gardens and grows to a height of 12-15 feet. Throughout the year may be seen its large flowers, single or double, crimson, yellow or white.

Adakodien — Holostemma rheedii. The flowers of this creeper found largely in the Covalam jungles near Trivandrum are remarkably pretty and would answer well for trellis work in gardens.

Thetti — Ixora coccinea. The Ixoras are all very ornamental plants with white, cream or orange-coloured flowers. The shrubs grow to a height of 4 or 5 feet and flower all through the year. The name ixora is derived from the Hindu deity Iswara to whom the beautiful scarlet flowers are offered in temples.

Kattumallika — Jasminum angustifolium. The flowers of this twining shrub are large, white with a faint tinge of red, star-shaped and fragrant.

Kattujirakamulla — Jasminum hirsutum. This is a fine-looking plant and very desirable in gardens from its white fragrant flowers which open in succession. Jirakamulla or Jasminum sambac is another plant of the same species commonly cultivated in gardens for its fragrant flowers.

Manimaruthu— Lagerstroemia flos-reginae. This, as already refer« red to, is without exception one of the most showy trees of the Indian forests when in blossom. It is now commonly cultivated in gardens on this coast where the moist damp climate is most suitable for its growth and the full development of its rich rose-coloured blossoms. In the forests near the banks of rivers it grows to an enormous size, some having purple flowers and forming a most beautiful and striking appearance.

Nedumchetti — Memecylon amplexicaule. A handsome flowering shrub common in our forests. In April and May it is covered with numerous very small bluish purple flowers. M. tinctorium, another shrub of the same species, is also common and highly ornamental in gardens when in flower, the stem being crowded with beautiful sessile purple florets.

Champaka — Michelia champaca. This tree is celebrated for the exquisite perfume of its flowers and is highly venerated by the Hindus being dedicated to Vishnu. The natives adorn their heads with them, the rich orange colour of the flowers contrasting strongly with their dark black hair. Its medicinal properties have already been referred to.

Indian Cork tree — Millingtonia hortensis. This tree with numerous, large, pure white and fragrant flowers is very handsome and ornamental and well adapted for avenues and plantations.

Vellila or Vellimadantai — Musscenda frondosa. A common shrub having gold-coloured flowers all through the year. The white calycine leaf contrasting with the golden coloured flower gives this shrub a conspicuous appearance.

Lotus, Tamara — Nelumbium speciosum. The large white or rose-coloured flowers of the lotus common in tanks throughout India are held specially sacred among the Hindus.

Sweet-scented Oleander, Arali — Nerium odorum. There are two or three varieties of this shrub common on the banks of rivers and channels with deep red, white, rose-coloured, single and double flowers.

Parijatakam or Pavazhamalli — Nyctanthes arbor-tristis. The bright red flowers of this small tree give it a very lively and attractive appearance, especially in the evenings and nights when a very delicious fragrance is given out.

Alli — Nymphae rubra. This beautiful flower is common in ditches and tanks but neither so common nor so grand as the Tamara.

Kaitha, Tazhai — Pandanus odoratissimus. This large and singular- looking shrub is very common along the banks of our canals and backwaters where they are planted to bind the soil. The flowers are very fragrant but are seldom visible; the large red fruit much like a pine-apple is very attractive. There is a special variety of this in Central Travancore, known by the name of Kanaganaire.

Venga — Pterocarpus marsupium. This has been already referred to as being a large and very beautiful tree especially when in flower, with flowers small, sweet-scented and bright yellow.

Nandiyavatta — Tabernaemontana coronaria. There is a variety with double flowers which are fragrant at night. It is more common in gardens than the single one.

Among the other indigenous flowers may be mentioned, the Javanti (Vicoa auriculata?), the common rose, found only in gardens, the Andimallika, a small violet flower blossoming in the evening, and the Kolundu, a shrub whose leaves are very fragrant.


Concluding remarks

The foregoing account of our forests might produce an impression on the general reader of the abundance of forest wealth in Travancore. This however is a chimera, whatever might have been their condition in bygone times, when Travancore forests are said to have been indented upon for the building of the British Navy, and Travancore Teak entered largely in the construction of ships that fought the battle of the Nile and gave victory to Nelson at Trafalgar. Such is not the case at any rate now. In the first place, there is no part of Travancore known as the ‘Impenetrable forest’ marked in Ward and Conner’s maps, except in the sense of underwood and ‘Inja-padappu’ (thicket of Acacia intsia) growing luxuriantly to the detriment of the jungle-wallah’s easy movements. In the second place, Travancore-grown teak has been found not enough to satisfy local Marahmut or D. P. W. wants.

Burma teak has been imported more than once. And there is besides a perennial complaint from the people that they cannot get fairly good teak, nor in sufficient quantities, for their own house-building purposes. Considered in any light, it may be safely stated that the ‘untold wealth’ of the Travancore forests is a thing of the past; it cannot apply to present-day conditions. If a sustained policy of care and economy is vigilantly followed for the next 100 years or so, the Travancore forests may be resuscitated with real advantage to the State and prosperity to the agricultural ryots. The work of devastation has been unfortunately carried out with such activity, especially in the sixties and seventies of the last century. But there is no doubt that a vast field for private enterprise exists in the Travancore jungles and Travancore minerals. It requires knowledge, perseverance, capital and combined effort to utilize them. Mr. T. Ponnambalam Pillay* M. R. A. S. has collected some valuable data on this subject while he acted as Conservator of our Forests, 3 years ago. He believes that there are 1,000 species of trees in Travancore against 1,200 for all India and 160 in Europe. Out of this, the Forest Department of the State respects only 4 Royal and 20 Reserved trees. There is a piece of forest known as the Yerur Reserve. It has an area of 100 square miles, each square mile containing timber of the 24 species to the value of 1 lac of rupees. Thus for 100 square miles the value of this timber is 100 lacs. The extent of the total reserved area in Travancore is about 2,350 square miles. Of this, some tracts such as Kulattupuzha, Ranni, Konni and Malayattur are superior to Yerur, while there are others inferior to it. To add to these, there are unreserved forests in which are to be found the superior species already referred to, besides the Royal trees found in private property.

NOTEs: * In a lecture delivered under the auspices of the Public Lecture Committee, Trivandrum, in 1902

Thus following the calculation, the amount of the value of the timber from those trees can be put down at 2,500 lacs of Rupees or 25 years’ revenue of the State. Only a few species of trees are made use of by the people in Travancore. This is due either to ignorance of the quality of the other species, or to sentiment on the part of the consumers. The timber called Irul or Irupul or Iron-wood (Xylia dolabriformis) is largely used in Burma and Ceylon for building purposes. Though it is a very hardy wood it is not in requisition in Travancore. For a long time Thambagam or Kongu (Hopea parvi-flora) was not used in Travancore, and it is only some time since its virtues were known to the house-building public. It is therefore possible to introduce into the market those species that are now not known.

Again there are certain trees which are not close-grained and of a perishable nature. Scientists have found out a method by means of which certain chemical substances are injected into the trees to render the timber durable, and to secure immunity from the attacks of insects.

Thus the wealth of the Forests can be increased. It has been seen that the value of the 24 species of timber in the forests came to 25 years revenue of the State, and the value of the remaining ones can safely be put down to an equal amount. In speaking of timber, fire-wood has not been included. This article of daily want is obtained from the country and not imported from outside Travancore. Every individual of the State consumes at the rate of a chuckram (six and three-fourth pies) worth of fuel every day. Omitting one-fourth of the population who live on the sea-board towns and villages and use cocoanut shells for fire-wood, and omitting another one-fourth of the population who are able to get their fuel from their private compounds, and a third one-fourth of the population who gather dried leaves and twigs on the road side and other places and use them and cow-dung cakes in the place of fire-wood, there remains but one-fourth of the whole population of the State who get their fire-wood from the forest and the value of the quantity used by them comes to Rs.25,000 daily.

The value of the large quantities that are exported as well as those used for the several mills and factories, and for the manufacture of sugar, lemon-grass oil, and charcoal may be put down at Rs. 5,000. Thus the cost of the total quantity of fire-wood used in a day may be put down at Es. 30,000. To this an equal amount which rots away in the forests may well be added without exaggeration. The amount of Rs. 60,000 is the value of the fire-wood at the place of consumption or outside the forests. Its value at the forests themselves may be put down at one-third of that value. Thus the amount consumed in a year is 73 lacs of Rupees worth of fire -wood which is the lowest figure possible. The capital amount that will be required to produce the 73 lacs must be another 2,500 lacs of Rupees. Notwithstanding the fact that a large quantity of fuel is available in the country the public demand is not met. There is not a single private depot in all Travancore, excepting at the mills where the rates are exorbitant. People go in for cocoanut shells because they cannot get fire-wood. These are not only costly but also not suited for cooking, owing to the violent way in which they burn.

At the present moment it may not pay to bring in all the fire-wood that rots away in the forests. But certainly there is a large quantity that could be brought with advantage in order to create a trade in it. In Madras there are fuel-depots in every street. Though the proprietors do not take the commodity from long distances, still they manage to get about 10 per cent profit. In Trivandrum and other populous centres south of Quilon, excepting in small bazaars, we cannot get fire-wood unless we take advantage of the carts that perambulate the streets in the mornings. This industry has not yet been touched; undoubtedly there is plenty of money in it. The sap-wood of all coloured trees and the entire volume of all colourless trees, provided there is cellulose substance in them, can be made use of for making wood-pulp, which plays an important part in the manufacture of paper. The cellulose substance found in them should be separated from the rest. This is done by putting together small pieces of fresh cut wood and grinding them in a mill where water must constantly be poured in. By constant repetition of this process the fibrous substance will be retained and ground down. The same substance is also obtained by boiling the fresh cut pieces already referred to, and separating the cementing substances from the fibres.

By either process one-fourth of the original weight can be obtained as pulp. It is largely in demand in all manufacturing countries, and the quantity that is annually imported into Great Britain and Ireland is alone worth four millions of pounds sterling. Young shoots of bamboos, portions of matured bamboos and the surplus quantity of those that are not wanted for domestic purposes, several kinds of reeds, the wild sugar-cane and the refuse of the sugar-cane mills are considered to be good paper materials.

Teak, Sandalwood, Lemon-grass and Cheru punna can give oils of commercial value and will form a basis of remunerative industry. Tar, gums, resins, tannic acid and dye are also obtainable from ordinary trees if people will come forward and take up the matter. The abundance of fibre-material in Travancore is already known. It can be increased still more. The well-known senna-leaves are found largely in South Travancore. It is as good as the Tinnevelly senna which is in great demand in the European markets. Gum kino is not only useful for dyeing, but it is also a very valuable medicinal product. The value of 1 lb of it when sent back from England with English labels on is about Rs. 17, but if it is locally prepared it will not exceed Rs. 6. It is believed that the Travancore forests contain wealth to the extent of 100 years’ revenue of the State, or 1,000 millions sterling and thus afford an inexhaustible field for private industry.

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Prefatory Note | General | Mammals
Birds | Reptiles | Fish
Hymenoptera | Diptera | Lepidoptera

Series I. Rhopalocera
Series II. Heterocera

Moths | Coleoptera | Neuroptera
Orthoptera | Rhynchota | Thysanoptera and Thysanura
Myriapoda | Arachnida | Crustacea

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(Contributed by Harold S. Ferguson Esq. F. L. N., F. Z. S).

“The curly progenitors of man must have been once covered with hair, both sexes having beards: their ears wore probably pointed and capable of movement; and their bodies were provided with a tail, having the proper muscles. Their limbs and bodies were also acted on by many muscles which now only occasionally reappear but are normally present in the Quadrumana . . . These early ancestors of man, thus seen in the dim recesses of time most have been as simply, or even still more simply organised than the lancelet or amphioxus.“

(Prefatory Note: — To my old friend and brother-officer, Mr. H. S. Ferguson FLS FZS, I am beholden for this chapter on the Fauna of Travancore — a subject upon which he is an authority having spent nearly the whole of his life in the country, first as a Planter for several years on the Travancore Hills, then as the Guardian of the Princes, then as Commandant of one of the battalions in the Travancore army (Nayar Brigade), and lastly as the Director of the Government Museum and the Public Gardens at Trivandrum. He is a good shikari and has always been a diligent student of Natural History, both of which qualifications entitle him to be reckoned as an authority on the subject. He has delivered several lectures on kindred subjects in pursuance of the scheme of Public Lectures instituted by the Travancore Government, and these lectures have generally drawn large audiences from among the educated classes of the Trivandrum Public. The value of the contribution has been enhanced by the fact that he himself kindly offered to write the chapter unsolicited by me — an offer with which I readily fell in as I could not think of a more competent authority.

He drafted this chapter about two years ago, but finally corrected it just as he was leaving Trivandrum on furlough in March 1904. As his contribution to the Natural History section of the State, he has discovered several species of reptiles and insects new to science his observations upon cetaceans have been received with interest and his study of the growth of tadpoles the result of which he has embodied in Notes which he has made known to the scientific world, all point him out to be a naturalist of no mean order.

The chapter is inserted here just as he left it. Not being a specialist myself on the subject, I have not taken the liberty to correct, abridge or modify it in any way.-


Travancore is a narrow strip of land more or less triangular in shape with a maximum breadth of 75 miles and a length of 174 miles. It is bounded on the west by the sea and on the east by the watershed of the hills which run from Cape Comorin to the extreme north, ending in the Kannan Devan hills or High Range, which is connected with the Anamalays on the north and the Pulneys on the east.


The annual rainfall varies in different parts but is abundant everyrwhere except in the extreme south. The average temperature in the low country is 85° and at 2,100 feet elevation it is ten degrees less. The dry season which lasts from the middle of January to the middle of April is well marked. As is usually the case where there are dense forests and a heavy rainfall, cases of melanism are not uncommon and seasonal variation in colour constantly occurs. All countries are characterised by the different kinds of animals that inhabit them and they can be grouped into regions, sub regions &c., in accordance with the way in which these animals are distributed. In this respect Travancore belongs to the great Indo-Malay, or Oriental Region, which includes the whole of India, Ceylon, Assam, Burma, Formosa, Hainan, Cochin China, Malacca, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Philippine Islands and part of China. It is divided into three sub-regions, Cisgangetic, Trans-gangetic and Malayan.

The first of these comprises India proper from the base of the Himalayas to Cape Comorin and from the Arabian Sea and eastern boundary of the Punjab tract to the Bay of Bengal and the hills forming the eastern limit of the Gangetic alluvium with the addition of the island of Ceylon’, and in this Travancore is included. It has, however, affinities in its hill fauna with that of the Himalayas and the south-western hill-group in Ceylon, but they are not sufficient, says Mr. Blanford, “to enable the S. Indian and Ceylonese areas to be classed with the Himalayan forest area in a separate subdivision or sub region”.

It has also affinities with the Malayan sub-region as is shown by the occurrence of such genera as Loris and Tragulm among Mammals, Draco among Reptiles, and Ixalus among Amphibians. Travancore itself may be divided into four divisions: — (1. The forest-clad hill range up to and including the Cardamom Hills with an average height of 4,500 feet. (2 The Kannan Devan Hills or High Range more open in character and with an average height of 6,500 feet. (3. The low country from the north as far as Nagercoil. (4 The low country south of Nagercoil. Here the rainfall is only 25 inches and the palmyra takes the place of the cocoanut palm. The fauna resembles that of the east coast and here only in Travancore are found among Mammals the S. Indian Hedgehog (Erinaceus micropus), among Birds the smaller white Scavenger-vulture (Neophorn ginginianus), the grey Partridge (Francolinus pondicerianus) and some others, and among Reptiles, Gongylophis conicus and Eryx johnii.


There are no Mammals peculiar to Travancore, but the Toque Monkey (Macacus pileatus), the Ceylonese Palm-civet (Paradoxurus aureus) and the Ceylon brown Mungoose (Herpestes fulvescens), formerly believed to be confined to Ceylon, are found in Travancore, and lately two Dolphins, Tursiops fergusoni and Sotalia fergusoni, have been taken off the coast.

There are four species of Monkeys, two of which, the grey, or Bonnet monkey (Macacus sinicus) and the Toque monkey (M. pileatus), are found only in the low country and do not ascend the hills to any height. The other two species are (Macacus silenus) the Lion-tailed monkey, and (Semnopithecus johnii) the Nilgiri Langur, which are only to be found on the hills at elevations over 2,000 feet. The former may be met with in small herds but often goes about solitary. The latter is always found in small troops. The loud booming note of the male is a familiar sound in the hills. They are very gentle and easily tamed and are clean in their habits in captivity. Coolies on the tea estates are very fond of the flesh of these animals and are always anxious to get them as medicine. The Malabar Langur (Semnopithecus hypoleucus), a grey monkey with a black face, is found in the Cochin hills and in the Kambam valley on the eastern slopes of the Cardamom Hills but I do not think it has been actually recorded from Travancore. Of the Lemuroids there is only one representative the Slender Loris (L. gracilis) found in the lowland forests; according to Jerdon it is “rare on the Malabar Coast’’, but so far as Travancore is concerned this does not hold good as it is decidedly common.

Some years ago I saw two specimens of a larger species and the Kanis about Ponmudi say they know of two kinds. To describe their respective sizes they point to their wrists and then to their thighs. I have failed to obtain a specimen, however, and have no record of the ones I saw.

The Carnivora are well represented in Travancore. To begin with, there are six Cats varying in size from the Tiger to the little Rusty-spotted Cat (Felis rubiginosa). Tigers are not uncommon on the hills, but in the south where there is an abundance of forest and very little grass, they are not easy to get. The next in size, the Leopard (F. pardus), is very common and many skins are brought in by villagers yearly for the Government reward. The black variety is common and is usually bolder and fiercer than the ordinary one. The Fishing Cat (F. viverrina) is a fine cat, coloured as its name implies, like the civets, grey with black spots and lines. It is usually found about the neighbourhood of the backwaters. I cannot agree with Blyth that it is “a particularly tamable species”. Those we have had in captivity in the Public Gardens have invariably been very shy, sulky and fierce. The Jungle Cat (F. Chaus) is the commonest of all and is found in the low country; in and about villages, it breeds freely with domestic cats. The Leopard Cat (F. bengalensis) used to be common some years ago about Kottayam but is now confined to the hills. This beautiful little cat is about the size of a domestic cat and is marked with black spots on a fulvous ground colour.

It is commonest now in the High Range. The smallest of the six cats is the Rusty-spotted Cat (F. rubiginosa) which is found in the low country but is not common. The young of the Jungle Cat are very like the young of this species and it is difficult to distinguish them till they grow up. There are two Civets one of which (Viverra civettina) is very much larger than the other. Both are kept in captivity for the sake of the “musk” secreted by a gland near the tail.

Three Toddy Cats are found, one of which, Paradoxurus jerdoni, is confined to the hills at elevations over 3,000 feet. They are all nocturnal and feed on fruits though they are not above taking a meat diet when they can get it. The common Toddy Cat (P.niger) is a perfect pest as it invariably finds its way into houses and takes up its abode between the roof and ceiling where its movements and its smell make it a most undesirable visitor. The third species (P. aureus) I have only found in Trivandrum.

The Mungoose family are represented by four species of which the stripe-necked (Herpestes vitticollis) is the largest. It is found only in the forests and has very strong claws which enable it to dig out any prey that it has run to ground. H. fuscus is confined to the hills, but the common mungoose H. mungo and H. fulvescens are found in the low country.

Fifty years ago Hyaenas were common in the neighbourhood of Trivandrum. Col. Drury in his Life and Sport in Southern India says “my shikari brought in this morning two Hyaenas he had killed about seven miles from this”. But now there are hardly any to be found. Jackals are plentiful and in the hills packs of wild dogs (Cyon dukhunensis) hunt and clear the district they happen to be in of every kind of game. When living on the hills I often heard them in full cry and on one occasion, attracted by the sound, three of us ran in the direction and arrived in time to find them pulling down a Barking Deer (Cervvlus muntjac). We drove them off and took the deer ourselves. On the other hand I have also seen them running mute. My own belief is that this is their usual habit but they give tongue when their quarry is in view. I am the more convinced of this as the sounds we heard were not continuous nor of long duration.

The Indian Marten (Mustela flavigula, var Gwatkinsi) is found on the hills, rarely in the south but more commonly in Peermade and the Cardamom Hills. They are nocturnal and sometimes give trouble by breaking into fowl-houses. In the backwaters both the common Otter (Lutra vulgaris) and the Smooth Indian Otter (L. Marcrodus) are to be met with. The last of the carnivora is the Sloth-bear or Indian Bear (Melursus ursinus). This is found on the hills at all elevations and is more dreaded by the hillmen than any other animal as it will attack at once if suddenly disturbed.

The next great group of Mammals is the Insectivores. About their habits there is little to be said. They are all nocturnal. The only Hedge-hog found in Travancore is the South Indian (Erinaceus micropus) and it is only found in the extreme south about Nagercoil. Of the Shrews the so called “Musk rat” (Crocidura murina) is the best known and there are one or two other species of this genus recorded from the hills, but I have not come across specimens and have failed to obtain them from the hillmen.

The bats are well represented from the great dull coloured fruit-eating Flying-lox (Pteropus medius), conspicuous everywhere by its habit of associating in large colonies, to the little richly coloured Painted Bat (Cerivoula picta), hardly larger than a good-sized butterfly, that hides itself in the recesses of a plantain tree. The Fruit-eating Bats play an important part in the dispersion of seeds as they usually carry off the fruits to some distance and drop the seed when they have fed on the pulp. Insectivorous Bats enter houses very frequently at night and feed on the insects that are attracted by the light. So far, I have identified about fourteen species; but there are many more, I am sure, to be found on the hills.

Of the Rodents, our next group which includes the Squirrels, Bats, and Mice, Porcupines, Hare &c., the Porcupine (Hystrix leucura) is the largest. It is found only in the hills and is very destructive to garden produce. The Black-naped Hare (Lepus nigricollis) is common in the low country and on the hills. There are two kinds of Flying-squirrel both found only on the hills, the larger (Pteromys oral) is not uncommon but the smaller (Sciuropterus fuscicapillus) is somewhat rare. The large black and red Squirrel (Sciurus indicus) is only found on the hills from 500 feet elevation upwards; its loud cry may be often heard in the forest. There are three small striped squirrels of which the Palm-squirrel (S. palmarum) is a familiar visitor to human habitations where its loud persistent chirrup when alarmed or exited renders it often most unwelcome. The other two kinds, (S. tristriatus) and (S. sublineatus), are found only on the hills, the latter only at elevations of over 2,000 feet. There is, however, one exceptional locality in the low country, seven miles from Trivandrum, where I have obtained specimens. Here there are remains of the old forest which once covered the whole of the country but is now confined to the hills. Of the Rat tribe the Malabar Spiny Mouse (Plata canthomys lasiurus) is the most interesting. It is found only on the hills where it lives in hollows made in old forest trees. It is something like a dormouse. The Antelope-rat (Gerbillus indicus) may often be seen at dark crossing the roads; it makes its burrows in open places such as the Parade grounds and the Public Gardens in Trivandrum. Of the remaining species, some six in all, the Bandicoot-rat (Nesocia bandicota) is the largest and the common Indian Field-mouse (Mus-buduga), an elegant little beast, the smallest. The common rat is ubiquitous and frequents human habitations most persistently; it is a splendid climber and runs up a punkah rope with the greatest ease.

From the small Rodents to the lordly Elephant is a great step, but this animal is the first member of the next order we have to consider viz., the Ungulates. Elephants are protected in Travancore and their ivory is a royalty of the Government so that they are fairly numerous in the hills. Mr. T. F. Bourdillon in his Report on the Forests of Travancore writes as follows: —

“These animals are wild in the forests, and are in some places particularly abundant. They do not always remain in the same spot, but move about over large areas, their movements being regulated by the quantity and condition of the food available, and by the state of the weather. Over the greater part of Travancore they descend from the hills as soon as the water begins to fail there, that is to say about January, and they are then to be found in the thickest and coolest parts of the lower forests in the vicinity of some river. As soon as the showers begin to fall in April, their instinct tells them that they can again obtain water on the hills, and that fresh grass has sprung up where the dry herbage was so lately burnt, and they immediately commence an upward movement to the high ground. There they remain till about September when some, but not all of them, descend to the lower slopes of the hills and even to the low country, to see what they can get from the fields of hill-paddy then beginning to ripen, and they often destroy large quantities of grain. In November these migrants again ascend the hills and join their companions.

“Advantage is taken by us of the annual descent from the hills in the hot weather to catch these animals In pits, but in November no attempt is made to capture them as the pit are then full of water. The question has often been debated whether the number of elephants in the country is increasing or decreasing. I believe that most people would say that elephants are more numerous than formerly, but I am inclined to think that this impression is formed from the increased damage done to cultivation of all sorts. If we recollect that cultivation is yearly extending, we can well understand that elephants are much more troublesome now than formerly, without there being any increase in their numbers and if we could take a census of them we should probably find that their numbers are about stationary.

“I once attempted to estimate how many there are in the State and I came to the conclusion that there must be from 1,000 to 1,500, the greater number of them being found in North Travancore, especially the Cardamom Hills. Sometimes elephants die in large numbers, as in the year 1866, when a murrain attacked them in the forests near Malayathur, and 50 pairs of tusks were brought to the Forest Officers at that place and Thodupuzha in April and May of that year. Such epidemics would doubtless occur more frequently if the number of elephants increased unduly and the supply of food fell short and their rarity is a sign that the animals are not troubled for want of food though their migrations show that it is not always to be obtained in the same place.”

The Gaur, the so called “Bison” of Europeans (Bos gaurus), is the finest representative of the existing bovines. They go about in herds of which one old bull is the acknowledged leader and master. When age tells upon him he may be driven out after severe fight by a younger and a stronger one and he then abandons the herd and wanders about solitary. It is these solitary bulls that generally afford the finest trophies to the sportsman.

There are no wild Sheep in Travancore and the goats are represented by a solitary species, the Nilgiri Wild Goat (Hemitragus hylocrius) miscalled by Europeans the Ibex. They are to be found in herds on the hills in suitable localities where there are grassy slopes and precipitous rocks. The bucks leave the herd from December to April when the does breed and go about with their kids. No Antelopes are found in Travancore but the Deer are represented by four species, the Sambur (Cervus unicolor) found at all elevations where there is a forest; the Spotted Deer (Cervus axis) that go about in herds and frequent open forests and bamboo jungle at the foot of the hills the Rib-faced or Barking-Deer (Cervulus muntjac), usually found solitary, or in pairs at all elevations on the hills in thick forest and the tiny little Mouse-deer (Tragulus meminnia) that stands only about a foot high, and is also to be found only on the hills, where it leads a solitary and retired life except in the breeding season when the male and female keep together.

The Indian Wild Boar is the last of the Ungulates. Herds or “Sounders’* of these animals are to be met with at the foot of the hills and about the cultivated patches where they do much damage to the crops. The young are striped aud spotted. Of the Cetaceans that frequent the coast not much is known. The little Indian Porpoise (Neophocoena phocoenoides) the False Killer (Pseudorca crassidens) the Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis, Tursiops catalania, Tursiops fergusoni) and Sotalia fergusoni are the only ones so far identified. The Indian Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is the only representative of the order Edentata. It feeds almost entirely on white ants which it seeks at night; during the day it lies up in a burrow scooped out under ground. There is a Game Preservation Regulation which is in force in the hill districts of Central and North Travancore. The close season for all Big Game is from 31st May to 1st October.




The birds cannot be treated of at such length as the mammals, as there are about 330 species found in Travancore. Of these, two only are peculiar to it while the third is only found elsewhere on the Pulneys. They were first brought to notice by Mr. Bourdillon and two are named after him, Bourdillon’s Babbler (Rhopocichla bourdilloni) Bourdillon’s Black-bird (Merula bourdilloni). This extends to the Pulneys and Blanford’s Laughing-thrush (Trochalopteron meridionale) which is only found in the extreme south above 4,000 feet on the tops of the hills in forest. As it is not possible with the limited space at my disposal to enumerate all the birds, it will perhaps be the best way to point out those that are characteristic of the different divisions into which, as I have said Travancore may be separated.

To take the low country first. Two species of crows, the Indian House-crow (Corvus splendens) and the Jungle-crow (Corvus macrorhynchus) are ubiquitous, while the Drongo or King- crow (Dicrurus) ater is the next most conspicuous bird with the exception perhaps of the common House-sparrow which is found wherever there are human habitations. Flocks of Rose-ringed green Paroquets (Palaeornis torquatus) may be seen feeding on fruit trees or rapidly flying in search of food and uttering shrill cries as they fly. Perched on the telegraph wires or seated on the ground, a little green bird with a long bill and tail, the outer feathers of which are elongated and pointed, may be constantly met with moving from its perch in short flights after its insect prey. This is the common Bee-eater (Merops viridis). A relation of it, the white-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) is a much more gorgeously-clad bird; its white breast, chestnut brown head and blue black make it evident to the eye, while its high pitched tremulous cry forces itself on the ear. It frequents gardens and feeds on insects mainly, while a smaller edition of it Alcedo ispida, the common Kingfisher, is found on the banks of every tank or stream looking for fish to which its diet is limited. Another common Kingfisher is the Indian Pied (Cerylc varia), a black and white bird which may be seen hovering over water and shooting down with a direct plunge when it descries a fish. Towards dusk another relation, the Common Indian Nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus) may be heard. It is known as the ‘ice bird’ as its cry resembles the sound of a pebble skimming along the ice.

Another bird that forces itself on the ear is the Tailor-bird (Orthotomus sutorius), it is a tiny plain greenish brown bird, white below, with a remarkably loud voice which it constantly exercises in crying “pretty, pretty, pretty” or as some described it “towhee, towhee, towhee”. The prettiest of all our garden birds are the Honey Suckers or “Sun-birds,” tiny little creatures shining with glorious metallic colours. Nothing can be more charming than to watch a flock of the commonest kind, Arachnechthra zeylonica, skirmishing through a bush in flower, never still, at one time spreading their tails like fans, anon fluttering their wings np and down and keeping up a constant chatter. There are two other kinds, A. lotenia and A. asiatica but these are not so conspicuous. The smallest and brightest of all, A. minima, is abundant at the foot of the hills and may be found at all elevations. Every one has heard of the “Seven sisters” . This name is given to various kinds of babblers in different parts of India which have a strong family likeness and go about in small flocks of about half a dozen. They are mostly earthy brown and they vary in the colour of the throat. Our commonest species is the Southern Indian Babbler (Cratcropus striatus), but there are two other kinds found, C. griseus and C canorus, the latter chiefly at the foot of the hills.

Another well-known bird is the Madras red-vented Bulbul (Molpastes haemorrhous) a plain brown bird with a black head, white upper tail coverts and crimson lower ones. It is often kept as a pet by natives. A bright-coloured bird with a good deal of yellow and white about it may often be seen about the trees and bushes hunting for insects; this is the common lora (Ægithina tiphia). The female is green and white. Its presence may always be known by its peculiar note which sounds like a prolonged plaintive in-drawn whistle on D sharp falling to a short note on F sharp.

There are three Shrikes that may be seen not uncommonly, two of which go about in flocks. One, the common Wood-shrike (Tephrodarnis pondicerianus), a plain ashy-brown bird with a broad white eyebrow has a tuneful whistle well described by Mr. Aitken as “Be thee cheery”. The other, the small Minivet, has a finer dress of black orange and scarlet but this is only sported by the males, the females and young having it more subdued. The third, the Large Cuckoo Shrike, is a grey bird considerably bigger than the others. Conspicuous by their colour are the Orioles commonly known as ‘’Mango birds”, fine yellow fellows with some black about them. The Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus indicus), which is only a winter visitor, has it on the nape, while the other the Black-headed Oriole wears it on the head. They have a rich flute-like whistle.

No one can hil to notice the common Myna (Acridotheres tristis), a plain brown bird with a black head and breast shading off into vinous brown often seen walking after cattle and as its name implies hunting for grasshoppers, its favourite food. It is a splendid mimic and in captivity can be taught to talk and it readily picks up the notes of other birds. Another Myna, the Jungle Myna very like it in colouration and habits, is also common. It is a smaller- bird than the Common Myna and may be distinguished from it by its size and the absence of the bare skin round the eyes. A white bird with a black crested head and two very long white tail feathers may often be seen flitting in undulating flight from tree to tree. This is the Indian Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi), commonly known as the “Cotton thief”, as he looks as if he were making off with a load of that staple. His wife, the “Fire thief”, has an almost equally long tail, only it is red; hence her nickname. The young males take after their mother at first and only get to the white stage in the fourth year.

Another common bird is the Fantail Flycatcher; it is dark brown with white forehead and eyebrows, it has a quaint song that reminds one of the opening of a valse tune. One of the few birds that has a really pretty song is the Magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis, a familiar bird in its white and black livery, to be met with in the neighbourhood of human habitations. Its sweet notes are the first one hears just as the dawn is beginning to break. Another sweet songster is the Large Pied Wagtail also clad in black and white. The Indian Skylark too (Alauda gulgula), may often be heard both in the low country and on the hills in open ground. Another Lark, the Madras Bush-lark (Mirafra affinis), is common. It has a habit of sitting on some exposed spot such as the roof of a house, whence it rises in a short soaring flight while it utters a shrill trilling note. Both it and the Indian Pipit (Anthus rufulus) frequent grass land and are to be found in crowds on the rice fields after the crop is cut and the ground has dried.

Most people can recognise a Woodpecker when they see it and there are at least three species that are found in the low country, but it is not easy to describe them in a few words. The Yellow-fronted Pied Woodpecker (Liopicus mahrattensis) may be recognised by its bright yellowish brown head. The Malabar Rufous Woodpecker (Micropternus gularis) is a uniform dull rufous. The third is well called the Golden-backed Woodpecker (Brachypternus aurantius), its loud screaming call, which it utters as it flies, is a familiar sound. So too is the call of the “Copper smith”, the Crimson-breasted Barbet (Xantholaema haematocephala). It is a green thick-set bird with a yellow throat bordered below by a crimson band and with a crimson forehead; it has a strong coarse beak.

A near relation the small Green Barbet (Thereiceryx viridis), is also common and to be heard frequently. Two not uncommon birds, the Hoopoe (Upupa indica) and the Indian Roller (Coracias indica), are conspicuous by their plumage. The latter is very like an English Jay. The former is a brown bird with a long bill and a large fawn-coloured crest, all the feathers of which are tipped with black.

Another bird that intrudes upon one’s notice by its persistent cry is the common Hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx varius). It is a grey bird very like a Shikra, hence its English name; but familiarly it is known as the “Brain-fever bird” for, as the hot weather approaches, its voice may be heard first running up a scale and at the end shrieking, time after time what sounds to one’s heated imagination like the words “brain fever,” again and again repeated. It is heard by night as often as by day which makes it all the more disturbing.

Of the birds of prey there are not a few that frequent the plains; many being, however, only winter visitors may be safely left out of account. The most familiar of our residents are of course the Brahminy and the Common Kite; these are too well known to need description. The Crested Hawk Eagle (Spizactus cirrhatus) is a fine bird, for the most part brown, the feathers having darker centres; it has a long crest black tipped with white. It is most destructive in the poultry yard as it takes up a station on a tree hard by and seizes its opportunity to dart down and carry off whatever it can; this it will do day after day unless it is driven off. The Sliikra is also a common bird, while at night the Little Spotted Owlets (Athene brama) and (Scops bakkamoena) may often be heard.

Of the Pigeons the only one common in the plains is the Indian Blue Rock (Columba intermedia) which may often be met with in the dry paddy fields after the crops are cut.

Turing now to the marsh and water birds, we find them pretty well represented as the backwaters along the coast afford them shelter and food. In or about every tank where there are bushes, a dark slaty grey bird with a white breast may be seen for a second, feeding in the open, but not longer, as it skulks ofif rapidly into cover with its perky little tail uplifted. This is the white-breasted Water-hen (Amaurornis phoeniscurus). The Water-cock (Gallicrex cinerca) is not its husband but has a wife of his own. They are larger birds clad alike, in winter in dark brown with paler edges to the feathers; in summer, however, the male dresses more or less in black with some white below. They are common in standing paddy.

On every weed-covered tank the elegant Jacanas, both the bronze- winged (Metopidius indicus) and the Pheasant-tailed (Hydrophasianus chirurgus), are to be seen like Agag treading delicately over the water leaves. The latter in its breeding plumage is a lovely sight. Two Lapwings, the Red-wattled (Sarcogrammus indicus) and the Yellow-wattled (Sarciophorus malabaricus), may be frequently heard and seen. The former prefers the neighbourhood of water and when flushed goes offf remonstrating “why did you do it”. The other prefers dry plains, where it circles about uttering much the same cry but with one note less. Its cry may be heard for some time after dark. These are residents and the Little Ringed Plover (Ægialitis dubia) may almost be reckoned so, as there are few months in which individuals may not be met with. It frequents the shores and paddy fields. Other winter visiors are the Sandpipers commonly called “Snippets”, the most numerous of which are the Common Sandpiper (Totanus hypoleucus) and the Wood Sandpiper (T. glareola). Both the Common and Fantail snipe afford sport to the gunner in winter while the beautiful Painted Snipe (Rostratula capensis) is a permanent resident. Seated on the posts that mark the channel in the backwaters, numbers of Terns are to be seen in winter, they are the Smaller-crested (Sterna media), and on the seashore the common Tern (Sterna fluviatilis is fairly numerous. In the paddy fields the Pond Heron (Ardeola grayi) is always abundant and so are the Little Green Heron (Butorides javanica) and the Chestnut Bittern (Ardetta Cinnamomea), So far as I have been able to ascertain, the Duck are represented by four species of Teal, the Whistling, the Cotton, the Common and the Blue-winged, while the Spotted-billed Duck is occasionally met with. The Little Grebe (Podiceps albipennis) completes the list of water birds to be found commonly in the plains.

Bird life is most abundant at the foot of the hills. Here the “Seven sisters” are represented by the Jungle Babbler (Crateropus canorus) which has the same colouring and habits as the others of its class. The Bulbuls are represented by Jerdon’s Chloropsis, a green bird with a black chin and a blue moustache, a cheerful little fellow frequenting trees and not to be easily distinguished as its colour harmonises so well with the foliage. The Southern Red-whiskered Bulbul (Otocompsa fuscicaudata) is even more abundant and might perhaps be considered to have a prescriptive right to the epithet ‘cheerful’ , I have used in describing the Choloropsis, for to Jerdon he was always “Jocosa” . If you see a plain brown bird with a snow white throat and breast and with a perky black crest bending forward over its beak you will know it at once.

Another bright coloured bird is the Yellow-browed Bulbul (Iole icterica). It is mostly yellow with brown wings. It is common up to 2,000 feet. Flocks of Malabar Wood-shrikes are to be met with up to 3,000 feet, grey birds with a black band through the eye. They keep up a harsh chattering as they search the trees for insect food. The Black-backed Pied Shrike (Hemipus picatus) is also fairly common and easily recognisable, some of the most familiar sounds are the notes of the Southern Grackle (Eluabes religiosa). It is a black bird, and its yellow beak, yellow legs and yellow wattles on the back of the head render it unmistakable. It has a powerful voice and a variety of notes, some harsh and some pleasing; towards sunset it makes itself particularly heard. Most of the Flycatchers are winter visitors and are to be found at high elevations, but the little Brown Flycatcher (Alseonax latirostris) is an exception. It is resident and is found from the foot of the hills to about 2,000 feet. It takes up its perch on a branch and sits motionless until it makes a dash after some passing insect when it returns to its perch again.

Flocks of little Munias, small finch-like birds of three kinds, the White-backed (Uroloncha striata), the Spotted (U.punctulata) and the Black-headed (Munia malacca) may be seen feeding on the ground or clinging to the lantana bushes in which they love to perch.

Two small Woodpeckers, the Ceylon Pigmy Woodpecker (Iyngipicus gymnophthalmus) and the Heart-spotted (Hemicercus canente), are fairly common. The latter is easily recognised in the first place by its peculiar cry something like that of the Kestril and secondly by its black plumage with heart- shaped black spots on the buff coverts of the wing. The former is a small bird brown with white streaks on the plumage about 5 inches long of which one and a half are tail. The Western Blossom- headed Paroquet (Palaecornis cyanocephalus) is here conspicuous going about in flocks and the Little Indian Grey Tit (Parus atriceps) maybe seen at almost all elevations. It has a black head with white cheeks and grey back. As one ascends the hills the Southern Tree-pie (Dendrocitta leucogastra) is commonly seen. It is a beautiful bird with a black head, a snow-white breast, cbestnut-bay back and a tail 12 inches long of grey and black. They go about in parties of three or four and are somewhat noisy. Another bird that is often heard is the Southern Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus horsfieldii). Its peculiar rolling chuckle tells one it is there, but the thick underwood it affects renders it difficult to discover. The peculiar inconsequent whistle of the Malabar Whistling Thrush (Myiophoneus horsfieldii) is to be heard near every stream in the forests. “The Drunken Plough Boy “ is the name it has obtained by its musical efforts. It is a fine bird to look at, black with a considerable amount of blue about it.

From the foot of the hills to about 2,000 feet, another bird, the Racket-tailed Drongo (Dissemurus paradiseus), makes it- self continuously heard and its rich metallic notes are characteristic of the forest. It is a glossy black bird with a fine crest, the lateral tail feathers are greatly elongated, bare for a certain distance and webbed at the end hence its English name. In the tops of the trees flocks of the fairy Blue Bird (Irena puella), one of the most beautiful of all our birds, are a feature of the jungle life to about 2,000 feet. At a distance they seem plain enough, but if you get a closer view the metallic blue of the back and crown of the male contrasting with the black of the other parts shows a scheme of colouring that cannot be surpassed.

Creeping among the leaves the Little White-eyed Tit (Zosterops palpebrosa) is a common sight. Its green plumage and the conspicuous ring of white round the eye render it easy to recognise. In the winter two Rock-thrushes are to be commonly met with, the Blue-headed (Petrophila cinclorhyncha) and the Western Blue (Petrophila cyanus), the former in forest in the neighbourhood of cultivation, the latter generally in open clearings or in grass land where there are rocks. The males are handsome birds; when in their winter plumage the former has a blue head, black back, red upper tail coverts and a blue spot in front of the shoulder. The latter is bright blue with dark brown wings and tail, the female is dull blue throughout with buffy white under plumage each feather of which has a black edge. The female of the Blue-headed Rock- thrush is quite unlike her husband being brown above and white below, thickly barred with dark brown.

On every path the elegant little Grey Wagtail (Motacilla melanope) may be seen tripping along. It is our earliest visitor and stays the latest.

Three Woodpeckers frequent the higher elevations, the common Golden-backed three-toed (Tiga javanensis), Tickell’s Golden-backed (Chrysocolaptes gutticristatus), and the Malabar Great Black Woodpecker (Thriponax hodgsoni). The first of these is common everywhere, the second in the neighbourhood of streams, while the third is the commonest in open jungle. The peculiarities noted in their names are sufficient to discriminate them. The presence of a pair of the great Horn-bill (Dichoceros bicornis) is manifested for some distance. Their hoarse croaking roar may be heard for miles and the beating of their wings as they fly across a valley attracts one’s attention at once. They are not abundant nor so common as their relation, the Jungle Grey Horn-bill (Lophoccros griseus). These also make their presence known by their peculiar cry which is like the laugh of our old friend Mr. Punch, but they frequent heavy forest and are not so often seen.

The “whish“ of the brown-necked Spine-tail (Chaetura indica) is a familiar sound as it rushes by at more than double the rate of the fastest express. They are more often heard than seen, but at times they play, and the rate of flight is then moderate. The Indian Edible-nest Swiftlet (Collocalia unicolor) is the other swift that is most common in the hills- A very beautiful bird that frequents heavy forests over 2,000 feet is the Malabar Trogon. It has a broad black head set on a thick neck, a yellowish brown back and a long black tail with chestnut centre feathers. The breast is black bordered by a white band and below this again it is pale crimson. The female has the head, neck and upper breast brown no white band and the under parts are brownish buff.

Another beautiful bird is the velvet-fronted Blue Nuthatch. At elevations of about 2,000 feet and upwards, it may be seen creeping about the trunks of trees. As its name describes, it is blue with a dark velvety-black band on the forehead.

At about this elevation or perhaps a little higher and up to the extreme summits, the Southern Indian Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes ganeesa) is very common; it is a dark grey bird with a black head and an orange-red beak. Its cheerful notes are a sure sign that you are a long way above the sea-level.

Flocks of the Blue-winged Paroquet (Palaeornis columboides) take the place of the Blossom-headed as one ascends the hills, and the little Indian Loriquet inconspicuous by its small size and green colouring is to be met with.

The note of the Brown Hawk-owl (Ninox scutulata) is frequently heard at night while by the day the scream of the Crested Serpent-eagle (Spilornis cheela) as it soars aloft, is equally common. The Black Eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis) may be seen quartering the tops of the trees in search of small birds’ eggs and young at all seasons while the Kestril and the Indian Hobby are winter visitants.

The whistle of the Grey-fronted Green Pigeon (Osmotreron affinis) is not uncommonly heard and also the booming note of Jerdon’s Imperial Pigeon (Ducula cuprea). while the Bronze-winged Dove (Chalcophaps indica) may be seen in heavy jungles feeding on the ground. The Grey Jungle-fowl (Gallus sonnerati) may be met with on jungle paths either early in the morning or after sunset.

On the High Range the Palni Laughing-thrush (Trochalopterum fairbanki) takes the place of T.meridionale. Here too may be found the Nilgiri Babbler (Alcippe phceocephala), a plain brown bird with ashy brown forehead and crown that was called by Jerdon the “Neilgherry Quaker Thrush,” no doubt on account of the want of brilliancy in its plumage. In the grass lands the Red-headed Fantail Warbler (Cisticola crythroccphala) is fairly common.

The three Flycatchers that are most abundant at high elevations are the Nilgiri Blue Flycatcher (Stoporola albicaudata), an indigo blue bird with a lighter blue forehead and eyebrow, the Grey-headed Flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis) and the Black and Orange Flycatcher (Ochromela nigrirufa), whose English names sufficiently describe them for purposes of identification. About Peermade and the High Range are found numbers of the Southern Pied Bush-chat (Pratincola atrata). They are always in pairs, the male is black with white upper tail coverts and a white patch on the wing, the female is grey with reddish upper tail coverts and black tail.

Other birds peculiar to the High Range are the common Rose Finch (Carpodacus erythrinus) which come there in flocks as winter visitants, the White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) is also to be found there only in winter, and the Nilgiri Pipit is a permanent resident in the grass lands.

Here too is often seen the Malabar Crested Lark (Galerita malabarica) also a permanent resident, and the great Alpine Swift (Cypselus melba) congregates in numbers and hawks for insects through the smoke of the grass fires. The commonest Quail is the Painted Bush-quail (Microperdiz erythrorhyncha), and of other game birds the Wood-cock and the Woodsnipe are sometimes met with in winter.

To return to the low country: the birds peculiar to the extreme south of Travancore are the White-throated Munia (Uroloncha malabarica) which is common there, though to my surprise I have not met with it elsewhere, the smaller White Scavenger Vulture (Neophron ginginianus), the Little Brown Dove (Turtur cambayensis), the Indian Ring Dove (Turfur risorius), the Grey Partridge (Francolinus pondicerianus), and the Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunneicephalus).

The Palm Swift (Tachornis batassiensis) though not confined to the south is far more abundant there, and the Little Scaly-bellied Green Woodpecker (Gecinus striolatus) I have only obtained near Cape Comorin.


All the backwaters and most of the larger rivers of Travancore are infested with crocodiles and in North Travancore small ones may be found even in the tanks, the water of which is used for various purposes; the people take no notice of them until they get fairly large (over 4 feet or so when they either destroy them or force them to move away. By far the commonest kind is Crocodilus palustris. In the South they do not generally exceed 8 feet in length but in North Travancore specimens are said to br found up to 20 feet. At the mouths of the rivers in North Travancore Crocodilus porosus is found. There is one specimen in the Museum taken at Tannirmukham and there was a skull presented by General Cullen of which he gives the following account: —

“The animal was killed several years ago in the backwaters between Alleppey and Cochin at a place called Tannirmukham. It had killed several natives and on the last occasion seized a woman far advanced in pregnancy as she was washing. She died of the injuries she received, and the husband and others vowing vengeance against the brute, at last caught and killed it. They brought it with another one and left it before me at Cochin. It was about 10 feet long. I have records of alligators up the river at Cochin near Verapoly of 18 to 22 feet in length.”

The sea yields four kinds of turtles, (Chelone imbricata) the one that produces the tortoise-shell of commerce, Chclonc mydas, Thalassochelys caretta and the great Leathery Turtle, Dermochelys coriacea. In the rivers the fresh-water turtles, Trionyx cartilagineus and Pelochelys cantori may be found.

In the tanks, the Ceylon Pond-tortoise, Emyda vittata and Nicoria trijuja, arc common, while on the hills in the extreme south, the land tortoise (Testudo elegans may be met with and Testudo platynota through-out the range.

Among the lizards, the Flying-lizard (Draco dussumieri) is the most remarkable as it has a lateral wing-like membrane supported by the last five or six ribs which enables it to glide through the air from one tree to another in downward flight. It is found at the foot of the hills most commonly. In houses numbers of the House Gecko (Hemidactylus leschenaulti) are always to be seen stalking insects on the walls at night« The lizard that has been victimised with the name of “Blood-sucker” is Calotes versicolor. It is very common in the low country while its relation, C. ophiomachus, is equally common in the hills. On the sides of the roads in forest on the hills, a fat-bodied lizard, olive brown above, with a series of rhomboidal spots along the middle of the back, Sitana ponticeriana, is common at low elevations. While on the High Range Salea anamallayana is abundant.

Into houses Mabuia carinata, a brown lizard with a lighter band on each side, often finds its way. It is essentially Ground lizard and never climbs. The most formidable of the lizard tribe is the monitor called by Europeans “Guana” found in the neighbourhood of water both in the low country and in the hills. It has a powerful jaw and can kill rats as well as any terrier and then swallow them whole with the greatest ease. Lastly we have the well-known Chameleon (C. calcaratus) which is not uncommon about the low country.

Only two lizards are peculiar to Travancore, Ristella travancorica and Lygosoma subcoeruleum.

Snakes are fairly common in Travancore and there are about 67 species represented. When one is met with, the first question that is asked is, “Is it a poisonous one”, to this most of the people at once reply in the affirmative and, needless to say, they are generally wrong. There are only three poisonous snakes that are found in the low country and they are easily recognisable: —

1 The Cobra (Naia tripudians) whose hood at once proclaims it (2 The Russel’s Viper (Vipera russellii) whose thick body, broad head covered with little scales, and the chain pattern down the centre of its back easily identify it (3 The “Krait” (Bungarus caruleus,) this is bluish black above with narrow transverse white streaks or spots, a scheme of colouring which is adopted by a harmless snake (Lycodon aulicus) that is often found about houses and is mistaken for the Krait; the Krait, however, can be easily discriminated by its blunt head and by the fact that the scales running down the centre of the back are enlarged and hexagonal.

No other poisonous snakes than these are likely to be seen in the low country. On the hills and at their foot the Hamadryad (Naia bungarus) is found. Here again the hood betrays it. Two species of Callophis, C. nigrescens and C. bibronii, may be met with occasionally but so rarely as not to need description, and there are three Tree-vipers (Ancistrodon hypnale), Trimeresurus anamallensis, and T. macrolepis which are easily recognised by their broad flat heads and by the pit just in front of the eye. The bite of these last, though painful, in effect is not fatal to man.

There are several species of Sea-snakes, all of which are poisonous. They are entirely marine and may be distinguished by their compressed oar-like tails. The only harmless snake that lives entirely in water is Chersydrus granulatus which is found at the mouths of the rivers and along the coast, its tail is not compressed like that of sea-snakes.

Among the harmless snakes there is a family of burrowing ones, the Uropeltidae that have truncated tails. They feed on earth worms and may be met with on the roads on the hills after rain. The people call them “double-headed snakes”. Of these, two species, Rhinophis travancoricus and Rhinophis fergusonianus, the latter taken by Mr. Sealy on the High Range, are peculiar to Travancore. Rat Snakes (Zamenis mucosus) are common about the paddy fields and most tanks contain specimens of Tropidonotus piscator.

The commonest Tree-snake is the green one (Dryophis mycterizans), while Dipsas trigonata is sometimes found in bushes near houses. Snakes of this genus are sometimes mistaken for poisonous ones as their heads are somewhat flattened and triangular, but their long thin bodies and the presence of shields on the head distinguish them from vipers with which alone they are confounded. One species, Dipsas dightoni, is peculiar to Travancore having been taken by Mr. Dighton in Peermade.

The largest snake found in Travancore is the Python (P. molurus). I have seen a specimen 18 feet long and one now in the Public Gardens is 15 feet. It is harmless, but the next largest the Hamadryad is deadly. The largest specimen I have seen is 13½ feet long. It is said to make unprovoked attacks on people but though I have met many specimens they have always gone off as hard as possible and I have not heard of any one in Travancore being molested by this snake.

Batrachians, which include Frogs, Toads and Caecilians are naturally abundant in Travancore as there is plenty of water. There are 34 species of which three, Rana aurantiaca, Ixalus travancorius and Bufo fergusonii are peculiar to Travancore. The croaking of the frogs and toads in the paddy fields as the rains set in is a familiar sound at night. In the low country the largest and commonest frog is Rana tigrina, a great cannibal, of which large specimens may be caught in any tank by using a small one as bait. The commonest toad is Bufo melanostictus. Small specimens of this are very partial to taking up their abode under the edge of the matting in any room and here they sit and croak happily till the lights are put out when they sally forth to feed.

Two kinds of “Chunam frog”, Rhacophorus malaharicus and R.maculatus also come into houses and seat themselves on pictures or in between the Venetians or on any other convenient perch and thence make prodigious leaps, the discs on their dilated toes enabling them to stick even to a perpendicular surface. On the hills, Bufo parietalis is found in abundance and five species of the genus Ixalus may be met with. The Caecilians are not so abundant. They are worm-like burrowing Batrachians and are usually found in damp situations. There are three kinds found in Travancore, Ichthyophis glutinosus, Uracotyphlus oxyrus, and Gegenophis carnosus.


Several species of sharks are found along the coast. Of the family Carcharidae, some of which grow to a considerable size and are dangerous, the most curious looking is the Hammer-headed shark (Zygana blochii), which has the front portion of the head laterally elongated from which it derives its name.

The great Basking-shark (Rhinodon typicus) is sometimes found; one 27 feet and 1 inch in length was washed ashore at Puntura, Trivandrum in 1900. It is quite harmless. Another innocuous form is Stegostoma tigrinum which grows to 15 feet in length but feeds mostly on molluscs and crustaceans. Two kinds of Saw-fish, Pristis eupidatus and Printis perotteti, frequent the coast, the beaks of which are sometimes 5 feet long. In most of the rivers, Mahseer (Barbustor) are to be found. Shoals of Flying-fish (Exocaetus micropterus) are not uncommonly to be seen winging their way over the waters. The great Sword-fish (Histiophorus gladius) may occasionally be seen sunning itself on the surface with its great blue dorsal fin fully extended. It is a dangerous animal and cases of injury inflicted by it on unfortunate fishermen have been treated in the hospital at Trivandrum. In one of these, about nine inches of the sword were taken from the fleshy part of the shoulder of one man who while sitting on his catamaran had been wantonly attacked. Another species, H. brevirostris, is also found, one specimen in the Museum is 10 feet long.

A curious fish is Echencis, which has the first dorsal fin modified into an adhesive disc by means of which it clings to the bodies of sharks and so profits by the superior powers of locomotion of its host in finding food.

Goby fish of the genus Periothalmus, though only able to breathe by gills, are fond of the land and may be seen climbing about the rocks when pursued they use their tails and ventral fins to leap out of harm’s way. The fishermen call them Sea-toads. They are very wary and hard to catch.

The Sea-horse (Hippocampus guttulatus) is often found about Cape Comorin and there are many others of strange shape and varied colour. Of the former, Ostracion turritus having a solid coat of armour composed of angular bony plates is a quaint example. So are the fish of the genus Tetrodon, sometimes called Sea-porcupines, which are covered with small spines. They are able to inflate their bodies with air and float on the water upside down, hence they are called Globe-fish. Holocanthus annularis, a fish with a body vertically broad, coloured sienna, with a blue ring on the shoulder and six or seven curved blue bands upon the sides, and a yellow caudal fin, is an example of the latter, and so are Chaetodon vagabundus, Psettus argenteus and Heniochus macrolepidotus, There are many that are edible, of which perhaps the best are the Seer-fish of the genus Cybium, Bed Mullets of the family Mullidae, Grey Mullets of the family Mugilida, Pomfret of the family Stromateida (Strombillidae) and Whiting (Sillago sihama).

So far I have described the animals comprising the subkingdom of the vertebrates or as they are now called the Chordata. Formerly all the remaining animals were lumped into one subkingdom and called Invertebrates, but a fuller knowledge has shown that they must be split up into eight subkingdoms, each of which is equivalent to the subkingdom of the Chordata. They are: — (1 Arthropoda (Insects, Spiders and Crustaceans), (2 Echinodermata (Star-fish and Sea-urchins), (3 Mollusca (Cuttle-fish, Oysters &c.), (4 Mulluscoida (Lamp-shells and Corallines, (5 Vermes (Worms. Leeches &c.), (6 CaIenterata (Jelly-fish, Sea-anemones and Corals), (7 Porifera (sponges and (H Protozoa (Single-celled animals). Of these I can only speak of the Arthropods, and of them only imperfectly. The remaining seven subkingdoms have not as yet been worked at all in the Museum.

The Arthropods are divided into seven classes: — 1. Insects, 2. Centipedes, 3. Millipedes, 4. Scorpions. Spiders, Ticks &c., 5. Kingcrabs, 6. Crustaceans, and 7. Prototracheata. There are no representatives of classes 5 and 7 in Travancore. The remaining classes will be taken in the order given.

Insects are divided into nine Orders: — 1. Hymenoptera (Ants, Wasps), 2. Diptera (Flies, 8. Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths), 4. Coleoptera (Beetles), 5. Neuroptera (Dragon-flies, White-ants &c.), 6. Orthoptera (Grasshoppers, Crickets. Mantises), 7. Rhyncota (Bugs), 8. Thysanoptera (Thrips) and 9. Thysanura (Spring-tails and Bristle- tails).


The Order Hymenoptera which includes ants, bees, wasps, sawflies and Ichneumon-flies has, with the exception of the last two, been lately worked out for India. It contains some of the most familiar insects, and the habits of some of them are of particular interest. Those of the Fossors have been very well described by M. Fabre.

The young of this tribe are meat-eaters and have to be nourished on the flesh of other insects, the mother therefore lays up a store of these in readiness for the young one as soon as it emerges from the egg, but two things are necessary; first, that the stored-up insects should not decompose, and secondly, that they should not have the power of injuring the tender grub which is the first form of the perfect insect. There must be life but life only of the interior organs combined with absolute immobility of the limbs. This is marvellously insured by the instinctive power the Fossors have of stinging their prey at certain spots which are the seat of the nerve centres which control the movements of the limbs and so paralysing them.

One of the largest of the Fossors is Scolia indica. It is a large dark hairy insect with thick legs. Its colour is black throughout, with the exception of some ferruginous red bands on the abdomen, the wings are fuscous brown with beautiful purple reflections. Its young lives on the flesh of the larvae of beetles that undergo their metamorphosis beneath the ground. The Scolia burrows until it finds such a larva, stings it and renders it incapable of movement, lays an egg on it and leaves the egg to mature amid this supply of food. The family Pompilide may be at once recognised by their long hind legs. They have great powers of running rapidly over the surface of the ground and while so doing their wings are constantly quivering and their antenna’ vibrating. Most of them dig holes in the ground and lay up a store of spiders for the benefit of their young.

Macromeris violacea is a good example of the family; it is black with beautiful purple and blue reflections, the wings dark brown with brilliant purple effulgence changing in different lights. Others of the genus Salius i.e., S. flavus and S. consanguineus are common.

The family Sphegidac are rather a mixed lot of varying form. Liris aurata is a beautiful insect black with more or less red legs, with silvery bands on the abdomen and with a golden gloss on the face. It is common about Trivandrum; it makes its nest-hole in the ground and stores it with young crickets.

One often finds the back of a book or the folds of a paper filled with clay cells containing spiders. This is the work of Trypoxylon pileatum or T. intrudens, both are small black insects with very long bodies and transparent wings. “A slender waist, a slim shape, an abdomen much compressed at the upper part, and seemingly attached to the body by a mere thread, a black robe with a red scarf on its under parts “ is the very apt description M. Fabre gives of the genus Ammophila, three species of which are common about Trivandrum. They make vertical tunnels in the ground and store them with caterpillars.

In a corner of the glass pane of a window or on the side of a table or chair one often sees what looks like a splash of mud with rays of mud branching from it. This is the nest of Sceliphron madraspatanum a black insect with a long slender yellow waist and yellow and black legs; if the nest is opened it will be found to be made up of four or five cells filled with spiders. There are three more species of this genus common in Trivandrum. The genus Sphex contains some beautiful species, they all make burrows in the ground and store their nests with various species of Orthopterous insects (crickets, grasshoppers &c.). There are seven species common about Trivandrum, of which Sphex lobatus is the most striking as it is a brilliant blue green with transparent wings.

Ampulex compressa is another very beautiful insect. It is brilliant metallic blue with some deep red on the legs with transparent wings slightly clouded. It stores cockroaches. Bembex is the last genus of the Sphegidae I need mention. They are stout black insects with yellow bands on the abdomen, their prey consists of flies of different kinds. They make their burrows in sandy banks and use their legs like a dog in digging them. Unlike the other Fossors, they do not supply a store of food and close the burrow once for all, but return day by day and feed the young larva until it refuses to take more and settles down into the pupa stage towards its final transformation.

The next tribe, the Diploptera are distinguished by having a fold in the wings when in repose; it includes the Eumenidia., solitary wasps, and the true or social wasps. Among the former are several familiar insects of the genus Eumenes, E. petiolata, E. conica, E. Flavopicta, all large conspicuous wasps with elongated waists. The thorax has usually some yellow about it and the abdomen also. They come into houses about August and September and build clay cells which they store with caterpillars.

Another very common wasp is Rhynchium brunneum, a stout insect brownish red with black bands on the abdomen. It comes into houses and builds a clay nest which it stores with caterpillars, or makes use of any hollow such as the mouth of an old gun barrel or the hole for a window bolt. Among the social wasps are some of the genus Ischnogaster. They are brown and yellow with a very long waist. They build cells of papery stuff more or less hexagonal in shape connected by a pedicel but without any exterior envelope. Others again of the genus. Icaria build from 5 to 48 cells attached by a stout pedicel to twigs. Icaria ferruginea is the commonest species. The great papery nests of Vespa cincta are often to be seen under the eaves of houses or in a bush. The insect is black with a broad yellow band on the abdomen. They form vast communities and are very dangerous if disturbed.

The next tribe includes the bees. The most conspicuous of these are the Carpenter-bees, Xylocopa latipes and Xylocopa bryorum. The former is a large robust hairy insect black all over with dark wings that shine with brilliant coppery or purple reflections. The latter is yellow in front and has a black abdomen and more or less dark wings with a purple effulgence. As their name implies, they bore holes in wood in which they make their nests. Megachile lanata, one of the leaf-cutting bees, a black insect with a good deal of fulvous red hair about it and with narrow transverse white bands on the abdomen, often comes into houses and makes use of any hollow space it finds, or the back of a book for its nests which forms of clay partitions,

Anthophora zonata is another familiar insect rufous in front with a black abdomen on which there are narrow bands of metallic blue hairs and wings more or less transparent. They form burrows and live in colonies. Then there are the true honey-bees of which there are three kinds, Apis indica, dorsata, and florea, and lastly the dammar-bees of the genus Melipona that make their nests in hollows of trees mostly of more «r less resinous wax.

Ants, which form another tribe of the Hymenoptera, are numerous, there being over sixty species in Travancore. They have in large communities consisting of a queen, a perfect female, of imperfect females which may include workers of two kinds and soldiers, and of young, the latter comprising all these forms and also perfect males. At certain seasons, generally after the first showers in April or May, the perfect males and females, which are winged, emerge from the nest and rise into the air for their nuptial flight they couple and the males die while the females cast their wings and are ready to lay eggs. They are divided into five sub-families.

The first of these, the Camponotide, have no true sting but are able to produce an acid poison and to eject it to some distance. The best known of all is the “red ant”, Ecophylla smaragdina. This forms shelters in the leaves of trees or bushes by fastening the edges together by a silky substance. The mature ants are unable to produce this but the larvae can, as they spin a silken cocoon for themselves in which to pupate when therefore it becomes necessary to form a new shelter, or to mend a damaged one, some of the mature workers hold the edges of the leaves close, while others carry a larva each in their jaws, apply the mouth of the larva to the edge of the leaf and the sticky secretion from it fastens the leaves together. The larva are not damaged by this operation but are carefully laid by when done with.

A small yellow ant, Plagiolepis longipes, which has, as its name implies, very long legs, is very common in houses. Companies of them may be seen dragging any dead insect up a wall to its nest. Prenolepis longicornis is an equally familiar ant but is black; it has no settled home and does not frequent houses so regularly as the last.

The large black ant that forms vast nests under ground is Campontus compressus. They are regular cattle keepers as they keep herds of caterpillars of certain of the family of the Lycaenid butterflies which includes the Blues and Coppers. These have two erectile tentacula near the end of the body and close to them is an opening from which exudes a sweet liquor that the ants very much appreciate. When an ant wishes to milk the caterpillar it gently strokes it with its antenna and a drop of liquid exudes which the ant licks up. The ants regularly attend the caterpillars and when they are about to pupate conduct them to a safe place in which to undergo transformation, and do not allow them to stray too far. They also attend and herd plant-lice or aphides. There are five species of the genus found in Travancore. The nests of ants differ very much, but those formed by a genus of ants called Polyrachis are peculiar in that they consist of a single cavity which is lined with a silky substance.
They are built on leaves usually. There are four species known from Travancore.

The next family of the Dolichoderides is a small one, of which the most familiar member is a small ant, Tapinoma mclanocephalum, with a black head that contrasts with the semi-transparent abdomen. It has no sting, nor power of ejecting fluid to a distance, but it secretes a very strongly malodorous fluid from the anal glands which it uses for defence.

Among the next subfamily are some of the most elaborate nest builders, Cremastogaster rogenhoferi builds a more or less round brown-papery nest of vegetable fibre, often eighteen inches long and almost as broad, round a branch which it uses as a central support. These nests may be seen commonly on the hills. The ants have a curious habit of turning their abdomens over their backs. There are some species of ants that make roads for themselves and the result of their labours may be seen in partial tracks and tunnels running across the paths.

Of these the commonest is Solenopsis geminata, a reddish yellow ant. Holcomyrmex criniceps, a brown ant, also has this habit, both of them store grass seeds in their nest but ants of the genus Phidole are the best known harvesters: round the entrance to their nests may be seen the husks of the seeds they have stored below and to prevent rain penetrating to their galleries they make embankments round the nest which effectually protect them. There are four species in Travancore of which P.rhombinoda is the commonest. To this family also belongs a very small reddish-yellow ant, Monomorium destructor that is commonly to be met with in houses.

The next family, the Ponerina are hunting ants and are flesh eaters. They have a curious way of carrying their prey underneath their bodies between the forelegs. There are several genera represented in Travancore of which the best known is Lobopelta: long lines of Lobopelta chinenisis may be seen going, usually in single file, on foraging expeditions about four in the evening. They hunt by night and by eight in the morning they retire underground. They have a very fairly powerful sting which they use freely if disturbed. There are also L.dentilobis, L. dalyi, and L.ocellifera which behave in the same way.

The last family is Dorylides: they lead a nomadic social life not- withstanding the fact that the eyesight of the workers is very imperfect. ft includes the genera Dorylus and CEnictus: of the latter there are our species in Travancore. They are small ants and march three or four abreast with great regularity carrying their prey as does Lobopelta.


This Order which includes Mosquitoes, Gnats, Flies and Fleas has not had the attention paid to it that it deserves. Since however the connection between malaria and mosquitoes has been established, considerable study has been bestowed on the particular family the Culicidae, which includes the various species of those insects. In Travancore there are at least 4 species of the genus Anopheles, the members of which are the intermediate hosts of the Sporozoa which give rise to malarial fever. These four species are Anopheles fulinginosus, A. jamesii, A. sinnensis, and A. rossii. There are many other species of mosquitoes. Among them, Toxorynchites immisericors is conspicuous by its size and is known as the Elephant Mosquito.

Of the genus Culex there are five species. The family Tipulide contains the Daddy-longlegs or Crane-flies. There are several species in Trivandrum, one of which is conspicuous by its long legs being banded alternately black and white. The Tabanidae or Horse-flies are numerous, one species known as the Elephant Fly is most troublesome on the hills at considerable elevations in the dry weather. They can easily bite through thin cloths and can draw blood. The use of a folded newspaper is absolutely necessary when seated on a cane-bottomed chair.

Another species of the genus Pangonia has a stiff proboscis, more than half an inch long, which is a formidable weapon of offence. The Robber Flies constituting the family Asiliidae are common. The largest is more than an inch long having a black body with narrow grey bands, the wings are smoky. It preys on other insects but fortunately it does not suck the blood of vertebrates. Another very curious member of this family is Laphria xylocopiformis, a large hairy insect very like one of the carpenter-bees; hence its name.

The flies that one sees commonly hovering over flowers belong to the family Syrphidae or Hover-flies, their food is chiefly pollen. The family Muscida contains the House-flies, Blue- bottles &c., which are so common about our dwellings. They lay their eggs on dung or any kind of soft damp filth and the larvae feed on this. The so-called flying-tick which infects dogs is really a fly of the family Hippoboscidae. Lastly we have the Pulicida or Fleas which though wingless constitute the suborder Aphaniptra of the order Diptera.


Series I. Rhopalocera

This order includes the Butterflies and Moths. There are about two hundred and thirty species of the former and at least ten times the number of the latter to be met with in Travancore. So far as ornament is concerned, they are the highest of the insect world. Insect angels, they have been well termed by Wendell Holmes. In the larval form they are worm-like and are called Caterpillars and in this stage some are often very destructive to crops as they are nearly all vegetable feeders. They pass a considerable portion of their lives in the pupal state. Many of the butterflies differ according to the season; there being wet and dry season forms, the former being always darker than the latter. The pupa of butterflies is also called chrysalis from the fact that some of them are partially or entirely of a golden hue; this is found chiefly in the family Nymphalidae a good example of which is Euploea core a plain brown butterfly whose pupa is like a pear drop of burnished gold. There are six families, specimens of all of which are to be found in Travancore though one of them, Lemoniidae has only two species representing it. The family of the Nymphalidae includes the greatest number and is divided into six subfamilies.

The Euploeinae are characterised by their slow flapping flight and their fearless behaviour, this is probably due to the fact that they possess acid juices which render them unpalatable to birds and lizards with the exception of Limnus chrysippus and Salutura geutia which are bright ferruginous with black markings, the others are sombrely clad. The Euplaeas are mostly brown with some white spots. The most remarkable member of the subfamily is Hestia malabarica which is to be met with in the hills in dense forest. Whoever has seen a number of these floating aimlessly about in a forest grove like animated pieces of spotted tissue paper is not likely to forget the scene.

The Satyrinae are all very soberly clad and have the underside of their hind wings marbled or mottled in such a way as to render them almost invisible when settled. They have a way too of dropping the front wings between the lower ones which adds to the difficulty of seeing them. They never take long flights but may be seen on the sides of shady roads and in the forest, and many of them frequent grass lands. There are twenty one species in Travancore of which two are peculiar to it, Ypthima ypthimoides a meadow brown found only in the hills at considerable elevations and Parantirrhoea marshalli, a dark brown insect with a pale violet band on the forewing which is most commonly to be seen in Eetta jungle (Beesha travancorica) from May to October on the Peermade hills.

The caterpillar of Melanitis ismene is said in other parts of India to do damage to the rice plants, but in Travancore there is such an abundance of vegetation that it is not driven to rely on them for food. Seasonal dimorphism is well marked in this subfamily so much so that the wet and dry season forms of one butterfly have received different names, for example, Melanitis leda and Melanitis ismene, Orsotrioena mandata and Orsotrioena mandosa, Calysisme mineus and Calysisme visala.

The next subfamily Nymphalina has only one representative, Elymnias caudatata, which is very like Salatura genutia and is therefore said to “mimic” it. The morphine have two, both of which are very rare, the Acroeinae and Telchinia violae which is very common both in the low country and on the hills. It is red with a narrow black border to the forewing and a broader one on the hind on which are some yellow spots. The next subfamily Nymphalina are eminently sunshine-loving. They are mostly brightly coloured and have .a strong flight, but the habits of some are not so nice as their colouration, for the mango butterflies of the genus Euthalia are fond of rotten fruit and those of the genus Charaxes may be attracted by carrion and Charaxes fabius some times gets drunk on toddy. There are forty-seven species in Travancore; of which the largest are Cynthia saloma and Parthenos virens. Cyrestes Thyodamas, one of the Porcelains, is perhaps the most curiously coloured.

The leaf butterflies of the genus Kallima, of which there are two species, K. philarchus and K. wardi, are so called from the fact that the underside of the wings so exactly represents a leaf with the mid-rib marked that it is most difficult to discover the insect when it alights which it does very suddenly. They are only found in forest on the hills and are far from common. Pyrameis cardui the Painted Lady, is probably the most widely distributed of all butterflies as it is found everywhere except in the Arctic regions and South America.

The Family Lemoniidae, as I have said before, is only represented by two forms, Lybithea myrra common on the High Range and Abisara prunosa common on the hills at the sides of roads in jungle.

The Family Lycaeniae which includes the Blues, Coppers and Hairstreaks, is represented by nearly sixty species. The males and females are often very differently coloured on the upper side but are marked alike below. Some of them are very small, covering not much more than half an inch with the wings expanded. Those of the genus Centaurus, of which there are three species, are the largest, being nearly two inches in expanse. They are brilliant metallic blue above, and are unmistakable. Lampides elpis, a light blue insect, is about the commonest of all the family.

Some of them have very long tails, for example, Cheritra jaffra which is common at 2,000 feet on the hills, and Bindahara sugrira fairly common in the low country. The caterpillars of the family are very peculiar being usually short, broad in the middle and naked. As pointed out when describing the Hymenoptera, some of them yield a fluid of which ants are fond, hence they are domesticated and tended by the ants. The tastes of some are peculiar as they feed not, as is usual, on vegetable substance but devour aphides and scale insects. The caterpillars of the genera Lampides, Virachola and Deudorix, feed on the interior of fruits of different kinds. Lampides elpis, for example, bores into cardamoms. Deudorix epijarbus feasts on the pomegranate, but the most curious of all is the caterpillar of Virachola isocrates which feeds on the guava, pomegranate and some other fruits.

The mature female insect, which is dull purple with a patch of yellow in the forewing, deposits her eggs in the calyx of the flower; the caterpillar when hatched bores into the young fruit, where it remains throughout its transformation. By the time it is ready to change to a pupa it has so damaged the fruit that further growth is stopped and the fruit dies, there is therefore the danger that the fruit should drop and destroy the larva. This however is prevented by the extraordinary instinct of the caterpillar which leads it to emerge from the fruit just before pupating. It then spins a strong web over the base of the fruit and stem which effectually prevents the falling of the fruit even though it should separate from the stem and so it returns to its abiding place in the centre of the fruit and pupates in safety.

The Pieridae which form the next family include the Whites, Brimstones, Clouded-yellows and Orange-tips. White yellow and red are the predominant colours. There are about twenty-five species in Travancore. Terias hecabe, a small yellow insect, is about the most abundant in the hills and the low country. But the large yellowish white butterflies of the genus Cafopsilia of which there are three species are almost equally common. At times great migrations of these take place and hundreds of them may be seen flying in one particular direction.

The Papilionidiac are known as the swallow-tails and include the largest and most conspicuous of all the order. The great Ornithoptera minos, nine inches in expanse, a black butterfly with yellow on the hind wings, is fairly common in the low country and on the hills. Iliades polymnestor (black with lavender spots on the hind wings is also fairly abundant, as is too Menelaides hector, black with red spots on the hind wings.

On the hills, Charus helenus, black with a cream spot on each hind wing, is most conspicuous, while Achillides tamilana, black having a large metallic spot on each of the hind wings of blue with green reflections, is perhaps the most beautiful. The larvae of some, especially of Orpheides erithonius do considerable damage to orange trees by feeding on the leaves. They rest fully exposed on the upper side of the leaves, but are so coloured that they resemble birds’ droppings. Pattiysa naira is a rare butterfly peculiar to Travancore.

The members of the last family, the Hesperiidac are called skippers from their peculiar jerky flight. They are a very distinct family and closely allied to the moths. There are about forty species in Travancore. The largest is Gangara thyrsis which is common in the low country, its caterpillar which is covered with white fluff is destructive to palms as it feeds on their leaves cutting and rolling up a leaf to form its habitation. The caterpillar of Matapa aria behaves in the same way towards the leaves of the bamboo, while that of Chapra mathias is said to do damage to the rice plant.

Series II. Hetekocera


The old divisions of the moths into five subsections is now more or less abandoned and no larger division than that of families is recognised. There are thirty four of these: it will not therefore be possible to mention them all, a few examples of the most prominent are all that can be cited.

The family of the Saturniidae or Emperor-moths contains the largest individual of all, Attacus atlas which is twelve inches in expanse; one noticeable feature in this family is the presence of transparent spaces on the forewings. This is found in several other species. Actias selene, a large greenish white moth with long tails, is another beautiful example of the family; it is fairly common both in the hills and plains.

The most useful member is Antheraa paphia the Tussur-silk moth, which is to be found about Trivandrum; Loepa katinka in the Hills and Cricula trifenestrata on the plains also spin cocoons of silk. The family Eupterotidae is represented by three rather common insects, Eupterote mollifera, Nisaga simplex and Sangatissa Subcurvifera. The scheme of colouring is the same in all brown or drab with curved black lines on the forewings. Their larvae are hairy and the hairs produce great irritation if the caterpillar is handled. The family of the Sphingidae or Hawk-moths is perhaps the most easily recognisable. They have long stout bodies elongated narrow pointed forewings and small hind ones. They fly usually by day or in the evening.

The best known is Acherontia lachesis, the Death’s-head moth, so called from the marking on the thorax being like a skull, When handled the moth can produce a fairly loud squeak. One of the most beautiful is Calyjmnia panopus. Daphnis nerii, the Oleander Hawk-moth, is the most wide spread being found all over Europe, S. Africa and India. The Humming-bird Hawk-moths of the genus Macroglossa have a very long proboscis and the tip of the abdomen is furnished with a toft of dense long scales which is capable of expansion. Macroglossa gyrans is common on the hills and M, bengalensis in the low country. Cephanodes hylas is peculiar in having the wings clear and transparent. The larvae are remarkable for their colour and form. They nearly always have a conspicuous stiff horn-like tail. In the genus Chaerocampus of which six species may be met with about Trivandrum, the caterpillar can retract the front segments into the fourth which is capable of expansion and makes the caterpillar more or less like a small hooded snake. The Sesiidae are a small family of day-flying moths remarkable for having a large part of one or both wings clear of scales, hence they are known as clear-wings. Sesia flavipes which is a good example is found only on the hills.

Another family of semi-diurnal habit are the Snytomidae which have the body as well as the wings highly coloured. Many of them are like wasps. Euchromia polymena, a very common insect in the plains though not a mimetic form, is a good example of the family. The Zygaenidae or Burnet-moths number a good many day-flying insects that are very like butterflies. Cyclosia australinda which is not uncommon about Trivandrum, might very well be mistaken for one of Pieridae or Whites and Histia nilgira found on the hills is very like one of the Swallow-tailed butterflies, while Himantopterus caudatus, a tiny reddish moth with orange lined wings with black spots, is a regular miniature one. Heterusia virescens and Chalcosia affinis common on the hills.

The Psychida are interesting from the fact that their larva cover themselves with a case composed of grass sticks, bits of leaves and lined with silk. The female remains always in the case and is wingless. The males pass their pupa stage in the case but emerge from it as winged insect. Clania variegate which is fairly common, forms its case of small bits of stick. The Cossidae or goat-moths are chiefly interesting from the fact that the larvae bore into trees and often do considerable damage. Mr. Bourdillon has brought to notice the harm done to teak by the caterpillar of Cossus cadamba, a brown moth about an inch and a half in expanse. The family Callidulide which are day-flying moths of medium size, is represented by Cleosiris calamita a plain brown insect like one of the Nymphalid butterflies. The family Limacodidae contains one form peculiarly interesting to planters as the larva Thosea cana, an insignificant looking moth, does great damage to tea bushes by feeding on the leaves.
The Lasiocampidae, Eggers or Lappet moths, are mostly of large size. Suana concolor a somewhat sphinx-like moth having dark red brown wings with a lighter margin and one or two yellowish spots, is a good example, the caterpillars are hairy with the tufts directed downwards, the tufts causing irritation. The family Hypsidae though small contain some Impedes that are very common of which Hypsa alcephron is perhaps the most abundant; it has buff forewings with one white spot and yellow hind- wings with round black spots.

The Arctiidae are a very extensive family containing four subfamilies. Those constituting the Certhinae are known as Tiger-moths. They are well represented in Travancore. The caterpillar of Arctia ricini, as its name implies, is destructive of the castor oil plant. The moth has the forewings brown with numerous right-ringed blackish spots and the hind wing crimson with irregular wavy blackish bands

Nyctermera laticinia having brown forewings with a white band and white hind wings with a brown border is a very common moth both in the hills and plains. Argina cribraria, Deiopeia pulchella and Eligma narcissus are all abundant about Trivandrum; of these Deiopeia pulchella about an inch in expanse having white forewings with black and red spots ind white hind wings with an irregular black marginal band, is very wide spread being found in Europe, Africa, all over India, the Malay Archipelago and Australia. The Noctuidae or Owl-moths form a large assemblage of night-flying insects of sombre colours usually marked with large eye-like spots. Some of them are of considerable size. Many of the caterpillars feed under ground on the roots of plants and are in consequence very destructive. Nyctipao macrops, a dark coloured moth about five inches in expanse, often comes into houses in Trivandrum, and two other smaller species, N. crepescularis and N. hieroglyphica, sometimes do the same.
The moths of the genus Ophiderac, unlike them, are brightly coloured having green or red brown forewings and yellow hind ones with black markings and usually a black lunule. There are four species, Ophideres ancilla, Ophideres hypermnestra, Ophideres salaminia and Ophideres fullonica; the latter is said to have the power of piercing with its proboscis and to do damage to crops of oranges by thus inserting it through the peel and sucking the juices. The Uraniidae are not a large family but contain some conspicuous insects. They are more or less day-flying. Some are white with ample wings and light bodies. Two very common species in the hills are Strophidia fasciata and Micronia aculeata; the latter is also not uncommon about Trivandrum.

The Geometridae are a large family of moths of slender build with large wings and a narrow elongated body; they are semi-nocturnal, the larvae are called “loopers” from their mode of progression which consists in moving the fore and hind segments alternately the centre of the body being raised in a loop. Eumelia rosalia a yellow insect with crimson specks and a crimson baud across both wings common about the low country is a good example. Naxa textilis is white. Euschema percota is a day-flying brightly coloured insect blue with purple markings. Its caterpillar does great damage to the leaves of lilies.

Another common species is Macaria fasciata, slaty grey with a white band across both wings and two orange blotches on the hind-wings. The Pyralidae include a large number of small or moderate-sized moths of fragile structure often having long legs. The genus Glyphodes is very well represented in Travancore, there being five species that are common about Trivandrum. Glyphodes glauculalis is blue green, G. celsalis white with some brown markings, G. sinuata yellow with some crimson on the forewings, G. laticostalis white with a brown band, and G. actorionalis brown with diaphanous white bands. They arc all small and more or less insignificant. Dichocrocis punctiferulis is a small straw-coloured moth with black spots on both wings common about Trivandrum; Lepyrodes neptis, yellowish brown with black edged white bands, is also very common.


The Coleoptera or beetles are well known. Most of them arc possessed of a hard exterior, and the front pair of wings, called Elytra, are not used for flight but serve as cases to protect the body. They are very numerous and are divided into six series. The first of these, the Lamellicornia are so called as the terminal joints of the antennae are leaf-like. They include the Stag-beetles, Chafers. Dung-beetles and Rose-chalers. Odontolabis cuvera is an example of the first which is common on the hills. Its thorax is black and the wing cases are dull yellow with a triangular black mark down the middle. The male has the mandibles produced at least three quarters of an inch. The female is coloured like the male but the mandibles are not produced into horn-like processes. The Scarabaeidae or Chafers are divided into several subfamilies, one of the most interesting of which is that of the Scarabae whose members may be recognised by their habit of rolling about balls of dang and earth.

One species of Atcuthus, a black insect is very common about Trivandrum. They act as scavengers by breaking up and removing the droppings of cattle and other animals. Another subfamily includes the Cockchafers or Melolonthides. Agastrata orichal cea, which is brilliant metallic greenish all over with purple reflections, is a good example common about Trivandrum. So is Heterorhina elegans rar cyanoptera, a dark metallic blue insect also with purple reflections. Some of them do damage in cultivations for instance Seriea pruinosa which defoliates coffee bushes.

Another subfamily, the Dynastidae, though small contains some very large insects with curious horns and projections. Eupatorius cantori, 2½ inches long reddish brown with reddish yellow margin having a long recurved horn in front and two others rising from the middle of the thorax, is a good example; another is Oryctes rhinoceros, a large black or brown beetle with a minute rhinoceros-like horn in front. It does great damage to the palms in the Public Gardens in Trivandrum by boring into the stems. The second series, the Adephaga, contains the Tiger- beetles, Ground-beetles and Water-beetles; of the first Collyris insignis is a good example. It has no wings and the Elytra are firmly soldered together. It has a long rounded thorax somewhat globular in the middle. They are very swift on foot and prey on other insects. Cicidella sexpunctata is another example which is of use as it preys on the destructive Rice-sapper.

Of the Ground-beetles or Carabidae, a species of Calosoma is not uncommon in Trivandrum and a species of Brachinus which is able to eject an explosive liquid, also Pterosophus bimaculatus dark blue with yellow markings. The Water-beetles or Dytiscidae are carnivorous both in the larval and in the adult stage. Cybister limbatus is a common species in water about Trivandrum, and Hydaticus festivus and H. vittatus are also numerous. The former is a gaily coloured insect having a yellow or orange ground colour with shiny black or dark brown markings.

The third series, the Polymorpha, is a very large one containing about fifty families of which the most interesting are the curious Burying- beetles, the Lady-birds, Fire-flies and Glow-worms, Click-beetles and the beautifully coloured Buprestidae. The Histeridae or Burying-beetles are very compact insects with a very hard shell, they dig under any carcase and so gradually bury it and they were supposed to live on it, but it is now ascertained that they are really predaceous and live on the larvae of flies which are found in the carcase. There are several species of Hister to be found in Trivandrum. The Lady-birds are useful as they prey upon plant lice.

Epilachna innuba, a small red and yellowish beetle with black spots, is a not uncommon species in the low country. A nearly allied family contains those curious insects which have the elytra flattened to form a rim under which the legs are hidden. They look like animated golden nuggets. Unfortunately when dead the colour fades completely. Their identity has yet to be determined.

The family Bostrichidae are very injurious as they attack timber. There are several species some of which do damage to teak while Bostrichus aequalis attacks the cotton tree. Bombax malabaricum. A small brown beetle of a closely allied family, the Ptinidae of the genus Dinoderus, damages bamboos by boring into them. Another of this family Lasioderma testaceum, a small brown beetle with white grubs, is most destructive to cheroots into which the larvae bore holes.

A species of Glow-worm of the genus Lampyris is not uncommon, the female is wingless and luminous. The Fire-flies which are so numerous and beautiful at certain seasons belong, I believe, to this family of the Malacodermidae but their identity has not been made out.

The click beetles or Elateridae have the power when lying on their backs of jerking themselves into the air at the same time giving a distinct click. Agryphnus fuscipes, a brown insect, is common about Trivandrum and Alaus speciosus, a white insect with a curious black irregular line down the centre of the thorax and some black spots, is common in the hills. The last family I need notice, the Buprestidae, is a large one and contains many insects remarkable for the magnificence of their colour. A very common example is Sternocera dasypleura, a reddish brown insect having the thorax deeply pitted, and coloured metallic green with golden reflections while beneath it is uniform metallic green also with golden reflections. Belinota scutellarisis another example, it is uniform metallic golden green, with some violet on the posterior margin and on the sides of the thorax. The larva is said to do damage by boring into the wood of Acacia catechu.

Of the fourth series, Hetromera, the great family Tenebrionidae contains the greater number; they are mostly black ground-beetles. There are several species to be found in Trivandrum but they are as yet unidentified. The most interesting are the Cantharidae or Meloidae, Blister-beetles or Oil-beetles. One of the commonest is a species of Mylabris black with red markings on the elytra very common on grass.

The fifth series, the Phytophaga or plant-eaters, contains among other families, the Chrysomelidae, which are as a rule leaf-feeders and the Cerambycidae or Longicorns, which are wood and stem feeders. Of the former, Corynodes peregrines and Corynodes corulentus are examples as also Crioceris impressus. The larvae of some species of this genus have a peculiar method of protecting themselves. “The anus”, says Dr. Sharpe, “is placed on the upper surface and formed so that the excrement when voided is pushed forward on to the insect here it is retained by means of a slimy matter, and a thick coat entirely covering the creature is ultimately formed’’. Some of the longicorn-beetles are very large. One rather common species is quite four inches long dark brown and the male has the mandibles produced almost as largely as some of the stag- beetles. The name of this species I do not know. The well-known coffee-borer Xylotrechus quadrupes. a slender beetle some three quarters of an inch long belongs to this family. Other examples are Batocera albofasiata, about two inches long reddish brown with white spots and beneath dirty brown margined with white. Mecotagus gnermi (?) about an inch long is dull brown with some white lines on the thorax and head and white vermiculations on the elytra. Clytus annularis about half an inch long is yellowish white with reddish brown markings. Oleocumpus belobus rather more than half an inch long is ashy brown with four white round marks on the elytra, the first two approximating the sides of the head and thorax margined with white.

The sixth series, the Rhyncophora, contains the Weevils. They can be recognised by their having the head more or less prolonged in front to form a mouth or beak. Some of them are large, for instance, the Palm-weevil, a reddish brown insect some two inches long whose white fleshy legless grubs tunnel into the trunks of various palms. Another curious insect is Cryphtorrhyncus mangifera. It is an earth-coloured weevil and as a grub have inside the stone of the mango fruit finally eating its way out when full grown.


This is the last Order of insects that undergo a complete metamorphosis. The mouth organs in the adult are adapted for biting and grinding. The wings are membranous and are covered with a net- work of veins. It includes the Caddis-flies constituting the suborder Trichoptera, and the Scorpion-flies, Lace-wing Flies, Ant lions and Mantis-flies constituting the suborder Planipennia.

The larvae of the Caddis-flies are with few exceptions aquatic and construct cases of all sorts of materials. There are several species in Travancore but not yet identified. Among the Planipennia there is a remarkable insect of the family Sialidae that has large sickle-shaped mandibles, it belongs to the genus Corydalis, The Mantispidae or mantis-flies are well represented but have not been worked out. The Ant-lions are well known. The larvae make pit falls to catch crawling insects. Wherever there is a dry sandy spot these funnel-shaped pits may be seen and at the bottom the larva sits with its sickle-shaped jaws extended ready to seize its prey when it falls down the loose sandy sides of the pit.

The adult Ant-lions are winged insects whose wings when at rest spread like a roof over the hinder part of the body. Some have the wings plain, others spotted. There is one large species whose wings are marked with obliquely transverse brown bands. The expanse is over 4 inches. It often finds its way into houses at night and flutters about against the ceiling. When the larva is full-fed it encloses itself in a more or less spherical cocoon made of sand grains fastened together with silken threads, the interior of which is lined with silk, within this it undergoes its metamorphosis.


This Order includes the Dragon-flies, May-flies, Stone-flies, Termites or White-ants, Crickets, Grasshoppers, Locusts, Stick and Leaf-insects, Mantises, Cockroaches and Earwigs.

None of these undergo a distinct metamorphosis but by the gradual succession of changes pass from the larval to the adult stage, the larvae are wingless at first, and the wings are developed during the moults, being fully formed only at the last moult. The mouth organs are adapted for biting. Most of the members of the group are of large size.

The Dragon-flies (Odonata) live entirely upon insects, which they capture on the wing. In the larval and pupal stages they live in water and are equally carnivorous. In both stages there is a peculiar structure fixed under the head known as “the mask” which is a jointed weapon armed at the end with a pair of toothed processes. It can be protruded with great quickness and serves to seize the prey. There are three families, the Libellulidae, Aeshnidae and Agrionidae. In the two first the head is rounded but in the third it is much wider than long, almost cylindrical and set on the body like the head of a hammer on its handle. Many of the species are very beautiful as their wings often glitter with varied iridescence. There are many species in Travancore of all three families, but no attempt has yet been made to ascertain their specific names.

The Termites or White-ants (Termitadae) are well known on account of their destructive habits. They live in colonies which consist of a queen and king with some supernumerary individuals which may, by a system of diet, be matured into royalties if required, another lot of individuals with very large heads and formidable jaws, who may be called soldiers and finally the workers, who are by far the most numerous. The perfect individuals have compound eyes but the soldiers and workers are as a rule eyeless. The mouth parts are formed for biting. Just before the rains, when the first showers fall, great swarms of winged termites make their way out of the nest. Most of these are destroyed by birds or lizards but the survivors may form new colonies. Their food consists generally of decaying wood or other vegetable matter. On the hills a species may be seen which tunnel into the branches of trees and make nests round them. Another species seems to live on grass, but so far, these, like so many other insects, await identification.

Crickets (Gryllidae) belong to the suborder of true Orthoptera which differ from those so far mentioned in having the two pairs of wings un- like, the first pair being usually stiff and horny, and serving as covers to the hinder pair which are membranous and folded. The chirping noise made by crickets is produced by rubbing the base of one wing-cover over the other. It may often be heard at night in houses; it is uttered only by the male and is supposed to attract the female. The abdomen bears two flexible appendages and the female has in addition a long ovipositor.

A black insect of the genus Gryllus is common in houses and a green one of the genus Calyptotrypus is found in the fields, but the one that forces itself most into notice is the mole-cricket, Gryllotalpa vulgaris as it flies into the verandah attracted at night by the light and flaps about in an irresponsible way. It is a large insect and can at once be recognised by the form of its front legs which are greatly thickened for digging. It burrows underground and so destroys the roots of plants. All crickets lay their eggs in holes in the ground glued together in masses.

The long-horned Grasshoppers (Locustidae) are so called because they have very long bristle-like antennae. The true locusts do not belong to this family but to the next. They are usually green or brown in colour. Like the crickets they produce sound by rubbing the base of one wing- cover over the other. The females have a long sabre-shaped ovipositor.

Mecopoda elongataa large greenish brown insect with very long hind legs is a common species. Some have the wing-covers very much enlarged and veined like leaves. Onomarchus leuconotius is an example, the wing- covers are light green and quite leaf-like. A species of Aprion also has green wing-covers but is not so large an insect. Another very curious insect is Acanthodis ululina; its wing-covers are like lichen-covered bark.

The Locusts (Acridiidae) have short antenna and they produce sound in a different way to that by which the crickets and grasshoppers produce it namely, by rubbing the innerside of the hind legs, which has certain bead-like prominences, against the outer face of the wing-cover in which there is a prominent sharp-edged vein. The females have only a short ovipositor. In Travancore we are not troubled by swarms of migratory locusts but there are several species of locusts to be found. One of the largest is Acridium flavicorne. The most abundant and widely distributed of the migratory locusts is Pachytylus cinerascens which may be found throughout the Oriental Region, in Europe and even in New Zealand.

It is common in Travancore but does not swarm.

Another species of short-horned grasshopper common about Trivandrum is Aularches miliaris. Its thorax is curiously rugose, highly polished and with a yellow margin, the wing-covers are bluish green with round sealing-wax-like yellow spots and in fact it is highly ornamental. another species, Ædaleus marmoratus has the wing-covers and the base of the hind wings yellow bordered with brown. A very curious looking insect is Acrida turrita which has the head very much prolonged into a cone-shape with the antennae and eyes near the apex.

The Leaf and Stick-insects (Phasmidae) are very curious and derive their name from their likeness to dry sticks and leaves. The wings of the stick-insects are rudimentary and their legs very long and are usually stretched out unsymmetrically. They are generally to be found amongst underwood or on the stems of long grasses. They are vegetable feeders.The female lays eggs singly dropping them casually on the ground. Each is enclosed in a capsule and they are very like seeds of plants. One species over a foot in length is found on the hills. It is, I believe, a species of Lonchodes. Wingless species of the genus Bacillus are common about Trivandrum. The only leaf-insect found here is Phyllium scythe. Its body is flat and broad and the wing-covers are leaf-like. Its colour is more or less green. The legs have broad leaf-like expansions. It is not very common.

The Praying Insects (Mantidae) usually have the prothorax very much longer than the other two segments of the thorax. The two hinder pairs of legs are long and are used for progression but the front pair are peculiarly formed and are used to seize their prey, for they are carnivorous, the thighs are strong and are provided with two rows of spines and the shanks arc also furnished with two rows of spines and can be folded back on the thighs, when at rest these joints are thus kept folded as if the insect were at prayer, hence their name. They lay eggs in masses which are attached to plants and are surrounded by a parchment-like capsule. The commomest form is (Gongylus gongyloides). Another species very like Harpax ocellata of Africa has eye-like marks on the wing-covers. There are many species and they often come into the verandah at night attracted by the light.

Cockroaches (Blattidae) are very common. Their legs are eminently fitted for running and they can move very quickly. They have strong horny jaws well fitted for biting. They generally have two pairs of wings, the front pair being stiff and horny, while hinder pair are more membranous. The ordinary large form that infests houses is Periplaneta americana. Periplaneta decorata is a smaller insect having some brown markings. Leucophaca surinamensis is another common insect about Trivandrum. On the hills a rather ornamental form is found, Corydia petiveriana. The under wings and sides of the body are yellow and the upper side of the front wings are black with cream-coloured marks. The eggs are laid in a capsule formed in the interior of the females. The capsule is a honey case which is carried about for sometime by the mother protruding from the hinder part of the body. Eventually it is laid in some suitable locality and the young make their way out. Earwigs (Forficulidae can be at once recognised by the fact that they bear at the end of the body a pair of forceps or callipers. Many are wingless but in those forms that possess wings they are folded in a complicated way. They are not common and so far none have been identified in Travancore, though there are several species. The females lay eggs and are said to watch over them with great care.


This Order also called Hemiptera includes the Bugs tad is well represented in Travancore. It is divided into two suborders, Hemiptera heteroptera and Hemiptera homoptera. Few however have given attention to the order and only lately has any attempt been made to work it out in India. The insects constituting it may be readily recognised by the possession of a long proboscis which is usually bent under the body. Some are vegetable feeders and some carnivorous. Many of them are brilliantly coloured.

In the family Pentatomidae or Shield-bugs, which is one of the largest and most important, there are several such, Seutellera nobilis is metallic bluish green or purplish with indigo blue spots and bars. It is a common insect about the low country. Chrysocoris stokerus, also common, is bluish green with black spot and Catacanthus incarnatus is reddish yellow with black spots. The best known members of the family, however, is the green bug Nezara viridula on account of its evil scent. Most bugs possess the power of emitting an unpleasant odour but the green bug seems to exercise it more particularly. Some are injurious to plants as the well-known Rice-sapper, Leptocorisa acuta, which destroys young paddy, also those of the genus Helopeltis which are most destructive to the tea plants. On the other hand Aspongopus nigriventis 18 of use in effecting the pollination of the Sago palm. Some bugs feed exclusively on other insects, especially those of the family Reuviidae of which Conorhinnus rubrofasciatas and Euagoras plagiatus, common insects about Trivandrum, are examples. Unlike the other land-bugs they have no smell.

When writing of carnivorous bugs mention must be made of the common Bed-bug, Cimex lectularius, which is unfortunately too well known throughout the world. The water-bugs, like the Reduviidae are innocent of smell. A species of Naucoris which swims about on its back is very common, also one of Hydrometra. These fly well and at night are often attracted by the lights to enter houses.

A species of Belostoma, a huge brown insect over three inches long, is sometimes attracted in this way. Water-scorpions of the genus Nepa are also common; their forelegs are specially modified to serve as prehensile organs and they have a long slender siphon behind. Of the suborder Hemiptera homoptera, Cicadas are most in evidence. One does not meet with them in the low country but from the foot of the hills to the summits their voices are to be heard at times in a chorus which is almost deafening. The males alone possess the power of emitting sound, hence a Greek poet has written “Happy the Cicadas lives, for they all have voiceless wives”. There are several species in Travancore but they have not yet been indentified.

The Lantern flies of the family Fulgorida have a horn-like extension of the top of the head which was supposed to be luminous, hence their name. The species common on the hills here is Fulgora delesserti. Its forewings are brown with yellow spots and the hind are blue with the apical area dark brown. The genus Flatta is represented by F. acutipemis and F. tunicata, their forewings are green and the hind are white. The family Mernbracida have the prothorax prolonged backwards into a hood or into other strange forms. There are several curious examples to be seen about the low country, of which Centrotypis flexuosus is about the commonest. The frothy masses seen at times hanging to branches of trees or bushes are the work of the larva of the frog-hoppers or Cercopidae of which there are many species.

Others of this family secrete fluid so abundantly as to make it appear to drop like rain from the trees in which they are. The Plant-lice or Aphidae are another family of this sub- order and, though small, are from their enormous numbers most injurious to trees and plants. There are many species in Travancore. The Scale-insects or Mealy-bugs of the family Coccidae are also very injurious but on the other hand some produce useful substances, as for instance white wax is formed by a Lecaniid, Ceroplastes ceriferus and lac is the shelly covering of Carteria lacca unfortunately neither of these species occurs in Travancore but only the injurious forms of which there are many.

Thysanoptera and Thysanura

The insects comprising the first of these Orders are all very small and feed upon the juices of flowers and sometimes do great injury as they are often found in large numbers. The most familiar member of the Thysannca are the little silver-fish which may always be found among papers or books, that have been allowed to lie tor any length of time undisturbed. They do damage to books by feeding on the paste used in binding them and they also eat old paper.


This group includes the Millipedes and Centipedes. The former are distinguished by their slow movements and are exclusively vegetable feeders. They have no weapons of offence but are able to secrete a strong smelling liquid. Their bodies are more or less cylindrical. They include the Pill-millipedes Oniscomorpha and the worm-like Millipedes or Helminthomorpha. The former are not quite so much in evidence as the latter, but one species which I believe to be Arthrosphoera inermis is fairly common. There are several species of the latter of which Spirostreptus malabricus is the commonest; it is a long black millipede about ten inches to a foot in length and is found abundantly both in the hills and on the plains the liquid it secretes smells strongly of iodine and leaves a brown stain on the hands.

A species of Trachyiulus each segment of which carries from 11 to 18 warty spines, is also common on the hills. Another, a species of Leptodesmus, brown with yellow lateral line is common on the low country; it is about 2 inches long. The Centipedes are more or less soft and flat-bodied, they are active and swift and live for the most part in dark places under stones, logs of woods &c., they prey upon insects or worms which they kill by means of their large poison claws or maxillipedes. One of the most peculiar is Scutigera longicornis; it is about an inch and a half long with a small body and about 15 pairs of long legs so arranged as to give it on oval shape. Unlike most it enjoys sunlight and may be seen in its native haunts darting about and catching insects regardless of the blazing sun. It is common about Trivandrum. Of the Scolopendridae, Rhysida longipes and Scolopendra morsitans are the commonest. They live on cockroaches, beetles, worms, &c., and are frequently found about houses. The Geophilidae are long worm-like centipedes with from thirty-nine to over one hundred segments; they are subterranean in their habits and feed almost entirely on earth worms. Mecistocephalus punctiferus is the commonest species.


This class includes the Scorpions, Spiders, Mites &c. Of the former so far as six species have been identified in Travancore of which one Chiromachetes fergusoni is peculiar to it. The great black scorpions of the genus Palamnaeus are to be found under stones. P. scaber is about four inches long and has the hands and vesicle tinged with red. Lychas tricarinatus, a brownish yellow scorpion about two inches long, is often found in houses especially about the bath-rooms.

The Whip-scorpions or Pedipalpi resemble the true scorpions but may be recognised by the fact that the abdomen is sharply marked off from the cephalothorax by a constriction. They are divided into a tailed group Uropygi and a tailless Amblipygi. The former have a movable tail corresponding to the sting of the scorpions. They live in damp places under stones or in crevices of wood or rock. There are two species of Uropygi identified, Telyphonus indicus and Thelyphomus sepiaris subspecies muricola, about an inch and a half long and with a tail rather more than an inch. It is black above with red legs. There are some smaller species which have not yet been identified. Of the Amplipygi the only species yet found is Phrynichus phipsoni; the body is much flattened and kidney-shaped, the abdomen oval. The body is about an inch and a quarter long and black. All the legs are long especially the first pair which are like antennae. Except for the long prehensile chela, it is outwardly like a spider. The true spiders or Aranea are well represented. Of the larger species some twenty have been identified but there are many more as yet unnamed. Of the named ones six have not been found elsewhere, but this is probably due to the fact that very little attention has been paid to this order.

The six species peculiar to Travancore are Sason armatoris and Sanonichus sullivani, Ground-living burrowing spiders, Paecilotheria rufilata, a large hairy red spider obscurely mottled, total length of body two inches legs about three, which lives in trees there is another species P. striata grey with dark stripes not quite so large. They hunt by night and feed on beetles, cockroaches. &c. Pscchrus alticeps, about three quarters of an inch long with slender legs about two inches which spins a large web, is found in the hills and in the plains. It is yellowish brown variegated with black. Feccnia travancorica, au allied species has been found at Madatora. Pandercetes celatus, a hunting spider, coloured grey and mottled with brown so as to match the lichen-covered bark of trees is the last of the spiders peculiar to Travancore. Of the others those most frequently met with are Nephila maculata and Nephila malabarensis.

The former is about an inch and a quarter long with long strong legs. It has the thorax black, the abdomen olive brown with yellow lines and spots. The latter is less than an inch long, the thorax is black with yellow hairs on it, the abdomen greyish brown mottled darker. They spin webs composed of radiating and concentric threads. That of Nephila maculata is often found across bridle paths in forest on the hills, and the threads are very elastic and strong and appear to be covered with some glutinous substance as they stick if one comes in contact with the web. Some spiders of the genus Gasterocantha are curiously shaped.

G. geminata has the abdomen twice as broad as long, with paired spines sticking out on each side and behind, it is yellow with two transverse black stripes. Of the hunting spiders, Peucetia viridana is common on the hills. It is about half an inch long more or less green all over and lives amongst grass and other plants where it seeks its prey. In houses Heteropoda venatoria is very common. It is a greyish brown spider about three quarters of an inch or more long with legs about twice this length and moves sideways running very quickly. Of the Acari or Mites, I can say little, a species of velvety mite of the genus Trombidium about half an inch long, looking as if it were covered with plush, is found at Udayagiri, but probably the commonest is the microscopic itch-mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, which tunnels under the skin of man where it lays eggs which hatch and the young then start burrowing also. Ticks of the genus Ixodes are very common on cattle and in fact they attack all land vertebrates including snakes and lizards. They are common in grass lands,


The Crustaceans comprise a large assemblage presenting great diversity of structure. They are divided into two subclasses, the Malacostraca, and Entomostraca. The former comprises, among others, the familiar Crabs, Lobsters and Cray-fish, the latter the Barnacles and the tiny water-fleas.

The Crabs form the short-tailed group of the order Dccapoda and the Lobsters and Cray-fishes are members of the long tailed division. Both are well represented in Travancore, and so far some 30 species have been identified. The crabs are divided into five tribes, representatives of three of which have so far been found; the first of these, the Cyclometopa, are distinguished by having rounded fore- heads. Most of the commoner species are included in this tribe. The field-crab, Thelphusa leschenaulti, which is so abundant, is an example. Some of the sea-crabs belonging to this tribe are very large, for example Scylla scrrata, dull greenish blue and Charybdis crucifera, which is also conspicuous by its colour, purplish red with creamy white markings suffused with lighter purple, one of them forming a more or less conspicuous cross. The edible crabs, Neptunnus sanuinolentus, reddish yellow with bright reddish round marking and Neptunnus pelagicus orange markings, belong to this tribe, as a
lso Cardiosoma carnifexa dark reddish brown crab having the appendages covered with hairs. It is found on the margins of lakes. The second tribe Catometopa has the frontal region of the carapace broad and square and bent downwards.

The crabs which are so commonly seen on the sands belong to this tribe, they have very long eye-stalks and apparently see remarkably well. They are gregarious and each one forms a burrow for itself; they run very swiftly and are by no means easy to catch; two species, Ocypoda platytarsus and Ocypoda, cardimana, have been identified. Nearly allied to them are the curious Calling-crabs, Gelasismus annulipes, found on the shores of the backwaters. The male has one pincer enormously developed and it brandishes this as if it were beckoning hence the name of calling-crab has been given to it. This claw is highly coloured and Major Alcock has suggested that the males wave it to attract the females. Another example is Grapsus grapsus which is bright reddish brown and possesses long and powerful legs which enable it to dart about the rocks very quickly and its flattened carapace enables it to find shelter in amongst the crevices. It is fairly common at Cape Comorin.

The third tribe, the Oxyrhynca, is unrepresented so far in the Museum collection.

The fourth tribe, the Oxystomata, or sharp-nosed crabs have the carapace produced in front into a short beak-like prominence. They vary in habit; for instance, a species of Matuta found in the beach at Trivandrum, a pale olive-coloured creature having a roughened carapace with two prominent lateral prolongations forming spines, is an active swimmer. Calappa lophos, on the other hand, leads a sluggish life on the floor of the sea. It is found at Tiruvallam and Puvar. It has a strongly convex carapace with the sides produced into shelf-like plates covering the legs, and the pincers are enlarged and compressed, so that when folded they form a covering to the face and so give it complete protection. Leucosia craniolaris, another example of this tribe, is remarkable for the porcelain-like appearance and texture of its pale bluish carapace. It is found on the Trivandrum beach.

The remaining tribe, the Anomala, is so far without a representative in the collection.

There are several species of Hermit-crabs, which, having the integument of the abdomen soft, use empty shells of the Mollusca to protect themselves. None of these have been identified as yet.

The Lobsters, Prawns and Shrimps are numerous. Palinnurus dasypus is perhaps the commonest; it is a large lobster reaching a length of over a foot. The cephalo-thorax is olive green with dull reddish yellow markings, the abdominal rings are finely spotted with orange. It has long antennae and the cephalo-thorax is thickly covered with spiny tubercles and there is a large spine over each eye. Pannsirus fasciatus, another lobster, has even longer antennae; it is a bluish green with orange transverse lines a little above the posterior margins of the somites. A specimen 9 inches long has the antennae 2 feet 4 inches in length. It is found among rocks. Thenus orientalis, also found on rocky shores, is reddish brown and the head appendages are curiously produced into leaf-like processes.

Shrimps and prawns are common; a species of Palaemon grows to nine inches in length and is commonly sold in the market. In the back- waters a very large prawn, Palaemon carcinus, is found. The cephalo-thorax and the anterior portions of the somites are light purplish green followed by deep blue with orange spots on the sides and tail. Its length is 12 inches and the pincers are 19 inches.

The order Stomapoda is represented by a species of Mantis-shrimp (Squilla which makes burrows in the sand. They have a very short carapace and their seizing limbs are not chelate, but toothed, like the forelimbs of a mantis, hence their name. The Isopoda are represented by Hippa asiatica, pale bluish ashy, which lives in the sands also by Spaeroma whose convex body is capable of being rolled into a ball; they live under stones. The fish-lice, some of which attain a length of 2 inches, also belong to this group. On land the wood-lice represent it; there are several species to be found, but they are as yet unidentified.

The Entomostraca are well represented. A species of Lepas is common and so is Balanus tittinabulam one of the Acorn Barnacles. Of the remaining subkingdoms, the Echinoderms, Molluscs, Worms, and Coelenterates, I can say nothing, as it has not been possible hitherto to collect them systematically and to ascertain how far they are represented in Travancore.

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Post posted by VED »


Introductory| Architecture
Dravidian| Jaina and Buddhistic
Indigenous or Malabar
Description of Sri Padmanabhaswami’s temple at Trivandrum
Indigenous| Buddhistic
Jaina| Brahminical
A. Indigenous
Gold Coins| Silver Coins
Copper Coins | Zinc Coins
B. Foreign Coins
Buddhistic| European
South Indian| Ceylon
Tables showing the inscriptions arranged according to
their age
the Taluqs in which they occur
to their character
to their language
to the materials on which they are inscribed
to their subject-matter
to their donors
to their donees
Old Tamil
Copies of inscriptions and translations
Plate A | Plate B
Plate C | Plate D| Plate E
The language of the inscriptions
Their date
The Udayagiri Fort| The Padmanabhapuram Fort
Vattakotta Fort
List of Forts in Travancore
Tombs and Monuments
Last edited by VED on Tue Nov 21, 2023 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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V1C5 text

Post posted by VED »


“And, when I am forgotten as I shall be,
And sleep in dull cold marble, where no mention
Of me more must be heard of, say, I taught thee
Say, Wolsey, that once trod the ways of glory,
And sounded all the depths and shoals of honour.
Found thee a way, out of his wreck, to rise in.


The prehistoric archaeological remains are mostly natural or artificial caves used by primitive men as dwelling places or for other purposes. Numbers of such caves have been recently discovered all over Southern India. But in Travancore owing to the paucity of archaeological researches in which only a beginning has been made, no definite information is available. Rude stone pillars, probably menhirs, indicating burial places and small cup-like stone hollows just large enough to hold a human body, have been discovered in parts of North Travancore. When the Varkala tunnel was bored, rude natural and artificial hollows were discovered here and there containing old pots, human skeletons and the like. These remains no doubt indicate that the tracts in which they were found were inhabited by the same race of men that constructed the ‘Pandu Kulies’ of the adjoining British tracts. The absence of any implements ordinarily associated with such burial places probably indicate their great antiquity; but the exact nature of the civilisation and the period at which such caves were constructed have not yet been ascertained.

Sepulchral urns have also been found in North and South Travancore one large pot discovered in one of the caves showed signs of rude ornamental work, thus testifying to some advance in civilisation. At Ilanji, near Courtallam on the borders of Travancore, on opening an urn some traces of the shape of a human skeleton were discovered by Dr. Fry, a former Residency Surgeon in Travancore. Who the people were who buried their dead in these urns is a problem yet unsolved. Dr. Caldwell, who saw personally some urns both in the Tinnevelly and Madura Districts and in North and South Travancore, i e., on both sides of the Western Ghauts, is of opinion that ‘the unknown people must have lived in villages. They were also a comparatively civilised people what seems to be most probable is that they were the ancestors of the people now living in the neighbourhood.’

The area within which these traces are found would, if accurately determined, throw considerable light on early history and civilisation, but this has not been done yet. No provision exists at present for making excavations, which is the chief method of discovering prehistoric remains; other improved appliances are also wanting to help the work. Little is therefore known definitely of the remains of the period usually termed pre-historic. A start will have to be made in this direction.

Regarding the historic period, however, more definite, though still far from satisfactorily utilised, information is available and this will be here dealt with under the following heads —

1. Architecture.
2. Sculpture.
3. Coins.
4. Inscriptions.
5. Forts and military works.
6. Tombs and monuments.



The Dravidian style of building is the most prevalent, especially in South Travancore where examples of the indigenous style are not commonly met with. The northern limit of the Dravidian style is Trivandrum. This is probably due to the easy accessibility of the southern parts to the outside world and the intimate connection that has existed between them and the adjoining districts of Madura, Tinnevelly, Coimbatore &c., where the Dravidian races flourished and constructed some of their best architectural works. Some of the southern Taluqs were for a time under the sway of the Pandyan and other Kings and were wrested from their hands by the Rajahs of Travancore.

There are also a few remains of Jaina and Buddhistic architecture. The temples at Chitaral near Kuzhittura in the Vilavankod Taluq, and Madavur Parai in Kalakuttam, Trivandrum Taluq, are stated to be of Buddhistic origin. But examples of these styles are rare and have not been properly studied.

Besides these foreign styles, there is also an indigenous style. The temples and other buildings constructed in this style lack both the costliness and grandeur of the Dravidian structures, but they are neat and simple with provision for admitting plenty of light and fresh air, and in these respects are undoubtedly superior to the costly edifices of the Dravidian style. The indigenous style is peculiar to Malabar and indeed the like of it is not known to exist anywhere else in India. The chief characteristic of this style is that wood enters largely in its construction. This style recurs with all its peculiarities, in Nepal and Tibet and the resemblance between the two is so strong that from this fact, among others, Sir James Fergusson argues that ‘it cannot be doubted that an intimate connection once existed between Nepal and Tibet on the one side and Malabar coast on the other”, though it has not yet been possible to ascertain when.

The large employment of wood in the place of stone is, according to Mr. Fergusson, the chief peculiarity of the Jaina temple architecture and he would set down the style prevalent in Malabar, Nepal and Tibet, to the influence of Jaina example. But more definite and reliable evidence should be sought before laying it down finally that the Malabar style is a copy of the Jaina temple architecture. The large employment of wood is sufficiently accounted for by the abundant supply of building timber available in the forests of Malabar; the same conditions exist in the Himalayan valleys of Nepal and Tibet. The indigenous style combining with it the advantages of neatness, health and ventilation, fulfils the function of true architecture, which, according to Buskin, is the art “which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by man, for whatsoever uses that the sight of them may contribute to his mental health, power and pleasure”. The peculiarities of the Dravidian and Malabar styles of architecture are dealt with at length elsewhere. The great temple of Sri Padmanabhaswami in Trivandrum is one of the best specimens of the Dravidian style of architecture in Travancore.

In my Report on the Census of Travancore (1891), I described it thus -

“This temple stands in the most elevated part of a vast plain about 20 square miles in extent. The site itself is only a few feet above the sea-level. The area covered by the temple enclosure is 570 x 510, or 290,700 square feet, equal to about 7 acres. The temple faces the east, and the view on that side through the large fort gate and along line of bazaars with paddy fields and cocoanut topes behind them is most charming. A handsome flight of stone-steps. on the eastern side shows the gentle eminence of the temple site, the first portion of which is covered by a huge gopuram or tower, pyramidal in shape and built of granite stone and brick. This tower is about 100 feet in height, and has seven stories with window-like openings in the centre of each of them. These openings, as well as the face of the tower, are lighted every evening, the illumination being visible at a great distance. The stone basement of the tower is covered with elaborate sculpturing, and the masonry above with ornamental work of Hindu figures. On the top are seven gold steeples or turrets known as Swarnastupis in the vernacular. These are seen at an immense distance from the town.

Underneath the gopuram is the main gateway leading to the temple, well protected by a number of massive doors all guarded day and night by faithful sentries. The gopuram and the lofty temple walls were in the olden times not merely an ornamental appendage to the pagoda, but a stronghold of the temple jewels and the king’s treasure, and under the simpler system of warfare and weapons then known, they yielded an effectual protection from foes. Between the gateway and the inner shrine, or holy of holies, there is a fine broad open corridor in the form of an oblong, supported by 324 stone pillars and covered with a terraced roof. This is a most beautiful and useful structure. It is called the Seevalimantapam meaning the walk of the god’s procession. On one side it is 450 feet long, on the shorter side 350 feet. It is 25 feet broad. The two rows of granite pillars and the stone ceiling above have been made the receptacle of the talents of the sculptor’s chisel. Every stone pillar has the figure of a Nair girl bearing a lamp in the palm of her hands joined together and raised above her waists. The niche of the lamp will hold four ounces of oil, and this quantity will keep the light burning for four hours of the night. The top of the pillar is surmounted by the head of a unicorn, in the mouth of which rolls a ball of stone in the manner of a Chinese puzzle. On each side of the pillar is suspended a pretty brass lamp at a height of ten feet from the floor. Between the pillars are also placed rows of iron lamps, like butties fixed to pieces of planks pressed in between the stone pillars, also of the same height as the hanging brass lamps.

When all these are lighted, as well as the numerous rows of cocoanut oil lamps on the outside walls of the inner shrine to which I shall presently refer, the effect on the visitor is most dazzling. The reader will not have seen anything like it in any other part of India. It is impossible to describe in words what beggars the imagination. This Seevalimantapam is also used as the dining hall on important occasions, and I counted so many as 2,500 leaves on one occasion, showing that so many people could sit down there simultaneously to breakfast. I do not think the wealthiest Duke or Marquis in Great Britain can ask so many guests to dinner at a time. And this, I believe, is a spectacle unrivalled in any part of the world. At the four points of this oblong corridor, but not connected with it, stand four stone- mantapoms or raised platforms, from which the women and children witness the god’s procession during the important festivals in the temple, when the Seevalimantapam and the courtyard are fully crammed with people. These are called Unchamantapoms. On ordinary days, these are used for the reading of the Puranas or the Chakkiyar’s entertainment or the Patakam recital. Sometimes Vedic scholars from distant parts of India here announce themselves to the sovereign, by reciting some of the hymns of the Veda. On the south of the southern Seevalimantapam is a house dedicated to the performance of the chief State ceremonies.

North of the oblong is the cooking apartments of the feeding house attached to the temple, commensurate in size and area to the needs of the thousands daily fed on important occasions. Here you have hearths of the height of a full-grown man, and spacious enough to hold tons of firewood at a time, large hell-metal caldrons, the hollow of which can contain condiments to feed 5,000 people at a meal, and so deep that a boy can swim in it if filled with water, large canoes made of wood capable of holding several hundred pots of curries or buttermilk, altogether presenting the appearance in every respect of Brobdingnagian arrangements.

Everything here is on a stupendous scale. Beyond this magnificent corridor or covered walk is the great flagstaff of gold or the Dhwajastambhom, the emblem of victory, a sine qua non to every Hindu temple, considered so by the immemorial usage of Hindus and by their sacred books. The staff itself is a fine teak log 80 feet in length without a flaw, and shaped circular, tapering towards the top. This log is covered with a series of copper-plate rings from the foot upwards, and surmounted on the top by a massive pewter image of Garuda said to the the god’s vahanom or favourite riding animal. The copper plates and the image are gilded thickly on the outside with fine gold in a fashion peculiar to the native artisans of Travancore. The gold used is of a very superior touch, which is beaten into thin plates of the thickness of ordinary paper, then cut into small pieces and ground down on a stone with sand and quicksilver into a fine pasty substance. This pasty substance is laid on the copper rings themselves highly polished, and well rubbed into them. The quicksilver disappears in the subsequent heating over the fire. This process is repeated seven times or more according to the quantity of gold available, when the rings assume a very pretty colour. This is the gilding process in vogue here. During the oolsavam or seasons of festival a flag of silk is hoisted high on the staff; the processes of hoisting and lowering are accompanied by long and detailed ceremonies in every temple. South of the flagstaff and connected with the ‘Seevalimantapam’ roof, is the famous ‘Kulasekhara mantapom’, sometimes called ‘Ayirakkal mantapom’. This place is entirely a work of the sculptor’s art. The best specimens of carving in stone of old Travancore are preserved here.

The former Maharajahs imported several families of talented masons and carpenters and artisans from all parts of India, and gave them special privileges and patronised them. The descendants of these families are still living in Travancore. I have not the patience to write here a full description of the excellent specimens of stone-work as displayed in the ‘Kulasekhara mantapom.’ It is enough to say that the obdurate granite has been made to bend and mould in obedience to the artist’s chisel in very remarkable and unlikely ways. Between the flagstaff and the temple door is the ‘Velikkapurai’ in which also specimens of stone workmanship known to native sculpture are profusely shown in the huge pillars and the ceiling above. Before the Hindu enters the temple door, he bows respectfully from the big Balipertom directly in front of the God in the inner shrine. A long pathway underneath a magnificent upstair hall is passed before the Jepamantapam is reached, from which a flight of steps leads you down to the yard of the inner shrine, also beautifully paved with fine slabs of granite stone, the interstices between being well closed by a solution of tin.

Another flight of stone-steps takes you up to the front of the inner shrine. No worshipper is allowed to enter the shrine itself. Only the specially privileged priests can enter. Even ‘Sankaracharya’ the ‘Loka Guru’ has certain restrictions placed on him in his pooja to the God. This shrine is a small room with three doors, and the votaries worship at all three of them. All the standing room for the worshippers is afforded by one large slab of stone* measuring 20 feet by 25 feet and 4 feet high, brought thither according to people’s belief not by human hands, but with the help of the local deity himself, and the simple folk still point to the deep ditch in the neighbouring mountains from which this huge stone was quarried.

NOTEs: * This is known as the 'Ottakal mantapom'.

I should not omit to mention that on this side of the Jepamantapam as well as of the inner shrine there are two open yards also nicely paved with granite stones. It is scarcely necessary to inform the Hindu reader that the inner shrine, the single-stone mantapom, the open yards, the Jepamantapam and all thereabouts are kept most scrupulously neat and sweet by perfumes, and cleaning and washing continually going on for several hours of the day. Outside the inner shrine, but within the enclosure itself, there are other small shrines, dedicated to Krishna, Kshetrapala, Sastha, Narasimha, Vyasa, Siva, Ganesa, Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, Garuda &c. These are the minor deities, the chief deity being a favourite form of Vishnu or the Protector of the world. On the hind walls of the chief shrine are scenically represented in water colours the whole of the Puranas including such minute and complicated details as the wars of Rama and Ravana, the Pandavas and Kurus, the marriage of Sita, the ‘leelas’ of Krisha, and such like, too numerous to mention.

The devout worshipper passes by looking at them reverentially and touching his eyes with the fingers consecrated by the touch of the holy walls on which these scenes are painted. There are two or three wells within the sacred precincts in addition to a largo fine tank outside the temple itself. A collar underneath the shrine secures the temple jewels, and a massive offertory made of wood, covered with copper-plates, receives the daily offerings in cash of the worshippers. Half an hour’s perambulation m the temple is to the pious Hindu a supremely happy portion of his existence.”


The sculpture of Travancore is necessarily limited to the temples and pious of the Hindu religion, as the Mahomedan religion forbids representations either of men or animals in their buildings. The araptures to be found in Travancore may be divided into three classes,

(a Indigenous,
(b Buddhistic and Jaina and
(c Brahminical,
according to the religious belief which occasioned them.

The Indigenous sculptures consist of ‘Naga-kals’ or serpent figures, ‘Veera-kals’ or figures of heroes and representations of village goddesses, demons &c. The serpent figures are most common in Travancore and the ‘Kavu’ or abode of serpents, where images of serpents are set up and worshipped, is to be invariably seen in the garden of every Nayar house. The ‘Veera-kals’ are also to be largely met with here, most of them being the representations of Parasurama, the Brahmin hero and the reputed founder of Kerala, to whom however only a few temples are dedicated. Images of village gods and goddesses, demons &c, are also not uncommon, as idol worship in one form or other is the cult of the lower classes.

The Buddhistic sculpture consists of bas-reliefs and detached statues. A few of these are to be found here and there in Travancore. There is an image of Buddha standing on the roadside between Mavelikara and Kandiyur. In the Museum at Trivandrum are a few images distinctly Buddhistic in appearance.

The Jaina sculptures are for the most part restricted to a representation of their twenty-four hierarchs or Thirtankaras with their symbols. These are very rare in Travancore. Some of them are to be hardly distinguished from Buddhistic images so much so that a few which are considered Buddhistic are not infrequently styled Jaina images. The figure popularly known as Karumadi Kuttan in the canal near Karumadi is said to be of Jaina origin, while some put it down as a Buddhistic image. In the central compartment of the rock-cut hall in the Bhagavati temple on the summit of Chitaral near Kuzhittura is a figure which “would appear to be a Jaina image as it is said to be ‘quite naked’. It is in sitting posture on an elevated stone plinth and has three umbrellas over its head. There is another in the southern compartment. On the rock-face on the north of the temple are thirty-two figures, repetitions of the images in the pagoda. I take these also to be of Jaina origin”.

The Brahminical sculptures are countless. Hindu religion and mythology afford inexhaustible subjects for sculptural representation and ornamentation. A detailed account and a few examples of the Hindu sculptures found in Travancore are given under the head of “Sculpture” in the chapter “Arts and Industries”.


A. Indigenous

The history of Travancore coins mounts up to remote antiquity. Sir Walter EUiot, the eminent numismatist, is of opinion that the Travancore mint “is the only Hindu tankasala still maintained in its original form”. A close examination of the old records relating to coinage should have disclosed very interesting and valuable information about the early history of Travancore, but the records in the mint were destroyed by an accidental fire and hence the difficulty of procuring information regarding the ancient coins of Travancore.

Gold Coins. Parasurama, the founder of Kerala, after crowning Bhanu Vikrama as its king, is stated to have minted gold coins called Rasi and made them over to the king for circulation as the currency of the country. Tradition says that Parasurama sowed the Rasi coins broadcast and buried some in cairns, which are seen here and there on the Travancore mountains. “On the high ranges there are three Parasurama cairns, where the mountain tribes still keep lamps burning one much dilapidated was called “Rasi hill of Parasurama”. Along the western coast the approaches to fords over large rivers... are especially prolific of them (Rasi coins); after heavy bursts of the monsoon people often regularly resort to and minutely scrutinise the tracts leading to the fords”+.

NOTEs: +Mr. Walhouse in the Indian Antiquary, Vol, III. Page 191.

According to the belief of the people, Rasi is the oldest coin in Kerala. The specimens sent to Sir W. Elliot were found to weigh (five and eight- tenths) 58/10 grains each, “with an obliterated form on the obverse, prob-ably a Shanka “. Though seldom seen in circulation, the Rasi was till very recently the denomination used in North Travancore for the valuation of lands.

The coin next in point of age was the Kaliyuga Rajan or Kaliyuga Rayan Panam. As its name implies, it was probably issued by the sovereign who reigned in the beginning of the Kaliyuga. It has a faint resemblance to the Rasi coin. According to Sir W. Elliot it was at one time current over the whole of Kerala. Inscriptions and Sasanams show that it was current in the 3rd century A.D.

Ananta Rayan Panam and Ananta Varahan were two gold coins issued subsequently. Ananta is the appellation of God Sri Padmanabha, the tutelary deity of the Travancore Royal family, and the coins derive their name from this Deity. Their values were Rs. 0-4-7 and Rs. 3-15-5 (British currency) respectively. The precise dates of their issue are not ascertainable as there have been many subsequent issues of the same coin. A large number of Ananta Rayan Panams full and half, and Ananta Varahans were coined during the reign of Rama Varma the Great (1758-1798 AD.)

Besides these, special gold coins were minted during the performance of the important ceremony known as “Tulabharam” which the Travancore Maharajahs celebrate once in their life-time. On these occasions the body of the king is weighed against an equal weight of gold coins, which are then distributed among the learned Brahmins. The gold, after purification, is coined in different sizes and weights. Originally these coins were circular pieces of gold with letters “Sri Padmanabha” in Malayalam on the obverse, the reverse being blank. But those coined in later times contained the letters within a floral wreath while on the reverse was the sankha or conch-shell (the State emblematic device of Travancore) encircled by a wreath. The coins struck in 1869 A.D. were of four denominations weighing approximately 78.65, 39.32, 19.66, and 9.83 grains respectively.

The old Venetian Sequins were also used for Pagoda offerings and to meet the difficulty of securing them in large numbers, Dewan Ramiengar suggested the coinage of token gold coins which were not to be part of the currency. But instead of being modelled after the sequins, the new token coins were minted of two sizes, one equal to the English Sovereign in weight and purity and the other to the English Half-sovereign. 1,000 full and 2,000 half Sovereigns were accordingly minted in the British Indian mint at Bombay in 1882 A.D.

In 1052 M.E (1877 AD) two gold coins called Travancore Varahan and Half Varahans were struck and declared legal tender by state legislation. The obverse contained the inscriptions “E. V.” (the initials of the Maharajah) and the words “Travancore Varahan” or “Half Varahan’’, as the case may be, in Malayalam, with the years of issue both English and Malayalam; the reverse contained a sankha and a flag.

The two coins weighed 784/10 and 392/10 grains and their values were 7½ Rs. and 3¾ Rs. respectively. But the new currency failed in its object as there was hardly any circulation, and was discontinued.

Gold Chuckrams are stated to have been minted at one time* but nothing is now known of these coins and no specimens are to be found.

NOTEs: Vide Shungoonny Menon's History of Travancore Page 83

Silver Coins. Silver Chuckrams were issued from the earliest period and they were stated to have been current even in the Pandyan kingdom. This by repute is the earliest silver coin of Travancore.

Later coinages were of three different sizes —

Double chuckram weight 116/10 grains.

Single chuckram , , 57/10 “

Small or Chinna chuckram , , 28/10 “

The exact date of their coinage is not known but all accounts agree in assigning to them a period of more than 200 years. In the year 985 M. E. (1809 A.D.), Double and Half chuckrams were coined by the order of the then Dewan Oomminy Tampi and it is said that their coinage was immediately afterwards discontinued. From some specimens now available, it is found that on the obverse of the double chuckram was a sankha or shell and on the reverse was the chuckram resembling what is called a Solomon’s seal with the inscription “Padmanabha” in Malayalam. The impression on the chuckram represents on the obverse a head ornament of Siva, a curved line representing the moon with a star above it. The moon appears also on the reverse with the twelve signs of the Zodiac above, marked by dots and an ear of corn below. The representation is of course primitive and rude. The Chinna-chuckram resembled the chuckram in all respects and it was perhaps the smallest silver coin in the world.

In 1035 M.E (1860 A.D) a new silver coin of the value of 4 chuckrams and known as the Fanam was introduced. These coins were minted in Trivandrum with the aid of stamping presses got down from Madras.

In 1065 M.E (1889) Quarter Rupees and Half Rupees equal in value to 7 and 14 chuckrams respectively were coined, and by a Royal Proclamation dated 31st October 1889 they were declared part of the currency of the State. These coins bore the device of the sankha and the name of the coin in Malayalam on one side and the inscription “Rama Varma-Travancore” with the year and name of the coin in English on the other side. It was also then under contemplation to issue full Rupees valued 28 chuckrams or 7 fanams each, but the idea was given up subsequently. The Travancore Rupee by which the Sircar accounts are calculated is only an imaginary coin.

In 1076 M.E (1900 A.D.) when the silver chuckrams were discontinued, an improved silver coin of the value of 2 chuckrams was minted instead and declared part of the currency of the State.

Copper Coins. The coin known as Kasu or Cash is the earliest copper coin minted in Travancore. It is valued 1/1456 of a British Rupee and is undoubtedly the smallest copper coin in the world. It was first minted in 991 M.E (1815 A.D). The cash issued in 1006 M.E. bore a different stamp, which was again changed in the coinage of copper cash made in 1014 M.E. The dies &c. are not preserved and it is not possible to ascertain what the early copper cashes were like, as specimens are not to be found. But later issues resembled the silver chuckram with its rude and primitive device.

In 1024 M.E (1848 A.D.), three varieties of copper coins were minted
viz —
cash 1/16 of a chuckram
double cash 1/8 do.
four-cash coins ¼ do.

On the obverse of all these was the figure of Krishna and on the reverse the chuckram. The double cash contained in addition the numeral ‘2’ in Malayalam below the figure of Krishna. In the four-cash piece the numeral “2” was replaced by “4” also in Malayalam, and there were two floral sprigs in addition. The last two coins were however subsequently given up.

In 1076 M.E (1900 AD.), owing to the facilities which silver coins of the value of one chuckram afforded for counterfeiting, it was resolved to discontinue the minting thereof and the Government issued instead copper coins of the value of one, half and quarter chuckrams for the convenience of the public. At the same time an improved copper cash was also struck with the inscription ‘ഒരു കാശ്’ (one cash on one side and the sankha in an ornamented circle on the other side. These coins form the present copper currency of the state.

Zinc Coins. In 988 M.E (1812 AD.) zinc coins of the value of one cash were issued from the Travancore mint. This was the first ‘cash’ coined but it was soon replaced by copper coinage Specimens of the zinc cash are not available. It is not therefore possible to give any description of the coin.


A large number of foreign coins appear to have been current in early times and numbers of them have been subsequently unearthed in different parts of the State.

EARLY BUDDHISTIC — The earliest of such coins were the punch-marked coins current at the time of Buddha. So late as January 1900 A.D., 306 old silver and 2 old copper coins were found in an old earthen vessel in a cutting near Angamali Station on the Shoranore-Cochin Railway. They were sent to Mr. Edgar Thurston of the Madras Government Museum and he identified them as the punch-marked coins referred to above, “which are found all over India from Kabul to Cape Comorin”. According to Sir A. Cunningham, “they were certainly current in the time of Buddha i.e., in the 5th century BC. But I have no difficulty in thinking that they might mount to as high as 1,000 BC”*

NOTEs:* Coins of Ancient India from the earliest times to the 7th century (1891) Page 43

EUROPEAN. The extensive commercial relations that had existed in early times between the Malabar coast and the maritime nations of the west introduced a large number of European coins into the country. Of the European nations the Romans were the first to come in contact with the west coast and accordingly a large number of their coins of dates ranging from 30 B.C. to 547 A.D. have been found in several parts of Travancore. Mr. Cunningham asserts that these coins were current in Southern India in the early years of the Christian era.

The Venetian Sequins popularly known as Shanar Kasu are also to be met with in large numbers and are in great demand for jewellery. They appear to have been current in the State once. Until lately the sequins found in the country were purchased by the Government and distributed to learned Brahmins during the temple offerings.

SOUTH INDIAN. Portions of the country now included in the State of Travancore were at various times under the sway of the foreign powers viz. the Bellalas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Cholas, Pandyas, Mahomedan rulers (who overran the Pandyan territory), the Zamorin of Calicut and the Rajah of Cochin.

The coins of all these powers were current in the tracts under their respective sway and when the several parts were conquered and consolidated into the kingdom of Travancore, there were large numbers of foreign coins in circulation. Specimens of several of these foreign coins are to be found in His Highness the Maharajah’s Palace at the Capital. The following names of the coins in the Palace collection are sufficiently expressive and clearly indicate the source or authority to which they own their origin.

Sultan Varahan.
Sultan cash.
Kumbakonam Varahan.
Tharangambady Varahan.
Parangy Varahan.
Calicut Fanam.
Ramnad Chuti Panam.
Madura Velli Panam.
Cochin Puthen.

CEYLON. There are evidences of an intimate connection, commercial and even political, between Ceylon and the south of India — not excluding Travancore — in early times. This is fully borne out by the occurrence of Ceylon coins in several parts of South India, Madura, Tinnevelly &c. Even in Travancore they are found though only rarely. The Elavas, Tiyas and some of the Shanars in Travancore are asserted to have come from the north of Ceylon. From a South Travancore inscription dated 98 M.E (922 A.D), it is found that Ceylon gold coins were once current in that part of the country.



For some years past, an attempt has been made to collect and decipher inscriptions found in temples, mantapams, forts, palaces and isolated landmarks all over Travancore. No regular department has been organised, but the late Mr. P. Sundaram Pillay MA., F.R.H.S a very talented Professor of His Highness the Maharajah’s College, Trivandrum, was appointed Honorary Archaeologist and a small staff was given him to start the researches. His Field Assistant, Mr. T. S. Ganesa Pillay, still continues to do some work, but since the Professor’s untimely death seven years ago, the work has made but little progress. As archaeological work is of an extremely important nature and Travancore abounds with material of that kind for constructing authentic history, it behoves His Highness’ Government to organise a regular establishment and work it on more methodical lines. There must be a large number of inscriptions and plates available for research all over the country. Whatever work has been done by Professor Sundaram Pillay and Ganesa Pillay up to date is here presented to the general reader in a brief compass.

The following statements disclose some interesting particulars regarding the nature of Travancore inscriptions: —








It will be seen from the statements given above that the Talaq of Agastisvaram in South Travancore claims the largest number of inscriptions. The reasons for this are not far to seek. The Pandyan Empire extended up to the Taluq of Tovala. The victorious Pandya or Chola always wished to commemorate his successes in the conquered territories more than in his own.

Kottar was for a long time the most important city in Venad and its capture was therefore more important for the enemy than the possession of several miles of land outside. The country east of Kottar was known in the olden days as “Purattayanad “ or the country outside Venad. Another reason is probably the existence of important Hindu shrines in this Taluq. Suchindram, the divine court of justice in the olden days, has nearly 100 inscriptions and Cape Comorin has more than 50. The expression ‘Suchindram Satyam’ is still remembered and acted upon by the more orthodox, though its ‘ghee-ordeal’ is now a thing of the part. The persons condemned on oath at this temple had generally to undergo a course of expiatory ceremonies, part of which was the making of some gift to the temple. Most of the inscriptions in this temple record such small gifts as atonement for various sins. The other three Taluqs viz., Tovala, Kalkulam and Eraniel, contain a smaller number of temples and were apparently not considered as very valuable possessions by the invaders.

Tovala was for a long time either forest or waste land with a sparse population. Kalkulam was called ‘Padappanad’ indicating the jungly nature of the gardens of which it was composed. Eraniel was known as ‘Kurunad’ showing the small revenue realised therefrom.

Regarding the character of the inscriptions, it is only the Vattezhuttu, Kolezhuttu and Old Tamil that call for any remarks as their use ceased long ago while the other characters are still current.

VATTEZHUTTU. Vattezhuthu is the oldest in Malabar and the earliest Vattezhuttu inscription known to scholars is the one on the pillar in front of the Napier Museum at Trivandrum. (Vide Plate A. herewith annexed). It is in the well-known Chera-Pandya characters with the exception of the first letter ‘Sri’ which is in Grantha. All the letters of this inscription are more arrow-headed than round and are peculiarly ornamented and every consonant has a dot on the top according to the rules of ancient Tamil Grammar texts — Tolkappiyam and Nannul. The language of the inscription is the old classical Tamil, and contains certain words which have gone out of use at the present day, such as


The date of the inscription has been mentioned as the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Sri Ko-Maran Chadayan, and Professor Sundaram Pillay roughly estimated its age to be at least a thousand years. It records the death of a Malabar Chief at Vizhinjam.

The characters of the inscriptions of Ko-Raja Rajakesari Varman alias the great Raja Raja I on the rock at Periyakulam, Eraniel Talug (Vide Plate B). are also in Vattezhuttu character, but the letters are slightly different from those of the preceding one and less ornamental.

KOLEZHUTTU. The Kolezhuttu is only a variety of the Vattezhuttu. Kolezhuttu inscriptions are to be seen in Central and North Travancore and it appears from the epigraphical records that Kolezhuttu was in use m Travancore from the commencement of the sixth to the tenth century of the Malabar era. It is also known as Malayazhma and until the beginning of the last century this character was in use for ‘’all grants, patents, decrees and in general all papers that can be considered records of Government”.

The inscription in the temple of Manambur in the Taluq of Chirayinkil (Vide Plate C.) contains five lines of well-preserved characters.

There is another inscription in the same character but of an earlier date in the temple of Chengavanadu. It contains two lines of Kolezhuttu characters intermingled with Grantha letters. (Vide Plate D

OLD TAMIL. Old Tamil was the Court character of the Cholas and all the old Tamil inscriptions found in Travancore are due to their influence, as is evidenced by the fact that no inscriptions in old Tamil are met with to the north of Vizhinjam which marked the limit of Chola conquest in Travancore territory. They are mostly to be found in the Taluqs of Agastisvaram, Tovala, Eraniel and only a few in Kalkulam. Old Tamil appears to have been current in those parts from the second to the eighth century of the Malabar era. The inscription dated the 154th day in the fourth year of the reign of the Chola king, Parakesari Varman alias Rajendra Deva, on the walls of the inner temple of the goddess Bhagavati at Cape Comorin (Vide Plate E.), may be taken as a type of this character.










































Another fact disclosed by the statements already given is that the language of most of the inscriptions is Tamil. The reason here is equally simple. Malayalam as a national language is not very old. Its resemblance to old Tamil is so patent that one could hardly help concluding that Malayalam is nothing more than old Tamil with a good admixture of Sanskrit words. There are some very old works in Tamil composed in Travancore and by Travancore kings. Besides, the invading Pandyas and Cholas were themselves Tamilians and their inscriptions form more than 70 per cent of the total in South Travancore. The Sanskrit inscriptions are very few and record ‘Dwaja Pratishtas’ and other ceremonies specially connected with Brahminical worship.

With regard to the date of the inscriptions, the Chola inscriptions are the most common ones till the 3rd century M.E (12th century A.D). Subsequently we meet with Pandya inscriptions interspersed with those of the native kings. The later inscriptions are generally those of the sovereigns of Travancore with a small sprinkling of Pandya inscriptions. Later still, we have several Neets and Proclamations issued by the dynasty of the Nayak chiefs.

It will also be observed that most of these inscriptions are found in temples and other sacred places. Charity, according to the Sanskrit texts, loses its merit when the donor boasts of it or advertises it. This is the reason why so little is known of private charities of Hindus, though they are extremely liberal and cosmopolitan. What the right hand giveth the left hand should not know. Such is the Hindu belief. An exception is however made in cases of gift to the temples, the object being that a publication of such gifts acts as an incentive to other endowments by men of wealth, livery success attained by a Hindu results in a religious or charitable endowment. The foreign kings that entered Travancore either as enemies or as friends made their gifts to most of these temples chiefly as thanksgiving for the success given to them by the gods of the different temples, but also as a policy of conciliation of the conquered people.

Stress need not be laid here on the value of these inscriptions. Nobody will deny it. They are often the only records that contain the true history of Travancore. The late Mr. Sundaram Pillay wrote;— “That the Travancore inscriptions are fully worthy of that honour, I can now confidently assure the Government. They are sure to prove useful in every branch of archaeology. They offer the only reliable basis for the ancient history of Travancore and are sure to render substantial service in placing beyond doubt certain leading facts connected with the fluctuating fortunes of the Pandyan kingdom and the Chola empire, not to speak of the steady light they throw on Dravidian philology and ancient history.

Of the 450 inscriptions that have been transcribed up to date, about 70 have been carefully and critically examined by the Archaeological Department. The historical incidents of value disclosed by them have been incorporated in the Early History section of the next chapter.

Regarding the remaining inscriptions, which still await careful study, nothing but the bare outlines are available. Even as they are, they bring to light much useful information about the social and political condition of early Travancore. What is here attempted is to give a few interesting particulars which a casual examination of these inscriptions brings to light.

As is only natural to expect, nearly two-thirds of the inscriptions relate to gifts of lands and other valuables to the several temples in the State or for charitable purposes. Gifts to temples relate to construction, repairs and additions, consecration, nanda lamps, special pujas and offerings; and among charitable purposes are included the construction of wells, water-sheds, rest-houses and ‘Chumadu-tangi’ stones*, and the feeding of Brahmins and other castes. It is interesting to note that the sovereigns of Travancore have not been unmmindful of the needs of other religionists. It is found from two inscriptions on pillars in the temple of Nagaraja at Nagercoil, dated 21st Alpasi 681 M.E., and 29th Purattasi 692 M.E, that grants of lands were made at the requests of two Jaina priests, Guru Vira Panditan and Kamala Vahana Panditan. There is an inscription dated 15th Chitrai 669 M.E, in one of the granite pillars at Kumari-muttam, which records the assignment by the sovereign of the harbour dues of Kumari-muttam and Covalam to the Roman Catholic church at Kumari-muttam.

NOTEs: Literally stones on which the passengers who carry loads on their heads place them and take respite while travelling long distances of 5 and 10 miles with heavy burdens. All over Travancore such Chumadu-tangis exist on the roadsides, often 7 or 8 for every mile.

There are six inscriptions which refer to caste and religious disputes and the Royal writs issued in settlement thereof.

1. On a granite pillar to the south of the temple at Quilon.

2. On a granite pillar near the temple of Adimula Vinayakar at Nagercoil dated 15th Ani 682 M.E.

3. On a granite pillar at Parasuraman Perunteru, Idalakkudi, dated 1st Chitrai 661 M.E

4. On a granite pillar found in Kumarasamudram Pudukkalam Murungur, dated 12th Thye 670 M.E

5. On a granite pillar in front of the temple of Karutha Vinayakar, Saliyar Pudutheru, Vatasseri, dated 4th Ani 911 M.E

6. On a granite pillar at Kumari-muttam dated 20th Panguni 701 M. E.

In the first of these it is mentioned that the sovereign redressed the grievances of 18 castes at Quilon then known as Kurakkenikollam by assigning to them separate localities to live in.

The second remitted the following taxes, which were exacted from them by the higher classes without the knowledge of Government viz., Karamukattalai, Panam, Padavaram, Padippanam, and Anaivari, to the Nadars of Edanadu between the hills of Parali and Tovala.

The third granted certain privileges to the professional people called Sayakars of Idalakkudi viz.,

(1. They were allowed to appear before the sovereign during the Royal processions.
(2. They were exempted from the payment of all dues with the exception of Padaipanam and Kappalvagai panam.
(3. They were freed from persecution at the hands of Brahmins, Pillaimars and others who were in the habit of obstructing their passage to take water from tanks and wells, by putting up fences of thorns &c., assaulting and exacting unreasonable dues from them and interfering with and interrupting them in their public religious performances. Their residence was also prescribed within certain limits.

The fourth prohibited the lower castes of Valankai and Edankai from making religious gifts to the temple of Sakalakalai Martanda Vinayakar.

The fifth declared that the temple of Karutha Vinayakar belonged to the Saliars and not to the Chetties and the sixth refers to the persecution of the Christian converts of Kumari-muttam by their Hindu kinsmen. The Royal writ assigned to them a separate locality to live in.

The next interesting point has reference to the village assemblies which appear to have been self-governing bodies. There were such associations in Suchindram, Trivandrum, Kadainallur, Nirankarai, Tirunandikara, Cheramangalam, Parthivasekharapuram and Nanjanad. It appears that these village assemblies had the charge and management of the village temples, power to appoint temple accountants and priests and to regulate the system of worship. They levied fines and imposts on the villagers and an inscription on a granite pillar at Santhur in Toduvatti in Vilavankod Taluq, dated 20th Avani 819 M.E., records that a Royal writ was issued prohibiting the village assemblies to punish villagers without the knowledge of Government. There were large assemblies of Six Hundred and Three Hundred for Venad who met and deliberated on all questions of administration. The country was divided into Divisions, Districts and Desams, the last being apparently the limit or the smallest administrative division.
There are a number of inscriptions relating to taxation. A very important one on a pillar standing outside the temple of Manalikarai Alwar in Kalkulam Taluq, dated 27th Medom 410 M.E., (1235 AD.), records a Royal Proclamation issued after a consultation held among the loyal chieftains of Sri Vira Ravi Kerala Varma ruling Venad, the members of the Kodalinallur assembly and the people of that village as well as the individual entrusted with the right of realising the Government dues. The chief points of interest in this inscription are that the whole village was responsible for the tax so that when any portion of the crops failed, the villagers and the village assembly should inspect and if satisfied of the drought, the sufferers had to pay only one-fifth of the normal dues, while the balance fell on those whose lands did not fail.


If there was a general failure, then the village had to pay only one-fifth of the whole demand due from it; if the villagers should however desire that the collections should be postponed, it was done accordingly, the unpaid amounts being adjusted in the years of plenty. From another inscription on a granite pillar in Kandiripandi Vilai Vadaseri, Agastisvaram Taluq, dated 4th Kartikai 873 M.E. (1697 A.D.), we gather that a Royal writ was issued to the people of Nanjanad remitting the taxes on their lands for 13 years on account of the invasion of the Nayakkars into Nanjanad which evidently caused much loss and damage. Besides the land and other taxes noted in the inscriptions already referred to, there were a number of others also as revealed by the inscription on the southern wall of the temple at Keralapuram dated 21st Kumbham 491 M.E (1316 A.D). They were: —

Othirai tax.
Bamboo grain.
Tax on palmyras.

What these taxes were is not clear and further particulars regarding them are wanting.

There are references in some inscriptions to measures of land in vogue and to coins current in the country. In two granite pillars in Vatasseri, there are inscriptions dated 28th Thye 849 M.E (1674 A.D.) and 1st Chitrai 793 M.E. (1618 A.D), from which it is found that the measurement known in Tanjore and Trichinopoly as Veli was in use in Travancore also in early times. The different kinds of coins referred to are, Kaliyugarayan Panam, Erattarasi, Salakkai, Kalanji etc. It is not known what a Salakkai is. Kaliyuga Rayan Panam has already been referred under coins. Erattarasi is apparently a single coin of the value of two Rasi fanams. No reference has hitherto been found about the existence of- a double coin and further researches should throw light on this point.

An inscription on the northern wall of the Bhagavati Temple at Cape Comorin, dated the 27th year of Sri Vikrama Pandya Devar, shows that a gold coin was granted to the temple. Ii is not clear what that coin was.

Some inscriptions refer to the troubles from external foes. The invasion of Nanjanad by the Nayakkars has been already referred to. An inscription on the granite pillar in the temple at Tirunandikara, Kalkulam Taluq, records the destruction of the Talakkulam Salai by the adversary of the Cheras and the destruction by Chola King Raja Raja Kesari Varma of the Kandalur Salai is inscribed on the Kailasanathapparai at Suchindram dated the tenth year of the victor’s reign, wherein he is stated to have conquered Ganjaipadi, Nulambappadi, Tadukaipadi and Vengai Nadu.

Travancore inscriptions offer a remarkably rich and varied field for archaeological study and research. There is scarcely a temple in South Travancore whose walls and pillars are not covered with old inscriptions. The same must be the case more or less with North Travancore though that part of the country on account of its inaccessibility in the olden days was not the scene of successive invasions as the more open and flat tracts of South Travancore; but no archaeological researches have been made there worth the name. The Travancore inscriptions apart from their historical importance are also valuable as evidence of their age. A dated inscription is a rarity in other parts of India but in Travancore nearly all inscriptions bear the years, months and sometimes even dates, days of the week and the position of Jupiter or other constellations to enable the student to trace their exact dates. There can be no doubt that when these are fully studied they will throw considerable light on the early history of Travancore.

We owe it to the genius and energy of His Excellency the late Viceroy (Lord Curzon) that these relics arc being actively resuscitated in other parts of India. He said: —

‘“India is covered with the visible records of vanished dynasties, of forgotten monarchs, of persecuted and sometimes dishonoured creeds... If there be any one who says to me that there is no duty devolving upon a Christian Government to preserve the monuments of a pagan art, or the sanctuaries of an alien faith, I cannot pause to argue with such a man. Art and beauty, and the reverence that is owing to all that has evoked human genius, or has inspired human faith, are independent of creeds, and, in so far as they touch the sphere of religion, are embraced by the common religion of all mankind. Viewed from this standpoint, the rock temple of the Brahmans stands on precisely the same footing as the Buddhist Vihara, the Mahomedan Musjid and the Christian Cathedral.

“There is no principle of artistic discrimination between the mausoleum of the despot and the sepulchre of the saint. What is beautiful, what is historic, what tears the mask off the face of the past, and helps us to read its riddles, and to look it in the eyes — these, and not the dogmas of a combative theology, are the principal criteria to which we must look. Much of ancient history, even in an age of great discoveries, still remains mere guess work. It is only being slowly pieced together by the efforts of scholars and by the outcome of research. But the clues are lying everywhere at our hand, in buried cities, in undeciphered inscriptions, in casual coins, in crumbling pillars and pencilled slabs of stone. They supply the data by which we may reconstruct the annals of the past, and recall to life the morality, the literature, the politics, the art of a perished age...

“To us the relics of Hindu, and Mahomedan, of Buddhist, Brahmin, and Jain are, from the antiquarian, the historical, and the artistic point of view, equally interesting and equally sacred. One does not excite a more vivid, and the other a weaker, emotion. Each represents the glories or the faith of a branch of the human family. Each fills a chapter in Indian history. Each is a part of the heritage which Providence has committed to the custody of the ruling power”.*

NOTEs: * Speech on the ‘Ancient monuments in India delivered at the annual meeting of the Asiatic Society of Bengal on the 7th February 1900.

It appears to me that we could well follow the lead of the Government of India in this respect, for as Lord Curzon remarked,

“For my part I feel far from clear that Government might not do a good deal more than it is now doing, or than it has hitherto consented to do. I certainly cannot look forward to a time at which either the obligations of the State will have become exhausted, or at which archaeological research and conservation in this country can dispense with Government direction and control. I see fruitful fields of labour still unexplored, bad blunders still to be corrected, gaping omissions to be supplied, plentiful opportunities for patient renovation and scholarly research. In my opinion, the tax-payers of this country are in the last degree unlikely to resent a somewhat higher expenditure — and, after all, a few thousand rupees go a long way in archaeological work, and the total outlay is exceedingly small — upon objects in which I believe them to be as keenly interested as we are ourselves. I hope to assert more definitely during my time the Imperial responsibility of Government in respect of Indian antiquities, to inaugurate or to persuade a more liberal attitude on the part of those with whom it rests to provide the means, and to be a faithful guardian of the priceless treasure-house of art and learning that has, for a few years at any rate, been committed to my charge”.

Forts and military works

The following account* of the character of the country from a military point of view, written a few years after the demolition of the fortifications, may be quoted with advantage: —

NOTEs: Memoir of the Survey of the Travancore and Cochin States—Lieuts. Ward and Conner.Vol I. Page 122.

“We do not observe here that multitude of small forts so common in other parts of the peninsula, and which convey such an idea of the insecurity of the times. There is nothing in Travancore that deserves the name of a fortress; its aspect may supersede the necessity, at least render it less urgent of such defences. The lines at Arahmuhni commonly called Arambooly, (measuring 17 miles), that guard the entrance of the country by the champaign tract bordering Cape Comorin, though raised with such immense labour were passed with a facility that proved their weakness. Those on the north terminating at Pullypuram and stretching the hazardous length of twenty-four miles, still further show the futility of attempting to fortify any large extent of the country. If Tippu was once foiled in his attempt to surmount them, the defeat is not chargeable to their strength. They now present only a high bank and narrow half-choked ditch, the whole overgrown with forest, but in point of structure they are greatly inferior to the southern lines, and could at no time have offered any difficulties the most ordinary enterprise would not readily overcome.

“The fort of Kodungaloor (forming a point upon those lines) which arrested Tippu’s advance experienced his vengeance, and is now scarcely to be traced. The two lines of fortifications intersecting the country and passing Yaithumanoor and Muattupully are quite of similar character, only of a somewhat ruder structure; a strong fence of bamboos following the crests of the banks serve now to point out the course they pursued. In the obscure feuds of the petty chiefs whose boundary they marked or guarded, they may doubtless, however feeble the barrier, have answered the purposes of defence, but it is only for such warfare they are calculated, and it is impossible not to regret that the labour dedicated lo their erection had not been better applied. The walls encompassing a few towns in the southern parts have but a weak profile. Palpanaveram and Oodagherry are among the most remarkable, but are places of no strength; their fortifications planned on an extensive scale yet remain unfinished.
The latter presents however many facilities for the improvement of its defence. The coast is entirely devoid of fortified places; the little fort of Chunganacherry, built by that warlike prelate Menezes, probably, to check the levity of his converts, is now dismantled. Its situation was valuable as a depot and its strength, sufficient to secure it against any attempts of the natives, rendered it in some measure a place of retreat against the accidents of war.

The country is particularly strong and generally woody. The multitude of streams that intersect while they aid the agriculture guard the possessions of the people the inequality of its surface renders cavalry almost useless and impedes the movements of regular troops, at least the exercise in some degree of that discipline which renders them formidable. The ghauts, that grand natural barrier which constitutes a no less striking physical than moral limit, at once defines and defends the eastern confines; the mass of hills descending from them are only traversed by narrow passes, which run into rugged defiles as they proceed eastward, but though opposing a strong and defensible frontier, its great extent would demand the exertions of an enterprising people to guard all its previous points — an undertaking rendered the more difficult from the bad climate common to those parts during a period of the year and the vast extent of hills intervening between the populated tracts and eastern confines. The northern frontier is for the greater part mountainous, and where not covered by hills, lines have been thrown up to defend it. The inefficacy of those works as a barrier has already been mentioned; they are crossed by a variety of roads, which running through a comparatively open and level country, present no material impediment. In fact, there is a considerable choice of entrances, but it is only the most northern and southern ones that admit the passage of artillery; light bodies of infantry unencumbered by heavy baggage might enter by all the smaller ghauts.

“It is said that Hyder or Tippu had it in contemplation to penetrate by the Goodaloor or Cumbum ghaut, and the choice would have been judicious, as enabling him by a few forced marches to reach the central parts of the country. The monsoon would necessarily affect the efficiency of any military equipment to a degree that would perhaps render it necessary to suspend operations during its violence: the period however that can be so considered is not of long continuance. This part of Malayalam eluded rather than opposed Mussulman and Mahratta dominions; its weakness almost courted aggressions, but to its remote situation and mountainous aspect may possibly be attributed its escape from the grasp of those conquerors, whose armies composed in a great measure of hordes of cavalry, have not ventured to pass the mountainous line that equally opposed their entrance as escape.”


The following is a brief description of the three most important forts of Travancore.


1. The UDAYAGIRI FORT* is situated alongside the main southern road (33 miles from Trivandrum), running south-east and leading to Tinnevelly.

NOTEs: * The description of this and that of the Padmanabhapuram Fort is taken from a Report submitted to Government by the Chief Engineer in June 1878.

The area of the ground enclosed within the walls of the fort is 84¾ acres. Within this area there is a small tank and a number of ruined buildings amongst which is a church. In the centre of a large square of fort, there is a hill 260 feet high which commands the whole of the fort.

The walls enclosing the fort are, on an average, 15 feet thick and 18 feet high including the parapet. They are lined within and without with stone; the outside lining or fencing is of laterite imbedded in chunam. The facing is on an average 4 feet thick up to the foot of parapets. The parapets are 3 feet thick and on an average 4 feet high. The inner lining is of rough stone 2 feet thick and on an average 6 feet high. The space between the inner and outer lining consists of earth which goes to form the ramparts. The fort has in all ten bastions, five of which are intended for cannon, the others being pierced for musketry only. The main entrance into the fort is a gateway near one of the bastions which is 10 x 6. Besides the gateway, there are smaller inlets near three other bastions. The fort walls are in a fair state of preservation. The entire area is overgrown with jungle.


2. THE PAMANABHAPURAM FORT. This lies about half a mile north-west of Udayagiri fort, on the southern road 33 miles from Trivandrum, and is overlooked by a hill to the north on which there is a redoubt built. The distance of the redoubt from the nearest bastion of the fort is 2,540 feet bearing 12° W of N. The height of the redoubt as observed by the aneroid is 220 feet above ramparts of fort. This was at one time the capital of Travancore and is still an important place being the headquarters of the Southern Division.

The area of the ground enclosed within the fort walls is 186¼ acres. The space is for the most part filled up with houses (amongst the most noteworthy of which are the palaces of the former Maharajahs and two large and famous temples. There is also wet cultivation within, irrigated by a large tank situated at the north-east comer of the fort.

The walls comprising the fort are 3 feet thick and built with granite up to within 8 feet of the parapets, the remaining portion being laterite. At the four corners of the fort there are four main bastions more or less of one size and shape. One of these was evidently in- tended as a sort of watch-tower since it runs out to the summit of a detached hill. The fort has ramparts only for half the length of the wall, the walls alone being defences for the remaining length. Even there the ramparts are not complete throughout, as in certain places the earth filling is wanted. The height of the walls varies according to the inclination of the ground, the highest elevation being 24 feet and the lowest 15 feet, including the parapets which are all 3 feet high throughout. The principal entrances into the fort are four gateways situated one on each wall and there are also other smaller gateways near three of the bastions.

The fort is not overgrown with jungle. Its walls to all appearance are generally sound. Over one of the gateways however there is an unfilled breach in the wall of 8 feet, and at another point it is observed that the wall for a length of 27 feet consists of nothing but laterite from top to bottom.


3. VATTAKOTTA FORT. The South Travancore lines or Vattakotta are worthy of notice extending as they do across the country. They are built of stone cemented with chunam, but are now in ruins having been demolished soon after the entrance of the British troops in 1809. The new lines, as they are called, commence on the coast ¾ of a mile west of the point of Cape Comorin, with bastions at 165 yards distant from each other; they run north 1½ miles to Chevery Kotta, a redoubt built on reeks which is conspicuous from thence, then W. N. W. 3 miles in a direct line where they are connected with the old lines about 500 yards S. S. E. of the village of Thanumalayan Putur, at which spot there are two gateways the old hues from thence run at an obtuse angle with the new which still continue to the Pinnewaram gate and from thence in the same direction to the steps for the Nedumalai hill and appear again on the steep on the opposite side and run 5 furlongs to the Rameswar gate; from thence to the slopes of Kattadi hill, a distance of 2 miles, a granary and powder magazine are built a short distance north of the Rameswar gate, and thence rather waving to Vattakotta, a strong irregular redoubt on the coast, which is the only part connected with the lines that has not been demolished.*



NOTEs: * Memoris of the Travancore Survey, Vol II. Page 5.

Tombs and Monuments

The writer of the voluminous book, Church History of Travancore* says that in point of ancient monuments the Christian church in Travancore is perhaps the poorest church in the world. It is strange, he says, that when there are monuments and epitaphs belonging to the Portuguese, Dutch and English periods, there are none belonging to the earlier period when the Christians were under the entire sway of Native Rulers. Excepting the tombs in the numerous Christian cemeteries in the State, there are no other kinds of monuments of any importance. The old tombs in the cemeteries are mostly of Portuguese, Dutch and English origin, all belonging to a comparatively recent period. The oldest tombstones yet found do not take us beyond the 17th century. These are mostly to be found in the following places: —

NOTEs: * By C.M. Agur B.A

The Anjengo cemetery; the Cape Comorin Church; St. Francis Xavier’s Church at Kottar; L. M. S. cemetery, Nagercoil; in the ruins of the old Church at Fort Udayagiri; Tiruvitankode Church; Kolachel L. M. S. cemetery at Parassala; L. M. S. cemetery at Neyyur; Valiatora Church near Trivandrum; L. M. S. compound at Kannamoola, Trivandrum; Christ Church cemetery, Trivandrum; L. M. S. cemetery at Pattathanam, Quilon; Tuet Church, Quilon; Modakara Church, Quilon; St. Thomas’ Church, Quilon; Shencottah; C. M. S. Church, Mavelikara; C. M. S. cemetery at Alleppey; C. M. S. cemetery, Kottayam; Verapoly Church; Puthenchera Church; Manjummel Church; and Tangasseri.

Mr. Agur believes that the utter absence of Christian monuments in the country belonging to the purely Hindu period does not much speak for the toleration afforded. Another reason urged by him is the absence of systematic archaeological researches. It is unsafe to hazard any opinions on such matters without sufficient data. The tolerance of the ancient governments of Travancore under Hindu kings is established beyond a doubt. It is not an open question. It is handed down to us as an undisputed tradition. I should think that the absence of Christian monuments is due mostly to the apathy of the Native Christians themselves, an apathy natural to the community as in the case of their Hindu brethren with whom they are one in race and sentiment.

The real reason for the absence of such tombs and epitaphs is that, as admitted by the writer himself, “the mass of Native Christians for centuries seem to have never cared to erect tombs over the graves of their friends and relations. What a contrast these Malabar Christians are to their contemporaries, the early Christians of Rome and the West, who carefully deposited the remains of their dear departed ones in well-prepared chambers sealed and inscribed.”

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v1c6 #. CHAPTER VI - History



Part I. (up to 1100 A.D.)
Part II. (1100—1400 A.D)
PART III (1400-1600 A.D)
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V1C6 - History text

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v1c6t #. CHAPTER VI - History text

“History at least in its state of ideal perfection is a compound of poetry and philosophy”

Travancore, like the whole kingdom of Kerala itself, has had an uninterrupted succession of Hindu sovereigns from remote antiquity. It is probably the only country in this part of India, where Hindu traditions, Hindu manners and customs, Hindu learning and the Hindu religion are still preserved in their original simplicity and purity, owing chiefly to the continuous and prosperous rule of a long line of Hindu kings from of old. The natural barrier of mountain and sea was another circumstance which kept it intact as it gave it an inaccessibility to the outside world and contributed to its comparative immunity from molestation and conquest by the warlike races who successively swept over the rest of the Indian continent. But, as is generally the case in India, there has been no regular or continuous record kept of the kingdom of Kerala, its origin and progress, its peoples or its ancient administrations.

As Bishop Caldwell justly remarks, “ It is a singular fact that the Hindus though fond of philosophy and poetry, of law, mathematics and architecture, of music and the drama, and especially of religious or theosophic speculations and disquisitions, seem never to have cared anything for history “. Its history therefore remains to be written.

There are, however, ample materials for a good and reliable account, lying scattered about all over the land, in old Olas, copper-plate and stone inscriptions, in the sacred Puranas and Temple Chronicles, in quaintly written old books of Sanscrit, Tamil or Malayalam, such as the Kerala Mahatmya, the Keralolpatti, the Nannul and the Tolkapyam, in the stray verses of Kambar, in proverbs and maxims, in nursery tales and maidens’ songs, in ancient coins and in the fragmentary records of ancient commerce from the time of the Greeks, in the traditional architecture of houses, temples and temple flagstaffs, of Kavoo-shrines, Gopurams, Mantapams and old forts, in the diaries and note-books of old sailors and soldiers, in the ancient titles of kings and chiefs, or later on in the treaties and engagements with the Hon’ble East India Company, in the Residency and Huzur records at Trivandrum, in the valuable archives of Fort St. George, in the Mission reports and private letters of the last century, in the modem but incomplete historical compilations of Sir Madava Row, Shungoonny Menon and Nanoo Pillay and a host of lesser writers, in the Manuals and histories of adjacent British Districts, in the records of various Departments of the State, in the State Administration Reports and Gazettes for the last half a century, in Almanacs and Calendars, in sundry magazines and newspapers and in the memories of old men still living — all awaiting the patient inquiry, the toilsome research and the genius of the true historian to collate, to discriminate and to depict.

Until such a historian arises, the account attempted in the following pages may be taken as a faithful narrative, in which all available information about the country and its people, whether traditionary or of an authentic or historical value, has been carefully brought to book and as fully as the time at the disposal of a heavily worked Revenue official would permit.

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V1C6 Section A.— Ancient History

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v1c6s1 #. Section A.— Ancient History




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V1C5 text2

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v1c5t2 #

Section A.— Ancient History

The ancient history of Travancore is mostly tradition. The chief authority for the tradition is the Keralopati, a Malayalam treatise which fully gives whatever of tradition is known on this coast. What is traditional need not necessarily be false, and when that tradition is found closely interwoven with the details of the daily life of a population and its impress still left on the behaviour of races and classes towards each other as in Keralam, it attains the rank of authentic history.

According to this authority (Keralopati), Parasurama, a great Brahmin sage and warrior of the race of Bhrigu, the greatest of Rishis according to the Bhagavad-gita, created the land of Kerala. Parasurama’s father was the great Rishi Jamadagni and his mother was Renuka. He is said to be one of the Avatars of Vishnu. His exploits belong to the close of the Treta Yugam just preceding the birth of Rama, another Avatar of Vishnu. While Parasurama was living with his parents on the banks of the Narmuda, a distressing episode within the family circle embittered his early life.

One day his mother Renuka was late in returning from the river with the usual pot of water for the household use, which pot was not a potter’s baked vessel but one daily improvised by Renuka herself with the loose river sand, a feat ascribed to the miraculous power of her chastity. That day, it so happened, she returned without the water, for she could not make the pot of sand as usual; and on Jamadagni’s enquiring for the cause of this failure in his faithful wife, she admitted that she was distracted by the beautiful form of a Gandharva reflected in the water, after which she could not, she said, make the pot of sand. This the Bishi thought was a deflection on the part of his wife and losing his temper, he ordered his sons to cut off her head. Parasurama’s four brothers refused to obey their father’s mandate, for they said, “the sin of killing a mother is even greater than that of disobeying a father”. When Parasurama was asked, he loyally obeyed, took his axe and cut oft his mother’s head with one stroke. Jamadagni was gratified and commanded hie dutiful son to ask of him any boon he pleased. Parasurama implored, “Holy sire, I have faithfully obeyed thy behests, for I knew full well thy wonderful powers. Restore to me, I pray thee, my dear mother, the sacred person to whom I owe my birth. I have killed her, for a father’s command must not be disregarded”. The Rishi wept for repentance and restored Renuka to life. But the sin of taking away his mother’s life hung like a heavy cloud on Parasurama’s youthful mind. This was one of the early causes, it is said, that subsequently led to Parasurama’s creating and peopling Keralam.

He was then sent by his parents to the hermitage of his great-grand-father, Bhrigu, to receive his education. After some time the sage sent him to the Himalayas to pray to God Siva and obtain his blessing. Thus Parasurama spent many years on the Himalayas in devotion and penance, which pleased Siva who appeared to him in person, blessed him and directed him to visit all the holy places on earth, which he did. Meanwhile war broke out between the Devas and the Asuras, and the Devas being worsted in the fight sought the aid of God Siva who at once commanded Parasurama to assist the Devas, giving him the necessary instructions in the war and the use of his divine weapon Parasu (axe), from which circumstance he took his name Parasurama. He met the Asuras in war, gained a decisive victory over them, and restored the Devas to their former possessions. He again returned to the Himalayas and for a considerable time was engaged in penance there. Siva was much gratified, paid a visit again to his faithful votary and presented him with a divine chariot and a bow, which were to stand him in good stead when- ever he wanted their use.

Having thus obtained all he wished for, Parasurama went back to Bhrigu and thence to his own parents on the banks of the Narmuda; when to his horror he found that his holy father’s hermitage had become the scene of robbery, violence and murder. This sad story may be briefly narrated here.

Kartaviryarjuna, the well-known Kshatriya king, one day visited Jamadagni in his hermitage and as was due to a crowned monarch of his position, the Kishi gave him a right royal reception, feasting him and his numerous retinue by the aid of his miraculous Kamadhenu— a celestial cow which only a Rishi’s powder could create; for, it is said, the Rishis of old were simple anchorites living in their jungle homes without neighbours or servants or relatives and trusting only to the powers of their Tapas (penance for offering due hospitality to the kings and other great men who visited them. Kartaviryarjuna coveted so precious a cow and in a vein of absolute despotism took it away by force. Suffice it to say that the cow, however, had to be subsequently restored to the Rishi by Kartaviryarjuna himself. Thereafter his sons ever bore a grudge to the Rishi on account of their father’s humiliation, and by way of vendetta they invaded the Rishi’s home at an unguarded moment and put him to death. Renuka, his wife and the mother of Parasurama, then committed the act of self-immolation on her husband’s funeral pile as became a true Sati. Soon after this tragedy was enacted, Parasurama returned home and his rage and sorrow knew no bounds, and he set out with his Parasu granted to him by God Siva vowing vengeance on the whole Kshtriya race, of whom he resolved not to let a single one survive on earth.

The story goes on to say that Parasurama destroyed the Kshatriyas in twenty one successive wars, and the whole of India thus lay devastated and prostrate before him — his own uncontested dominion. When his wrongs were thus avenged, he was stricken with repentance, called a council of the great Rishis* and begged of them to be enlightened as to how best he may expiate his Virahatyadosham, i.e., the sin of having killed so many crowned heads and their vast armies. He was advised to make a gift of the whole laud thus acquired to Brahmins, which being done, the Brahmins who had received the land told him that his stay in the Danam land was opposed to the spirit of a free gift, and that therefore, if he would avoid sin, lie must quit the land at once. Parasurama was convinced of the sin of using what he had given away and so retired to the Western Ghauts immediately for penance again.

NOTEs: * Vasishta, Vamudeva, Jabali, Kasyapa, Visvamitra, Mrikanda, Agastya, Narada, Satananda, Gautama, Atri, Rishyasringa, Parasara and Vedavyasa are said to have met at this council.

By severe penance and the propitiation of Varuna, the god of the water, and by offering due worship to Bhumi Devi, the Goddess of the earth, he got permission to claim as his own as much land as could be covered by the throw of his axe from Gokarnam, which was then the land’s-end, into the southern sea. He hurled his axe and it fell at Kanya Kumari or Cape Comorin. Thus was created the land of Keralam, extending from Gokaarnam to the Cape, a length of 160 yojanas by 10 yojanas according to the Purana. The scientific aspect of the Puranic statement of the miraculous creation of Kerala by Parasurama is based on the upheaval of the earth and the subsidence of the sea by volcanic action, and geologists confirm the fact of Parasurama’s land having been under water in past ages.


The late Shungoonny Menon in his History of Travancore quotes the following observation, by a writer in the Kottayam College Quarterly Magazine, as regards the origin of Kerala —

“There was once a subsidence, probably sudden, at Gokarnam, and afterwards a perceptible upraising, most probably in this case gradual, of at least some portion, if not of nearly all the coast between Gokarnam and the Cape. The whole appearance of the coast of Kerala, wherever at least we find the low lands and backwaters, would appear to indicate that it has been raised, certainly during the present era and if, as our legend would seem to tell, this has happened under the eye of man, it becomes the more deeply interesting”.

The land thus reclaimed is even now known in common parlance as Parasurama-kshetram or the land of Parasurama. It is said in the Purana that Parasurama desired the Trimurtis and the Devas to give a fitting name to his new land. God Siva called it ‘Kerala’ in honour of the marriage of the Sea-king’s daughter to Keralan, son of Jayanta. Vishnu gave him his Sudarsanam (Discus) and Siva his Vrishabham (Bull) and these were consecrated at Srimulastanam in Trichur. Then Vishnu crowned him king and commanded him to found 24,000 temples and govern the land according to the Dharma-Sastras. It is also known as Karma-bhumi or the land of good deeds, meaning that a man’s salvation depends entirely upon good actions, as opposed to the other coast, which is called Punny-bhumi where mere birth goes a great way towards redemption from sin. The reclaimed land is the tract of country now covered by Canara, Malabar, Cochin and Travancore.

The new land was not fit for habitation; the settling down had not been completed. The quaking did not cease, so the Purana says; hence Parasurama sprinkled gold dust and buried coins and thus formed a treasure-trove which stopped the quaking of the land. He prepared a great yagam (sacrifice) at Varkala for the same purpose. Thereafter Parasurama brought colonies of Brahmins from the north, from the banks of the Krishna, the Godaveri, the Narmuda, the Kaveri and from Madura, Mysore, the Maharashtra and from many other places and peopled Keralam. The Brahmin colonists so brought belonged to eight gotrams or families. The Arya Brahmins formerly set out from Ahikshetram and came to reside in the Kshetram of Samanta-Panchakam called also Kurukshetra, from which they were brought by Parasurama and settled in Keralam.

Parasurama then went to paradesa (foreign country), where he met a Kshtriya whom he persuaded to go with him to Kerala, and with his aid brought and established eighteen Samanta families there.

Then he brought a representative of each profession, viz: — Carpenter, Blacksmith, Oil-monger, Goldsmith, Barber, Stone-mason, Washer-man &c. Separate houses were built for them and rules for their conduct were framed.

Then he brought all kinds of grains and seeds, such as black peas, green peas, gingelly seeds, all kinds of vegetable plants, medicinal plants and all kinds of trees, especially the cocoanut, the plantain, and the jack, which are peculiar to Kerala. All these were brought to Kerala by the sea. The cocoanut and the plantain trees were brought, it is said, on a New Moon day, and hence it is believed on this coast that these trees when planted on New Moon days yield better than other days. So every true Nayar selects the New Moon as the best day for planting them.

Parasurama introduced several changes in the customs of his Brahmin colonists to prevent them from going back to their native country which they did from time to time and thus greatly retarded the progress of Parasurama’s repeated attempts at colonisation of his new land. Some of the changes were: —

(1 That the males should give up their back tuft of hair and adopt the front tuft now so universal in Malabar

(2 That the boy’s Samavartanam should be celebrated at the age of sixteen, when he gives up the austerities of a bachelor’s life. This is for the followers of the Rig-Veda. Those who follow the Yagur-Veda celebrate the Samavartanam at the age of 12;

(3 That in the reciting of the Veda, a nodding of the head is a necessary accompaniment, so abhorrent to the Vedic scholars of the old country. They also reprobate the swaram or intonation adopted by the Nambudiri Brahmins in the recitation of the Veda;

(4 That even married males need not wear more than one Brahminical holy thread or Yagnayopavitam while on the other coast the double thread is an invariable symbol of the married man:

(5 That the eldest son alone need marry;

(6 That one Brahmin alone is sufficient to be fed at a Sraddham while two is the invariable number on the other coast;

(7 That a sweetmeat locally known as Vatsan be given to the fed Brahmins after Sraddha meal. This of course will be quite abhorrent to the feelings of the other coast people where the fed Brahmins are expected to eat nothing for the next twenty-four hours;

(8 That females when they get out of their houses should be protected from profane gaze by a big cadjan umbrella and accompanied by a Sudra maid-servant;

(9 That females need not adorn themselves with jewels considered so indispensable on the other coast;

(10 That women need not wear more than a single cloth tied round their loins. This is generally nine cubits long — one end of which is passed between the legs and fixed in the waist behind, while the other end is wrapped round. This covers but a small portion of the body below the waist, while on the other coast women wear a single cloth, of course, about six- teen or eighteen cubits long, which is tied round in such a way as to cover from ankle to the neck and sometimes up to the back part of the head. A short petticoat (ravika) is used there in addition, to cover the breasts; no such apparel is known on this coast.

(11 And that no Brahmin woman should take a second husband.

But the land newly reclaimed from the sea was a most inhospitable region to live in, being already occupied by fearful Nagas, a race of hill-tribes who drove the Brahmins back to their own lands. Parasurama persevered again and again bringing hosts of Brahmins more from every part of India to settle in and colonise his new land; the Nagas were propitiated under his orders by a portion of the land being given to them and thus his own Brahmin colonists and the Nagas lived side by side without molesting each other. And by way of conciliation and concession to the old settlers (Nagas) who were serpent-worshippers, Parasurama ordered his own colonists to adopt their form of worship, and thus serpent-worship on this coast early received Parasurama’s sanction. These Nagas became the (Kiriathu) Nayars of later Malabar claiming superiority in rank and status over the rest of the Malayali Sudras of the west coast.


The land was parcelled out into sixty-four villages and given to the Brahmin colonists with flower and water to be enjoyed as a Brahimin-kahetrarn. This giving with water and flower is of the nature of an out and out free gift and is called the Raja-amsam, Parasurama also brought other Sudras, to whom lie assigned the duty of cultivating the land and otherwise serving the Brahmin colonists. These Sudras were in addition to the Nayars, the early settlers, who had been conciliated and won over as servants and tenants as shown above. He also brought cattle and other animals for agricultural purposes.

The Brahmins thus became the lords paramount of the new colony. It may be truly said of these Brahmin colonists of Parasurama that though they had not the law and were a law unto themselves, they were so good by nature that they did the things contained in the law. Owing allegiance to no one except to themselves and paying no taxes which would be indicative of the value of protection by a ruling power, they became the sovereign-jenmies of Keralam. But it soon transpired that the Brahmins wore not able to rule the land properly.

Parasurama after consecrating the temple at Srivardhanapuram, brought a prince from the East Coast named Bhanuvikrama, a Soma-vamsa-Kshatriya, and crowned him King of Kerala at Srivardhanapuram*, presenting him at the same time with his own sword. One of his brothers, Udaya Varma, was at the same time crowned at Gokarnam to rule over Chera.

NOTEs: * According to Shungoonny Menon, Srivardhanapuram is the modern town of Padmanabhapuram in South Travancore

According to the Keralolpatti, the land of Parasurama was very early divided into four separate Districts or Khandoms as they were called, viz., Tulu Khandom, from Gokarnam to Perumpuzha river. Kupa Khandom, from Perumpuzha to Kottah river. Kerala Khandom, from Putupattanam to Kannetti including the southern half of the Kurumbranad Taluq, Cochin and North Travancore, and Mushika Khandom, extending from Kannetti to Cape Comorin.

Some time later, Aditya Varma, Bhanuvikrama’s nephew, was crowned King again by Parasurama who presented him with a sword as bright as the sun. After peopling the land and finding kings to rule it, Parasurama inaugurated the military system, founded temples and shrines, laid down the acharams or rules of conduct to his new colonists and instituted schools of medicine. He instituted the Mahamakham, Hiranyagarbham and Tulapurushadanam ceremonies and founded several more temples and shrines and places of pilgrimage. The origin of Hiranyagarbham ceremony is thus stated: — A relative of Udaya Varma, King of Kola (Kolathunad) or South Canara became a convert to Islam and went to Mecca where he died. As one of the females of the Kola family happened to perform the funeral rites of the convert, the Brahmins excommunicated the family of Udaya Varma, whereupon Parasurama in consultation with sage Narada advised him to perform the Hiranyagarbham as an expiatory ceremony. The ceremony was performed and Udaya Varma and his family were readmitted into caste. The ceremony has ever since been performed by all the kings of Kerala.

It is said that Parasurama himself performed the Hiranyagarbham and Tulapurushadanam ceremonies before he celebrated the Mahamakham, At this ceremony it is said the first seat was given to Kulasekhara Perumal (King of Travancore), and the second seat to Udaya Varma.

The Keralolpatti then describes how certain of the Brahmins, namely those of the Bharadwaja gotram, received the Sastra-biksha (alms of weapons) with the consent of all and having stretched out their hands accepted the weapons from Parasurama; how fencing schools with tutelary deities were established; how the Goddess Durga was set to guard the sea-shore on the west and the God Sastha the Ghauts on the east, and also how all the sixty-four gramams having been ordered to adopt the law of succession through the females (Marumakkattayam), only one village (Payyannur) in the extreme north of Keralam obeyed.

He afterwards established 108 fields (parade-grounds) of 42 feet square each, called Kalaris for purposes of drill and training in arms, and in each of these he placed an image of the gods who preside over arms and war and then lamps were lit and pujas ordained. He also established 108 images of Durga Devi on the sea-shore, and besides erected shrines for snakes and petty Devatas. Having thus ordained the temples and ceremonies, he ordered rain for six months in order “that abundance of corn, fruits, &c., might be produced, that piety should flourish and wealth should be obtained, by which Iswara should be served and honoured and pujas performed with due respect in honour of the gods and to the ancestors, and that cows should increase”; and he ordered the sunny season for six months so that all the various ceremonies might be duly performed in honour of the gods of heaven, and the secondary deities such as Sastha or Hariharaputra, Bhadrakali and Ganapati. The different ceremonies so ordained were: —

Oottu, — Offerings of food.

Pattu, — Singing hymns.

Utsavam — Grand ceremonies.

Vela, — The lesser ceremonies.

Vilakku, — Lamp illuminations of the temple.

Tiyattu, — Ceremony of running over fire.

Bharani Vela, — Ceremony performed in the month of Kumbham under the Star Bharani.

Arattu, — Carrying the God in procession to a tank, and performing ablutions to it.

Kaliyattam, — Ceremony of singing and dancing performed by women in honour of Bhagavati.

Puram vela, — Ceremony performed in the month of Kumbham under the star Puram, the anniversary of the death of Kama or Cupid.

Daivamattam, — Dancing in the disguise of a God.

Tannir Amartu, — Offering of cakes etc., to the God,

Talappoli, — Ceremony of women carrying raw rice and flowers round the temple.

Vaikasi Visakham, and Mahamakham, — the grand festival of 28 days celebrated once in 12 years when Jupiter enters Cancer.

“Thus in the land created by Sri Parasurama, the Brahmins should all bathe at dawn of day, and live virtuously, performing religious duties, worship and offerings of lice to the elements at the Kshetrams or holy places and Kavus (or lesser temples), and that the sorrow and the sickness which are incidental to mankind might he removed from the people, they were to cause to be performed Iswara Sevakal or worship to God by-

Homan, — Fire offering.

Dyanam, — Meditation on the deity.

Bhagavati seva — Devotion to the goddess Bhagavati.

Pushpanjali — Worship with flowers.

Andi Namaskaram, — Prostration in the evening.

Trikala puja, — Worship at dawn, noon and sunset.

Ganapati Homam, — Fire sacrifice to Ganapati.

Mrityum-Japam, — Prayer or invocation in the name of Mrityu (or god of death) to avert accidents

Munnu Laksha Sahasranaamam — The ceremony of repeating of the 1,000 names of Iswara, three lacs of times.

Brahmana Sahasra Bhojanam — Distribution of victuals daily to a thousand Brahmins

Maha-Mrityum Japam, — Prayer to Mrityu”*

NOTEs: * Wilson's Mackenzie Collection of Oriental Manuscripts Page 311

After having ordered everything and having satisfied himself of the working of the various departments, Parasurama committed the Brahmins to the protection of Devendra, so that they should be in equal felicity with the inhabitants of Devalokam, and took leave of them, promising to them however that if anything extraordinary should happen and they collectively invoked his aid, he would immediately present himself before them. No sooner was the great hero gone, than the heads of the sixty-four villages wishing to test the promised word wantonly invoked his presence and, to their utter surprise, he presented himself before them and enquired what they wanted of him. But finding that he was invoked for no good reason, and being wroth that the Brahmins should have been so silly, he cursed them and said that they would never again unite in one place. According to tradition, the sixty-four villages have never met together since. Thus was the seed of dissension first sown in Keralam. According to the Puranas, Parasurama is still alive as one of the immortals among the Brahmin sages engaged in Tapas or penance on the Himalayas. He is therefore mentioned in the Puranas appearing again and again at different Yugas or epochs.


The Perumals

After the departure of Parasurama, the Brahmins became the virtual rulers of the land. They divided the land into a number of Desams (Cantons) and in each they erected a Kshetram, consecrated it and placed an image in them and performed puja with lamps and with the prescribed rituals. They also established Adima (bondage) and Kudima (husbandry), protected Adiyar (slaves) and Kudiyar (husbandmen) and appointed Tara and Taravattukar. They then established the privileges of their respective stations and continued the custom of Kanam and Jenmam and erected houses for the Brahmins.

They tried different systems of Government. An Oligarchy was tried first. Four villages namely: — Peryanur, Perunchallur, Parappur, and Chengannur were selected to represent the sixty-four villages and they were given authority to act in place of the whole.

The Keralolpatti thus describes the political organisation of this oligarchy:* —

NOTEs: * Wilson's Mackenzie Collection Page 353

“In this manner when sixty-four Gramams and twenty-one Desams were established, the sixty-four Gramams assembled and ordained or fixed that a Baksha Vurusha should be elected once in three years in order to punish and protect.

“There were also appointed Nal-kulakams or four courts or assemblies at Panniur, Paravur, Chenganiur and Parumchellur.

“In order to appoint, if these kulakams agree or concur in the election, it is sufficient; so they settled...

“Besides the said four kulakams that ware established, were four Verna kulakams or assemblies of the representatives of the four castes.

1. Irungn’yani-Koda is the Brahmana Kulakam

2. Muly-kolam is the Kshetriya Kulakam

3. Paravur is the Vaisya Kulakam

4. Ayerani-Kolam is the Sudra Kulakam

“In this manner there are four Verna-kulakams or assemblies or courts representing the four castes.

“Besides the four Avaroda Kulakams or electing assemblies at Parumchellur, Panniur, Chenganiur and Paravur, the Gramams (or villages) of Irungn’vani-koda, Muly-kolam, Paravur, and Ayerani-kolam, determined, in order that nothing might obstruct or interrupt the daily business on that account each of the said four Gramams should have a house in the village of Kodangallur which was the seat of Government. From the village of Paravur, from the houses of Yalam Taroti, aud Cadambanad; from these two houses they should keep one man in the Nitya Tali (or chief house or palace) who should be Tala’yadri and rule.

“From the village of Ayerani-kolam, from the houses of Caringumpalli and of Churuvulli, among these two they should keep one man in the Kil Taly (or lesser palace) who should be a Kil’-Tala’yadri (inferior ruler) and rule...

“In the village of Irungn’yani-Koda from the houses of Muddil or of Kodamangalam from these two houses, they should keep one man in the Mailtaly (or superior palace) who should be Tala’yadri and rule; but no married man was to be appointed to the said situation; and only old men or boys on condition of remaining unmarried might be appointed till their death.

“The sixty-four Gramams assembled thus ordered that the four Talayadri - mars should act unanimous and protect and punish.

“Among the sixty-four Gramams, ten and a half villages* having taken the Samayem (or oath) and accepted weapons in order to protect the Vritti (rites, therefore the said ten and a half villages are denominated Kulakatil-ullavar (കഴകത്തിലുള്ളവർ) (or belonging to the Kulakam).”

NOTEs: * These were:

1 Paravur 2. Muly-kolam 3. Ayerani-kolam 4. Wuleyanar 5. Chengunad 6.Tuluvanad 7. Adavur 8. Irangn'yani-koda 9. Allatur 10. Yettumanur and the half Chemmundi Gramam - thus making 10½

While the armed Brahmins were ruling the land, it is said disputes arose and injustice ensued. So the Brahmins assembled and appointed a ‘Protector’ from each of the four villages selected, to hold office for three years and assign to each Protector one-sixth of all the land for the support of himself and his staff. This institution too did not work well and the people were oppressed by the Protectors, who sought to make the most of their opportunities during their short terms of office. So the Brahmins assembled at Tirunavoyy, resolved to appoint a king and empowered the four selected villages to choose a ‘King’.

Their first choice fell on “Keya Perumal” of Keyapuram in the country east of the Ghauts. He was brought to Keralam and installed as the first of the ‘Perumals’ in the year of Kali Era, Bhuman bhupoyam prapya, corresponding to A.D. 216. The dates in Keralolpatti and other old books are sometimes given in some such phrases generally appropriate in meaning and easy catchwords to be remembered, and which accurately represent in letters the number of the years or days of the Yuga referred to.

The Hindu chronologist will read the phrase Bhuman bhupoyam prapya thus — 4/Bhu 5/man 4/bhu 1/po1 1/yam 2/pra 1/pya, which figure when read from the right to the left gives 1,211,454 days, or divided by 365 days per year, 3,317 years of the Kali Era. Today is 5006 Kali Era. Hence according to the chronogram, the installation of the first Perumal was in A.D. 216.

It was arranged that he should rule for twelve years. The Brahmins also made an agreement with the king thus appointed, to take an oath to the following effect: — “Do that which is beyond our power to do and protect; when complaints happen to arise, we will settle them among ourselves; you are not to question us on that point. For formality’s sake you may ask why we deal with affairs ourselves after making you a king.”

At this day even when complaints arise, the king says — “Why do you deal with them? Why did you not make your complaint to me?”

This is on account of the original oath. They also assigned lands to the king and poured water and granted that land, which is called Viruthi and was the Royal demesne; some estates they granted to him and some to the Brahmins themselves and some as benefices of temples to be enjoyed in Keralam.

After the Keya Perumal who ruled only eight years and four months, came the Chola and Pandya Perumals. Then comes in a tradition of the king Bhutaraya Pandy Perumal, between whom and the Brahmins there arose a bitter enmity. He was supposed to be guarded by two spirits and the Brahmins not being able to compass his destruction, one of them, it is said, assassinated him by first winning over the services of the guardian spirits. From the Brahmin thus polluted by murder the Nambidi caste arose.

There is another version which says that the Perumal thus assassinated was Chola Perumal. The Mahatmyam says that the Pandyas invaded Kerala with an army of Bhutathans (spirits) and that Parasurama addressed the Bhutarajan angrily thus: — “Your arrival at my country is in vain. I have given it over to King Aditya Varma.” Mr. Logan, the author of the Malabar Manual says that this seems to refer to the Chola king of this name who according to present knowledge overran a large part of South India about 494 A.D. The Bhuta army was defeated and the boundary of Kerala was fixed at Bhutapandi, where Parasurama is said to have accosted the invaders. This village of Bhutapandi lies in the extreme south of Travancore.

To prevent the king from becoming despotic, he was subordinated to the authority of the heads of four villages of Ernakulam, Irinjalacode, Mushikakode and Parur. About this time, the northern thirty-two gramams seceded from the southern group and under the orders of the king, the southern gramams were rearranged. The northern group living north of the Perumpuzha river formed the Tulu Nambis.

Some time after, for what reasons and under what circumstances it is not stated, the Nambudiris brought a new king, Bana Perumal, from Banapuram in the east and installed him at Kodungalur (Cranganore). During his reign the Mahomedan missionaries came to his kingdom and explained to him the doctrines of the Bauddha-Sastram and were able to persuade him that it was the true faith. It is said the Perumal himself was converted. The Brahmins being much perplexed at this went to Tirukariur, where they remained for some time. Then by the grace of God, a great Rishi called Jangama came there to whom they declared their grievances.

The Maharishi taught them the form of purification and urged upon them to place lamps after sunset and to make Pradakshinam round the lamps and to worship, dressed in the Tarru and the Melmundu putting on the Pavitram and holding the Karam-dulu a kind of grass; he also imparted to them the principal hymn in the Sama Veda, which consisted of four Padams; when in this manner they daily prayed, six Sastries came from Paradesam, who were given an opportunity to discuss with the Mahomedan missionaries.

It is said that these scholars were so successful in their disputations that, according to the terms agreed upon, the tongues of the discomfited Mahomedans were cut off and they were banished from the country. The apostate Perumal who was called Pallibana Perumal was set aside and was granted a separate estate to live in; and another Perumal being appointed in his place after a reign of four years, it is said, he (Bana Perumal) went to Mecca. This Perumal was most probably a convert to Buddhism, not Mahomedanism, as the vernacular word Bauddha-matam may mean either Mahomedanism or Buddhism. The conversion here referred to must have been to Buddhism.

“The next Perumal was Kulasekhara Perumal from the Pandya country. He built his palace in the Mushika province, introduced Kshatriya families, and organised the country, it is said, into small chieftainship to protect it against the Mappilas. He is also credited with having introduced the study of sciences into the Malayali country, for the Malayali Brahmins were, it is said, ignorant of sciences up to this time. Kulasekhara Perumal reigned for eighteen years and went to heaven with his body in the Purudismasrayam year of the Kaliyuga, or in A.D. 333, so it is said.*

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual Vol 1 Page 230

This Kulasekhara Perumal was probably the king of Kerala, who lived in the Eraniel Palace in South Travancore, where exists a local tradition that he went Kuttodu Swargam, i. e., to heaven with his mortal coil. A royal bedroom with daily Puja and lights burning before a stone cot in the Eraniel Palace attest this fact to this day. The sovereigns of Travancore are to this day known as Kulasekhara Perumals. The Bhagavati temple at Tiruvanchikulam is said to have come into existence in the same year. This Kulasekhara, it is also said, is the “Kulasekhara Alwar”, one of the Vaishnava Saints, who is said to have composed a portion of the Nalayira Prahandham or Tiruvoy-mozhi in Tamil and the celebrated Mukunda Mala in praise of God Padmanabha in Sanskrit.

After the reign of this Kulasekhara Perumal, the Brahmins again organised themselves into an arms-bearing guild in order to protect the country. In 428 A.D. they sent a deputation to Anagumte Krishna Rayar* requesting him to send them a king for twelve years. But this new king was suffered to reign for thirty-six years and the Brahmins were so pleased with his rule that they wished to have a race of good Kshatriyas from him.

NOTEs: * This reference to Krishna Raya, a king of the Vijayanagar dynasty who flourished 1508-1530 A.D is clearly an anachronism; it is accounts like this that tend to greatly mar the otherwise valuable historical truths contained in traditions.

Another Kshatriya, a woman, was sent for, and her two sons were given the kingdoms of Mushika and Tulu. About this time three women, one Kshatriya and two Sudras, were stranded in a boat off Mount Deli. The Perumal took them all to wife. This tradition relates undoubtedly to the northern Kolattiri family, the most ancient seat of this family having been at this particular king’s house under Mount Deli. The Keralolpatti relates a matrimonial alliance having been formed between a prince of Kolattiri and a lady of the Zamorin’s house.

Mr. Logan observes: —

“The more powerful the family of the lady was, the more likelihood there was of the provision for leading to the founding of a dynasty and to its semi-independence of the main-parent stock. It is not at all improbable therefore that the northern Kolattiris are descended from a matrimonial alliance between the last of the Kerala Perumals and a lady of the stock of the great southern feudatory, the Travancore (South Kolattiri Rajas). The two families have always observed pollution, when deaths occurred in their respective houses, and as a matter of fact the southern family would have ceased to exist long ago but for the adoption of heirs on several occasions from the northern family”.*

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual Vol 1 Page 235

After this king (Krishna Rayar’s Viceroy) had reigned for thirty-six years, the country was invaded by Krishna Rayar himself or according to another account by a Pandya king. The last of such Perumals divided his kingdom among his friends and relatives.

Such is the account given by the Keralolpatti, — a treatise, the statements in which however should be taken cum grano salis, for it is only, after all, a collection of the best available materials known to the people of Malabar more than a century ago. It is not a document therefore which could be subjected to a severe critical scrutiny. The main incidents may however be relied upon.

We find there were twenty-five Perumals in all, who ruled for two hundred and twelve years, i.e., from 216 A.D to 428 A.D. During this period, the country was ruled at short intervals by Viceroys from the Chera, Pandya and Chola kingdoms, appointed by turns by whichever power was most influential at the time of the appointment. The first and last Perumals bear one common name, Cheraman Perumal, though they are also specifically known as Cheraman Keralan and Bhaskara Ravi Varma. According to other accounts, Cheraman Perumal was more a title than a name, and was applied to all the Perumals alike.

No clear indentification of the Perumals or of their dates seems to be possible. The Perumals are spoken of in certain places as viceroys and in others as independent kings. Shungoonny Menon, the historian of Travancore, makes the two sets of Perumals co-exist. He says that Vira Kerala Varma, who was crowned in 311 A.D., as the first Emperor of Keralam, closed his earthly career during the viceroyalty of Cheraman Perumal. According to the Keralolpatti, Keya Perumal began to rule in 21 A.D., and the last Perumal died in 428 A.D. Thus in the middle of the so-called Perumal period (216 — 428 A.D), comes this “Emperor of Keralam” who performed Tulapurushadanam and Hiranyagarbham and obtained the title of Kulasekhara Perumal. If there were two Perumals all along, it is not clear whose viceroys were the superior Perumals and whose the inferior Perumals. Mr . Logan does not believe in the two sets of Perumals.

Mr. Logan assuming that the Perumal period lasted till 825 A.D., makes a Cheraman Perumal (the last) a Mahomedan, and gives the inscription on his tomb in Arabia where he is said to have died while returning from Mecca. In support of this statement he writes: — “It is a noteworthy circumstance in this connection that even now-a-days that Travancore Maharajas on receiving the sword at their coronations have still to declare: — “I will keep this sword until the uncle who has gone to Mecca returns”.


This statement, founded as it is on Mateer’s Native life in Travancore, is clearly incorrect. The Travancore Maharajahs have never made any such declaration at their coronations, when they received the sword of State from God Sri Padmanabha. The Valia Koil Tampuran (M. R. Ry. Kerala Varma Avl., C. S. I). writing to His Highness the present Maharajah some years ago received the following reply dated 10th April 1891: — “I do not know where Mr. Logan got this information; but no such declaration as mentioned in the Malabar Manual was made by me when I received the State Sword at Sri Padmanabha Swamy’s Pagoda. I have not heard of any such declaration having been made by former Maharajahs.”

Mr. K. P. Padmanabha Menon in a recent article in the Malabar Quarterly Review, denies the statement that the last of the Cheraman Perumals became a convert to Islam or undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca, but believes that he lived and died a devout Hindu. The legend is evidently the result of the mixing up of the early Buddhistic conversion of Bana, one of the Perumals, and of the much later Mahomedan conversion of one of the Zamorin Rajahs of Calicut, who claimed to have derived his authority from the last Perumal. The Hindu account simply states that Cheraman Perumal after the distribution of the Empire among his friends, vassals and dependants, went to Mecca on a pilgrimage and died there a Mahomedan saint. The Mahomedan account embodied in the Keralolpatti narrates that after the distribution of his kingdom, the Perumal secretly embarked on board a Moorish vessel from Cranganore, and cleverly eluding his pursuers landed at Sahar Mukhal in the Arabian coast, that he had an interview with the Prophet then in his 57th year, and was ordained by him under the name of Thia-uj-uddien — ‘the crown of the faith’, that he married Regiat the sister of the Arabian king and after having lived happily for five years, undertook a journey to Malabar for the spread of Islam, but died of ague at Sahar Mukhal where his remains were interred in a mosque he had himself erected.

The history of Zeiruddeen Mukkadom, an Arab Egyptian and a subject of the Turkish Empire of the 15th Century, says that certain dervishes from Arabia on their way from Adam’s Peak in Ceylon touched at Cranganore and imparted to the Emperor the then recent miracle of Mahomed having divided the moon, that the Emperor was so affected by that instance of supernatural power and captivated by the fervid representations of those enthusiasts that he abandoned all, for the sake of proceeding with them to Arabia to have an opportunity of conversing with the Prophet, that the latter dignified him with the title of Sultan or Tauje ul Herid and that after sojourning with the Prophet for some time and addressing recommendatory letters to the Chiefs of Malabar in favour of his Mussal-man brethren, he died on his way to his own land on the first day of the 5th year of the Hejira (16th July 622 A.D).*

NOTEs: *Asiatic Researches, Vol V Art 1. But in the Madras journal of Literature and Science, O.S No. 20 Page 35, it is stated that Zeiruddeen Mukkadam denounces the story of the pilgrimage to Mecca as unfounded.

Sheikh Zinuddin, the author of the Tahafat-ul-Mujahidin, says that there is but little truth in the account of the Perumal’s conversion to Islam. The Arab merchant, Suliman (851 A.D.), ‘who wrote with knowledge as he evidently visited the countries he wrote about’, says expressly that in Malabar he did not know any one of either nation (Chinese or Indian) that had embraced Mahomadanism or spoken Arabic. None of the early travellers or geographers whether Mahomadan, Christian or Jew have left us any record of the legend. Abdur Razzak who was sent in 1442 A.D. by the Shah of Persia failed in his mission of converting the Zamorin. He too does not mention the legend at all.

Mr. Logan says: — “At Zaphar in the Arabian Coast lies buried Abdul Rahiman Samuri, a king of Malabar. The inscription on his tombstone says that he arrived at the place in 212 A. H. and there died 216 A. H. (828 A.D.)”. This statement is founded upon news given by an Arab merchant and Mr. Logan seems to believe that this may be the last Cheraman Perumal. As Mr. Padmanabha Menon observes, “it is not correct to accept the unverified statement of an irresponsible Arab merchant to prove the existence of the Perumal’s tomb and the alleged inscription on it”. The Mahomedan historian Ferishta has no doubt as to the Malabar king who embraced Islamism and says that a Zamorin turned Mahomedan and undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Zamorins have frequently been confounded with the Perumals.

Other accounts go to show that the Perumal turned a Buddhist, a Jaina or Saivite. Shungoonny Menon says: — “The last Cheraman Perumal closed his worldly career at Tiruvanchikulam; the traditional account is that he disappeared suddenly from his residence”.

In the ‘Vellanai Sargam’ Periya Puranam, the last of the legends refers to the mysterious disappearance of a Chera Prince from the Capital. It is stated that the Saiva saint Sundayar departed from the earth, ascended the celestial elephant which waited upon him and started on his travels to the abode of the celestials, without even taking leave of his Royal friend. The latter unable to bear the separation mounted on his steed and uttered a mantra in its ears, which enabled it to ascend in the air and overtake the Paradisiacal pachyderm. The minister and generals beholding the miraculous scene shook off their mortal coils and followed the king.*

NOTEs: * Prof. Sundaram Pillay in the Indian Antiuary for May 1897


According to one account, Cheraman Perumal had three wives and had sons and nephews seventeen in number, and is said to have handed over the charge of Travancore to his eldest son by his third wife, one Vira Kerala Varma who was installed as king in Kali year 3412* or 311 A.D., and the other places up to Gokarnam to his other sons and nephews. This Vira Kerala Varma had an only sister, whose sons succeeded to the musnud of Travancore after him. Vira Kerala Varma was the first sovereign of Travancore who celebrated the Tulapurushadanam ceremony or the weighing against gold, which gold was subsequently distributed among Brahmins.

NOTEs: * The chronogram gives Rajya bhogam which is transliterated into Kali year 3412.

Pachu Muthathu, another writer on Travancore, says that the kingdom of Travancore was established under the auspices of Cheraman Perumal, which kingdom was bounded on the north by Edawa, east by the Pannivoykal and on the south and west by sea. But evidence exists to show that Travancore was under a ruling Prince at the time of the advent of the Perumals and that Cheraman Perumal was the name of the Viceroy sent out to Keralam or South Chera by the King of Chera himself.

It will be found from the Keralolpatti that the Travancore and Kolathunad dynasties were in existence during the rule of these Cheramans and that they had recognised them. The ancient copper-plate grants to the Christians and Jews, which were made by three of the Cheraman Perumals, including the last Perumal, Bhaskara Ravi Varma, show that the Perumals considered the King of Travancore the first sovereign in Keralam so much so that he was mentioned as the first power to witness their deeds. One of them, Stanu Ravi Gupta, even goes the length of saying that the deed was executed with the sanction of the Travancore king. One of these deeds was executed in Kali 3331, corresponding to A.D. 230, i.e., fourteen years after the commencement of the Perumal period. Hence the statement regarding the division of Kerala by the last Perumal is without foundation. As Dr. Gundert remarks —

“That whole part of the Keralolpatti in which the present dynasties of Malayalam are represented as dating their origin from the last Perumal’s distribution of the country is fully disproved by this and the Jewish document; and the relation of the Kerala Mahatmyam, according to which several families were placed here and there by Parasurama for the purpose of protecting certain temples and Brahmin villages, comes much nearer the truth if we understand by Parasurama the old time of Brahminical rule.”

From the conflicting accounts of Cheraman Perumals and Kulasekara Perumals appearing simultaneously in all the authorities on the ancient history of Kerala, one fact may be certainly inferred viz., that the Kulasekhara Perumals, whose modern representatives the Travancore Maharajahs are, did not owe their kingdom to the last Cheraman Perumal who died in 428 A.D., and who is said to have partitioned his kingdom among his sons, nephews and dependants. The weight of evidence goes to prove that the Kulasekhara Perumals who ruled the southern portion of Kerala existed, if not from the first day of the installation of the first Cheraman Perumal, at any rate as soon as the rule of the Cheraman Perumals was established in Keralam. The Kulashkhara Perumals rose to such importance during the Perumal period in Malabar that they were asked to attest documents and grants made by the Cheramans themselves, and on one occasion the Cheraman Perumal of the day was invited as a guest to witness the Hiranyagarbham and Tulapurushadanam ceremonies of one of the Kulasekhara Perumals in South Kerala.

It is quite possible that in the never-ending wars of those days between neighbouring powers, Chera, Chola and Pandya Kings might have by turns appointed Viceroys of their own to rule over the different divisions of Chera, one of whom might have stuck to the southernmost portion, called differently at different times, by the names of Mushika-Khandom, Kupa-Khandom, Venad, Tiruppapur, Tiru-adi-desam or Tiruvitancode, at first as an ally or tributary of the senior Cheraman Perumal — titular emperor of the whole of Chera — but subsequently as an independent ruler himself.

This is the history of the whole of India during the time of the early Hindu kings or under the Moghul Empire. The history of every district in Southern India bears testimony to a similar state of affairs. The Nawab of Tinnevelly was nominally the agent of the Nawab of Arcot, who was himself ruling the Carnatic in the name of the Delhi Padisha; but beyond a mere name there was nothing in the relationship showing real obedience to a graded or central Imperial authority. The Nawab of Tinnevelly himself co-existed with scores of independent Poligai’s all over the District, collecting their own taxes, building their own forts, levying and drilling their own troops of war, their chief recreation consisting in the plundering of innocent ryots all over the country or molesting their neighbouring Poligars. The same story was repeated throughout all the States under the Great Moghul. In fact never before in the history of India has there been one dominion for the whole of the Indian continent from the Himalayas to the Cape, guided by one policy, owing allegiance to one sovereign-power and animated by one feeling of patriotism to a common country, as has been seen since the consolidation of the British power in India a hundred years ago.

“It is the power of the British sword, “as has been well observed,” which secures to the people of India the great blessings of peace and order which were unknown through many weary centuries of turmoil, bloodshed and pillage before the advent of the Briton in India”.

Neither according to tradition nor in recorded history has such a phenomenon been known before. The ancient epics of India often speak of the kings of fifty-six Rajyams* (States) having been invited for the Swayamvara marriages of Kshatriya ladies or to witness the great sacrifices such as the Rajasuyam or the Ashwamedha-yagam of Yudhishtira. These fifty-six rulers evidently were the Rajahs of note in those days; but to my mind there must have been at the time at least two thousand Princes# throughout the Indian continent more or less independent of each other and ruling over small States aggregating in the main the area embraced by the British Indian Empire of today. In this wise, the existence of a race of Kulasekhara Permnals in independent sway over South Kerala may be taken as an undoubted historical fact.

NOTEs: * These 56 Kingdoms were: 1. Casmira 2. Nepala 3. Kosala 4. Camboja 5. Panchala 6. Simhala 7. Anga 8. Kalinga 9. Kamarupa 10. Sauviru 11. Kuroo 12. Bhoja 13. Videha 14. Valmika 15. Kekaya 16. Vanga 17. Sourashtra 18. Punnadaga 19. Parpara 20. Kuluntha 21. Surasena 22. Danguna 23. Martha 24. Saindhava 25. Purashara 26. Pandhara 27. Saliva 28. Kuduka 29. Nishadha 30. Thoorka 31. Durga 32. Marda 33. Poundra 34. Maghada 35. Chedi 36. Maharashtra 37. Gandhara 38. Karnataka 39. Dravida 40. Kukkada 41. Lata 42. Malava 43. Magara 44. Dasara 45. Ottiya 46. Bachu 47. Yavana 48. Baguvane 49. Konkana 50. Kashyva 51. Dungana 52. Latcha 53. Chola 54. Pandya 55. Chera 56. Kerala

# Mr. M. M Kunte in his admirable Essay on "The vicissitudes of Aryan civilization in India' remarks, "The general tendency of the Kshatriyas was to develop into princes, whose right to the throne was heriditary. But a prince might own only a castle, some land for pasturage, a number of cattle, and some followers, and might rule over a few miles only. Every Kshatriya was a Raja'.


 The antiquity of Keralam

Keralam was known to the Aryans from very ancient days. The age of Kerala is difficult to determine, but that it is as old as any of the Puranic kingdoms referred to in the ancient Indian epics is undoubtedly established. After Rama and Sugriva (the monkey king) became friends, the latter sent his emissaries in quest of Sita, Rama’s lost Queen, to search all over India and Ceylon. Keralam or Chera, as it was then called, was one of the kingdoms included in that search. Sugriva commanded his messengers, says Valmiki,

“Seek and search the southern rock and ravine, wood and tree.

Search the empires of the Andhras, of the sister nations three,

Cholas, Cheras and the Pandyas dwelling by the southern sea” *

NOTEs: * Ramayana - R. C. Dutt

Again Mahendragiri, a lofty peak in the extreme south of Travancore Ghauts is referred to in the Ramayana as the point of the mountain from which Hanuman jumped over to Lanka. The Ramayana is estimated by scholars to be about 3000 years old, but the exploits of Rama were surely of an earlier date. In popular estimation they are several thousand years older. In the Mahabharata too, which Puranas said to be an earlier* composition than the Ramayana, mention is made of Balarama’s (Balabhadrarama or Rama of the plough) tours to the sacred shrines of Cape Comorin and Janardanam (modern Varkal), both situated in modern Travancore.

NOTEs: * The common belief is that the Mahabharatha is later than the Ramayana, but the opinion of Oriental scholars is otherwise and that is the one relied upon in the text.

The ruler of Kerala was one of the kings conquered by Sahadeva long before the Eighteen days’ war of the Bharata-yudham; the Mahahharata also refers to the inhabitants of Kerala as “forest-dwellers”. In the Harivamsa, a section of the Mahabharata, mention is made of the Cholas and Keralas. Another episode related in the Mahabharata is that of Vishaya and Chandrahasa, son of a Kerala king and ruler of Kuntala which is situated in the furthest extremity of the Deccan, in the country where camphor is collected. Again in the fourth book of Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsha (a book quite as old as the Christian Era), reference is made to a conquering tour by Raghu, remote ancestor of Rama, who is said to have passed from Oudh down the eastern coast to the country of the Pandyas and then returned north by Keralam and the west coast.

Keralam is also mentioned in the Vayu, the Matsya and the Markandeya Puraanas and in Bhagavata, the Padma and the Skanda Puranas. Some of the remarkable vegetable and animal productions of the Malabar Coast have been known to the western nations even at so early a period as the time of Solomon (1000 B.C).

In the Old Testament we find the following: “For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks”; with the exception perhaps of silver, these were all productions of the Malabar Coast and the biblical name for peacock, tuki, is evidently the Tamil - Malayalam, tokai, the bird of the tail. Again Herodotus mentions that the Red Sea trade in frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon and cassia (the two latter being Malabar products) was in the hands of the Egyptians and the Phoencians.

Kerala was also known to Katyayana (1st half of the 4th century B. C.), and Patanjali (150 B.C.), though Panini (beginning of the 7th* century B.C.) does not mention it. The second and the thirteenth edicts of Asoka, which were promulgated in the 3rd century B.C., refer to the realms of Keralaputra. Strabo in 20 A.D, gives an account of an embassy sent by the Pandyan ruler probably from the west coast, to the Emperor Augustus. There is no doubt of the fact that Roman gold poured largely into the country at this time. In the coin collection of the Maharajah’s palace at Trivandrum, three are 9 Aurei of Augustus’ coinage, 28 of Tiberius, 2 of Caligula, 16 of Claudius, and 16 of Nero.

NOTEs: * This is according to Prof. Goldstucker. But Professors Bohtling, Weber and Eggeling assign to Panini the 4th century B.C

Bishop Caldwell writes: —

“The earliest Roman coins found in India are those of the Emperor Augustus. A large number of Roman Imperial auric (gold) coins were found some years ago on the Malabar coast; upwards of thirty types of which, commencing with the earlier coins of Augustus and including some of Nero, were described by me in a paper printed at Trivandrum in 1851 by the Maharaja of Travancore, to whom the coins belonged .” *

NOTEs: * History of Tinnevelly. Page 22

Pliny (1st century A.D). refers to the ruler of Kerala as Calabothros, and mentions Muziris (identified by Dr. Caldwell with Cranganore as his capital. Ptolemy and the author of Periplus also refer to Kerabothros; Periplus refers to the land of Kerobothros as Limurike, and Ptolemy (2nd century A.D) mentions Karoura as the capital of Limurike, which Dr. Caldwell shows to represent the Tamil-Malayalam country. They also mention a district called Paralia on the west coast of India, which Professor Wilson takes to be probably a wrong rendering of Keralia. Burnell and Yule agree in identifying Paralia with Purali, the old name for Travancore, from which the Travancore kings have got the title Puralisa i.e., the lord of Purali. Again towards the end of the 4th century A.D., Kerala is referred to in the famous Gupta inscription on the Allahabad Lat of Asoka, where Samudragupta is mentioned as capturing and reducing Mantara, King of Kerala. Varaha Mihira, the great Hindu astronomer (who lived about the year 550 A.D.) notices in his Brihatsamhita both the country and the people by the names of Kerala and Kairalakas, and mentions Baladevapattanam and Marichipattanam as important towns in Kerala.

Kern, Varaha Mihira’s translator, identifies these places with the Baliapattana and the Muzris of Ptolemy and other Greek geographers respectively. It is known from the inscriptions and copper-plate documents of the Western Chalukya dynasty that almost for five hundred years after this, the Chalukyan kings made temporary conquests of Kerala. In the Mahakuta inscription of Mangalesa (567 to 610 A.D), we are told of the victories of his predecessor Kirti Varma I (489 to 567 A.D) over the kings of Kerala, Mushaka* &c., which Mushaka is identified by Professor Monier Williams with that part of the Malabar coast lying between Quilon and Cape Comorin.

NOTEs: * Indian Antiquary, Vol. XIX. Page 7.

Again Pulakesi II (610-634 A.D.), after conquering Kanchipura, invaded the country of the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Keralas and defeated them. Vinayaditya, grandson of Pulakesi in the 11th and 14th years of his reign, (692 — 695 A.D), completely subjugated the Keralas in the South#.

NOTEs: # Ibid Vol. VII. Page 209.

Vinayaditya’s grandson, Vikramaditya II (whose reign according to Dr. Burnell began in A.D. 733), claims to have fought with the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Keralas, and reduced them. By the grant dated 758 A.D. of Kirti Varma II, son of Vikramaditya, we see that he resided at a place called Jayamambha situated on the shore of the southern ocean, after “withering up Pandya, Chola, Kerala, Kalbhra and other kings.” +

NOTEs: + Ibid Vol. Yll. Page 23.

A certain king called Govinda VI of the Rashtrakuta dynasty claims to have conquered the Keralas. He reigned about A.D. 803 to 814-15*. Again Bilhana in his Vikrama Deva Charitam says, that Vikrama, who reigned between 1008 and 1018 A.D, first marched against the Keralas and conquered them.

NOTEs: * Ibid Vol. II. Page 61.

Early European and Mahomedan travellers give also accounts of Keralam and its people.

The Phoenicians visited the coast of Malabar in 1000 B.C. in quest of ivory, sandalwood and spices.

The Greek ambassador Megasthenes in his account of ancient India refers to the Nayars of Malabar and the kingdom of Chera. He also speaks of the fact that female sovereigns ruled the southern people.

Eratosthenes, who lived in the 3rd century B. C, is the first foreign writer who mentions Cape Comorin.

St. Thomas one of the Apostles came to preach the Gospel in Malabar in 52 A.D.

Kona Thoma (Thomas Cana) a missionary, is said to have visited the coast in 345 A. D.

Zera Jabus, the Nestoriau Patriarch who died in 660 A.D., speaks of Quilon and in 824 A.D., two Nestorian Persians settled in Quilon with a large following.

Omitting details of accounts on the later history of Travancore of which due mention will be made in the next section of this chapter, these references will, I think, suffice to show an almost unbroken chain of authorities proving the antiquity of Kerala.

As regards native chronology, said to be so proverbially inaccurate, it need only be stated that local traditions of the oldest portion of Chera Mandala or South Travancore make the Dravidian dynasty of that country coeval with the origin of the world. Tradition apart, according to Rev. William Taylor, the nearest conjecture that can be formed regarding the age of Parasurama is that he lived some time within the thousandth year after the flood. He thinks that there must have been a great retiring of the mass of waters from the Northern Hemisphere during the period within 500 to 1,000 years after the flood, and a similar retiring of waters must have taken place at the same time in the west coast also, the low lands of which had evidently been missed from beneath the sea-level by subterranean forces.+

NOTEs: + Translations of Historical Manuscripts, Vol II Page 65

The Sanskrit Puranic writers and the Ceylon Buddhists and the local traditions of the west coast, all indicate in different ways a great disturbance on the point of the Peninsula and Ceylon within recent times. The date of Noah’s deluge has been given by English theologians as 2348 B.C, and that given by Ceylon Buddhists to the latest submergence in the region of Ceylon is 2387 B.C. The two results could not have been hit at by mutual knowledge. So according to Rev. Taylor, the latest date of Parasurama’s reclamation of Kerala will be about 4,200 years ago. Even this of course is too recent a date in the estimation of orthodox Hindu tradition.

Hindu scholars incline to the belief that the Vedic Aryans must have had a wonderful era of peace and security from foreign aggression for about 5,000* years before the invasion of India by Alexander of Macedon. This gives a period of about 7,600 years to the first Aryan colonisation in the north-west of India. It appears to me that western scholars often err in their calculations about Hindu dates, relying solely on copperplate documents and stone-inscriptions, as if the peopling of a kingdom or a continent went only pari passu with such symbols of later civilisation as copper-plates or stone-inscriptions.


NOTEs: * Address by Mr. M. Rangacharya M.A on 'Indian Loyalty'

If we note the marvellous progress in the colonisation of America since its discovery by Columbus in 1492 A.D., which period of about 400 years is only a speck of time according to all known calculations of Hindu chronologists, and if we also note how quickly population has pressed and squeezed itself within the last half a century into all available nooks and corners of India in the mad desire to possess land, making one fear that one’s grand-children may scarcely have elbow-room to stand upon, it is not a bold statement to make that within a thousand years after the first Aryan set his foot in the Punjab, the whole continent from the Himalayas to the Cape must have been more or less peopled. The fact has nothing to do with the dates when the oldest Indian Epics were written or when the feats of Rama and Krishna recorded therein took place. I would therefore give Kerala an age of about 6,500+ years at least — an inference which should incline one to a greater belief in the oral traditions extant than in the learned deductions of scholars.

NOTEs: + The age of Kerala herein fixed is, if at all, far below the mark, for a Nambudri friend of mine 76 years old and a well-known Adhyan of Vaikam Taluq in North Travancore tells me that his Illam has stood there for about 2000 years. They had originally settled near Guruvayur before they came to Vaikom and he cannot say how long they were there. Thus it is clear that the peopling of Kerala could not have been on this side of 6500 years.


Concluding remarks

It is not at present possible to say how much of the foregoing narrative may be relied upon as perfectly authentic. The following facts however are generally accepted.

The land of Kerala was within historic period reclaimed from the sea; probably the upheaval was due to volcanic action. The Keralolpatti mentions the quaking and shaking of the land and the quaking is said to have been stopped by Parasurama’s divine powers. Apart from the legend that surrounds the great Brahmin hero, Parasurama was undoubtedly the leader of the earliest Aryan colony into South West India.

He created a separate military caste from among his Brahmin colonists and ordained them to rule his new land; when they found they could not, he helped them to secure one or two Kshatriya rulers from the other coast. The necessity for division of labour, which all authorities agree was the main basis of the caste distinctions in India, thus showed itself in ancient Kerala as it did more clearly in later times. There was evidently good authority for Parasurama’s Brahmins receiving instruction in the arts of war and bearing arms, “if we only remember the fact that both Viswamitra and Jamadagni were Vedic Rishis; and they bore arms and composed hymns, when Kshatriyas and Brahmins, as such, were unknown.”

As Mr. R. C. Dutt observes, a great historical truth underlies the story of Parasurama killing whole families of Kshatriyas, thus confirming the spirit of rivalry which seems to have existed from times of yore between the priestly and the warrior classes, the first indications of which are observable even in the Upanishads.*

NOTEs: * Ancient India, Vol. 1. Page 212.

After Parasurama, the Brahmin colonists tried several devices at government. At first a form of republic among themselves was adopted, then an oligarchy, then a rule of elected Protectors chosen from four of the premier villages, then a series of foreign princes known as Cheraman Perumals brought to rule over them for cycles of twelve years; and then a permanent ruler was made of the last Cheraman Perumal so brought, before whose time, however, had already come into existence the race of Kulasekhara Perumals in Travancore.

The Aryan invaders from the north-west of India had by this time advanced considerably into the interior parts of the Peninsula, migrating into distant Kerala also where they had mingled with the first Dravidian inhabitants of the east coast. But these Dravidians themselves had already come under the influence of the serpent-worshippers of the north.

Then came the Jaina and the Buddhistic waves of evangelisation that have left lasting traces all over South India. There are Buddhistic temples in Travancore, now converted into Hindu places of worship. Buddhism itself having been entirely absorbed by the Brahmins into their own faith. At a much earlier date the Brahmins had peopled Keralam and acquired sovereign powers there, as they did in all the other places of the continent they had passed through.

Next came the gigantic Saivite movement propagated by the Tamil saints and latterly by Sri Sankaracharya himself. Lastly came the early Christians and the followers of Mahomet. These successive waves of religious colonisation probably account for the different versions given of the conversion of one of the Cheraman Perumals, for every proselytising religion was responsible then, as now, not only for the quantity of its conversions but for the quality as well of its converts — by which standard was often judged the value of the work done by its propagandists. But Hinduism is still the dominant faith in Travancore, in spite of its being the only mass material in the country for the promulgators of the different religious persuasions to work upon.

The law of nepotism, the system of hierarchy well defined, the perfect cleanliness of the places of worship and the rigidity of the caste-scruples observed in them, the peculiar institution of marriage allowing considerable freedom to both parties in the choice and change of partners, the superior educational status of women. the scrupulous neatness and attention paid to all matters of personal hygiene by the true Malayali population, the proud Jenmi-tenure of the Brahmins, the living in isolated homesteads with extensive premises round them, respect to elders and to authority more formally expressed, less loquaciousness as a race, the front tuft, the wearing of the cloth and the nature of the cloth itself both among men and women, the altered language and scores of different Acharams, are all landmarks still distinguishing the colonists of Parasurama from the inhabitants of the old country beyond the Ghauts.

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Section B — Early History

“History, which is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.”

Part I (up to 1100 A.D)

It has already been shown that Travancore is a very ancient kingdom. Its early history as narrated in this section comprises a period of about twenty centuries; but owing to meagreness of material this period is passed under a rapid review leaving it to the future historian to compile fuller account as the researches into Epigraphy and other sources make possible.

From early times India carried on an extensive foreign trade and the Malabar coast from Gokarnam to Cape Comorin, with its rivers and its land communications by the lagoons which run parallel to the coastline, was a convenient destination for the small vessels which crossed from le Arabian or African shore in search of the pepper, the spices and the ivory to be obtained here. At this early period Indian merchants sailed — Arabia and China and it is said that Hindu colonies were planted in Africa and Arabia and that a powerful Hindu empire arose in Java in the Spice Islands. Mr. Kennedy is of opinion that the men who thus sailed from India were the Dravidians of the south and were not the Aryan immigrants from the north.

The Earliest Traders (B.C 1000—300)

The Phoenicians visited the coast of Malabar about 1000 B. C, in search of ivory, sandalwood and spices. They were the first intermediaries between the East and the West. Even before 1000 B.C, they were the sole masters of the Mediterranean and had founded colonies on the Atlantic coast and in Britain. The Jews on the east coast of the Mediterranean early noticed the enormous profits made by their neighbours (the Phoenicians) and wished to emulate their successes. For this purpose, commercial treaties were entered into between Hiram, king of Tyre, and Kings David and Solomon. About 1000 B.C, Solomon, King of Israel, fitted out a commercial fleet manned by the Phoenicians to Tarshish and Ophir. Dr. Burnell thinks that the last mentioned place (Ophir) should be somewhere in Malabar or Travancore. This is most probably the sea-coast village of Puvar in the Neyyattinkara Taluq, now the seat of a large Mahomedan population, partly a fishing but mostly a trading one. Some of the articles carried by Solomon’s ships from Malabar were peacocks, sandal-wood, gold, ivory and apes. The Phoenicians had the monopoly of the eastern trade from these early times until the destruction of Tyre by Alexander in B.C. 332. Their ships sailed from Malabar with Indian articles to a port in the southern part of the Red Sea whence they were conveyed by land to Philoculara, the port on the Mediterranean nearest to the Red Sea. From this place goods were re-shipped to Tyre and then distributed to the Phoenician trading centres.” The port which they frequented on the Malabar coast was probably Cranganore.*

NOTEs: * Mr. K Padmanabhan Tampi's lecture on 'Early Accounts of Travancore and Malabar'

“There is abundant reason to suppose that the early Hindoos were not altogether disinclined to a seafaring life and that the aversion they now evince is only a later development fostered by the influence of Brahminism. Judging from the traces of colonies in Arabia and elsewhere and especially in the island of Socottra at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, we are constrained to conclude that the Hindoos had at an early period of their existence sailed out of India and formed settlements at distant places. The Malayalees themselves seemed to have formed colonies in Arabia, and Strabo (about A.D. 20) mentions an hereditary caste division in Arabia Felix, as well as a community of property and women in the several families quite similar to those of the Nairs of Malabar.” *

NOTEs: * Mr. K.P Padmanabha Menon's paper in the Madras Review on 'Malabar as known to the Ancients'

In the time of Herodotus (484 — 413 B.C.), the trade with India was in the hands of the Egyptians and the Phoenicians. About 500 B.C., Scylax, a Greek sent by Darius, had voyaged home by sea from the mouth of the Indus.

Early Greek Accounts (300 B.C. — 150 A.D.) Megasthenes (306 — 289 BC.), the Greek ambassador of the Greeko-Bactrian kingdom at the court of Chandragupta, writes in his description of Ancient India, “Next follow the Narœ enclosed by the loftiest of the Indian mountains, Capitalia............ . The poorer king of the Charmœ has but 60 elephants, and his force is otherwise insignificant.” According to Wigram, Megasthenes’ Narœ refers to the Nayars of Malabar, Capitalia is the Camel’s Hump which is 6,000 feet in height and a conspicuous landmark for mariners and Charmœ is the kingdom of Chera. Megasthenes also alludes to the fact that the southern people were ruled by queens, probably the female sovereigns of Attungal, by which name the Ranis of Travancore are still known.

Eratosthenes who lived about 276 B. C. is the first foreign writer who mentions Cape Comorin. He thought India lay east to west.

The second and thirteenth edicts of the Emperor Priyadarsin or Asoka (257 B.C) contain special references to the king of Chera or Kerala. “In all the subjugated territories of King Priyadarsi the beloved of the Gods, and also in the bordering countries (Pratyanta) as Chola, Palaya Satyaputra, Keralaputra*, Tambapani, it is proclaimed.......”. It is quite clear from this that Kerala existed as an independent kingdom at the time of the edicts (257 B. C). The special mention of the country by name probably indicates also its importance.

NOTE by VED: *It is seen mentioned in Malabar Manual by William Logan, that the actual transliteration of the word Keralaputra is Ketalaputra, as seen written in the rock edict.

“It was not till about 120 B.C. that an attempt was made to go from Egypt to India. A Hindu, said to have been wrecked in the Red Sea, volunteered to take a ship to India. The ship was fitted out and in it sailed Eudoxus of Cyzicus. The voyage was successful; the ship brought back a valuable cargo, but it was appropriated by the King (Ptolemy Euergets II). The same fate befell a second expedition sent out by Cleopatra. Strabo wrote of Eudoxus’ attempt to reach India as something altogether new and exceptional.”*

NOTEs: The Malabar Manual Vol 1, Page 249

NOTE by VED: The problem with relying on William Logan’s Malabar Manual is that, that book does not seem to have been fully written by Logan. It contain the interests and versions of events of the many native-officials who worked under Logan. It can be very easily seen that they have all written into the book. Interested readers can check my Commentary on Malabar Manual.

In 47 A.D. a new route to India was discovered.

The Periplus says, “Hippalos was the pilot who first by observing the bearings of the ports and the configuration of the sea, discovered the course across the ocean, whence as at the season when our Etesians are blowing, a periodical wind from the ocean likewise blows on the Indian sea, the wind which is the south-west is, it seems, called in those seas Hippalos”.

According to Dr. Robertson, “this route to India was held to be a discovery of such importance that, in order to perpetuate the memory cf the inventor, the name of Hippalos was given to the wind which enabled him to perform the voyage”.

We have in Pliny (23-79 A.D) a very accurate description of the route to India, of the country of Malabar and its main articles of trade. The Greek ships anchored at either Musiris (Pliny calls it ‘primum emporium indicæ’) or Nelkanda, the former of which has been identified by Dr. Bumell to be Cranganore and the other is believed to refer to some port near Quilon, probably Neendakara. The ruler of the country was ‘Calabothras’ The things which fetched the highest prices in Rome were spices, pearls, diamonds and silks — the first three were exported from the east coast (Madura and Tinnevelly), while silk was brought down in country ships from China. The prices paid were fabulous; the silks were sold for their weight in gold.


Pliny says: —

“To those bound for India, it is most convenient to depart from Okelis (now Galla or Cella), a small bay within the straits of Babelmandeb. They sail thence with the wind Hippalos in forty days to the first emporium of India, Muziris (Kodungalur), which is not a desirable place to arrive at on account of pirates infesting the neighbourhood who hold a place called Nitrias, which is not supplied with merchandise. Besides, the station for ships is at a great distance from the shore and cargoes have both to be landed and shipped by means of little boats. There reigned there, when I wrote this, Calobothras. Another port belonging to the nation is the more convenient Neacyndon — which is called Becare. There reigned Pandion in an inland town, far distant from the emporium, called Madura the region, however, from which they convey pepper to Becare in boats formed from single logs in Cottanara (Kottarakara)”.

Pliny estimated that India took 55,000,000 sesterces (4,86,979 £.) annually and the goods purchased for that sum brought a hundred times that amount when sold in Europe.

The Periplus of Arrian was probably written in the first century A.D. The author was an Alexandrian Greek and a contemporary of Pliny. He made several voyages to Malabar. His description of the Malabar ports runs as follows —

“Then follow Naoura and Tundis, the first marts of Limurike, and after these, Musiris and Nilkanda the seats of Government. To the kingdom under the sway of Keprobotras Tundis is subject, a village of great note near the sea. Musiris which pertains to the same realm, is a city at the height of prosperity, frequented as it is by ships from Arike and Greek ships from Egypt. It lies near a river at a distance from Tundis of 500 stadia,* whether this is measured from river to river, or by the length of the sea-voyage, and it is 20 stadia distant from the mouth of its own river. The distance of Nilkanda from Musiris is also nearly 500 stadia, whether measured from river to river, or by the sea-voyage, but it belongs to a different kingdom. ... .”

NOTEs: * A stadium is equal to 582 English feet

He also refers to the Varkala hills and gives a fine description of Gape Comorin, he says: —

“After Bakare occurs the mountain called Pyrrhos (or the Red) towards the south, near another district of the country called Paralia* (where there are pearl fisheries which belong to King Pandion), and a city of the name Kolkhoi. In this district the first place met with is called Balita, which has a good harbour and a village on its shore. Next to this is another place called Komar, where is the Cape of the same name and a haven. Those who wish to consecrate the closing part of their lives to religion come hither and bathe and engage themselves to celibacy. This is also done by women, since it is related that the goddess once on a time resided at the place and bathed. From Komarei towards the south the country extends as far as Kolkhoi, where the fishing for pearls is carried on. Condemned criminals are employed in this service. King Pandion is the owner of the fishery. To Kolkhoi succeeds another coast lying along a gulf having a district in the interior bearing the name of Argalon.
In this single place are obtained the pearls collected near the island of Epiodores.”**

NOTEs: * The king of Travancore was called in the old days Paralisan 'the lord of Parali'. Parali is still the name of a river in South Travancore

** Me. Crindle's Periplus Maris Erythraei. Page 139

Ptolemy’s geography (139 A.D) mentions the following places in Limurike. “Brahmagara, Kalaikanei’s, Musiris, Podoperonra, Lemne, Karoura, Hakarei and two rivers, namely, the Pseudostomos and the Baris.’’

Inland cities mentioned by him are — “To the west of the Pseudostomos, Naroulla Kamba, Poloura. Between the two rivers — Pasage, Mastonover, Courellour, Karoura, (the royal seat of Kerobothras), Areambour, Bidderis, Pantiopolis, Adarima, Koreo. South of Nilkanda lies the country of the Aivi.” The cities named in this region (Aivi) are “Ealngkour (a mart), Kottara (a metropolis), Bamala, Komaria (a cape and town) and Morunda.”

Dr. Caldwell thinks that ‘Limurike’ represents the Tamil-Malayalam country and that ‘Karoura’ is the modern town of Karur on the Amaravati in the Coimbatore District. The Peutingerian Tables (third century A.D) called the country ‘Damurike’ The chief ports of importance in the first century A.D., were ‘Naura’ (the present Onore), ‘Tundis’ (Kadalundi near Beypore), ‘Musiris’ (Kodungalur), and ‘Nilkanda’ (Neendakara near Quilon).

“The description given by Pliny, Arrian, and Ptolemy of Limurike or the Tamil Malayalam country, enables us to gauge approximately the extent of the sway of Cœlobothras or Keprobothras. From Pliny it is difficult to gather its northern limit, but after making mention of the important port of Musiris he goes southwards and names Neacyndon, which, according to him, belonged to Pandion. In this the Periplus agrees with him. Ptolemy calls the place Meikynda and places it in the country of Aioi identified by Caldwell with South Travancore. Ptolemy and the author of the Periplus are at one in making Tundis the most northern port in Limurike. The Periplus gives its distance at 700 stadia or nearly 12 degrees of latitude if we reckon 600 stadia to the degree. The location of Tundis somewhere near Calicut (11° 15' N. Lat.) has been completely justified by the satisfactory identification of Musiris with Cranganore instead of with Mangalore as previously accepted.”*

NOTEs: * Mr. K. P Padmanabha Menon in the Madras Review

South India and Rome (30 BC— 540 AD.). The next event of importance in the history of the west coast is the intercourse between South India and Rome, the mistress of the ancient world. It is highly probable that Indian goods were even in very early times taken to Rome by the early carriers, the Egyptians and the Greeks. But after the conquest of Egypt by the Romans, especially after Egypt was made a Roman Province by Emperor Augustus, the commercial activity with the East reached its zenith. The Egyptian Greeks were no longer the intermediaries, but Rome came into direct contact with India. The embassy of Augustus in 20 B. C, to the Pandyan king who ruled over Tinnevelly, Madura and Travancore, was probably only one of a series.

‘’And about this same time (24 AD), the first Hindu embassy from King Porus, or as others say, from the king of Pandya, proceeded to Europe and followed the Roman Emperor Augustus to Spain. It was on this occasion that an ascetic (probably a Jain) who accompanied the expedition voluntarily, sacrificed himself at Athens on a funeral pyre.”*

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol 1, Page 249

According to the Peutingerian Tables (3rd century A.D.), there was at one time (no date specified) a temple of Augustus at Kodungalur with a garrison of two cohorts and 1,200 men. This evidently indicates that the relation between Rome and South India was no longer merely of a commercial nature. There is reason to believe that there was also a Roman colony at Madura. The finds of Roman coins in the various parts of South India, afford valuable evidence of long-standing commercial relations and large monetary dealings between Rome and South India.

Potfuls of Roman coins and medals have been discovered at Vellore, Pollachi, Chavadipalayam, Vellalur, Coimbatore, Madura, Karur, Ootacamond, Cottayam in North Malabar, Kilabur near Tellichery, Kaliam putur, Avanasi, and Trevor near Cannanore. They range from the time of Augustus to that of Zeno — from B. C. 27 to A.D. 491, and are found only within certain specified limits — Coimbatore, Mysore, Tondainad, South Malabar and Cochin. Coimbatore has the largest share but Malabar ranks next. “The gold coins found at Cottayam were so numerous that six coolies could scarcely carry them and those found at Trevor numbered 300 large gold coins. “We also find that the coins discovered in Coimbatore and Malabar are earlier in date than those found at other places. The coins were all buried in the earth. The perforations in most of them clearly show that they had been used as ornaments. These establish the long standing commercial relations between Rome and South India.

The Pandyan kings, as well as the rulers of Malabar, seem to have sent more than one embassy to Rome. The one to Augustus is noticed by Strabo, and subsequently to him in the Chronographia of Georgius Syncelles (800 A.D.) who says under the head of the 185th Olympiad, “Pandion, king of the Indians, sends an embassy to Augustus desiring to become his friend and ally”. This embassy, says Florius, was four years on the road. Dr. Oppert speaks of Indian envoys with precious presents being sent to Augustus, Claudius, Antonius Pius and Julianus, and even so late as the reign of Justinian (540 A.D.), one was despatched to Constantinople. “The Roman coins found in Madura are supposed by Mr. Sewell to point to something more than mere commercial relations. The company of Romans that lived in Madura possessed, according to Mr. Tracy, the right of minting coins which indicates some political power.” The temple of Augustus and the Roman garrison at Cranganore no doubt point to the same conclusion. Kodungalur must have once been a Roman colony.

“About B. C. 14, Drusus the younger brother of Tiberius had command of an army in Gaul, and in order to secure more fully the allegiance of the northern tribes who, after a fashion, acknowledged the sway of Augustus, hit upon the device of building a temple for the worship of the image of the Emperor. May we not conjecture, with some show of reason, that it was for a similar purpose that the Romans set up a temple of Augustus at Kodungalore?. But in the dearth of historical data it would be idle to speculate; as yet we have no evidence of any Roman conquests in South India on the western Coast”.*

NOTEs: * Mr.Padmanabha Menon's 'Malabar as known to the Ancients'

The Early Missionaries, (AD 345— AD 825) The next event concerning Kerala is dated 345 A.D. Thomas Cana (Kona Thoma), merchant and missionary, visited the Malabar Coast in that year. He brought to Cranganore a colony of four hundred Christians from Bagdad, Nineveh and Jerusalem. He found a Cheraman Perumal ruling in the kingdom on whose death the country was divided among his descendants. A manuscript volume in the British Museum dated 1604 A.D, gives information about Thomas Cana from a grant made to him by a Cheraman Perumal which is quoted here in a subsequent chapter (Religion).

In 522 A.D., Cosmos Indicopleustes visited the Malabar Coast. His writings are of great historical value to us, for he is the first traveller who mentions the Syrian Christians. He wrote, “In the island of Taprobane (Ceylon) there is a church of Christians, and clerks and faithful. Likewise at Male where the pepper grows; and in the town of Kalliana there is also a bishop consecrated in Persia’.

The Nestorian Patriarch Jesujabus who died in 660 A.D., makes special mention of Quilon in his letter to the Simon, Metropolitan of Persia. “India which extends from the coast of the kingdom of Persia to Colon, a distance of more than 1,200 Parasangs,* deprived of a regular ministry, but Persia itself is left in darkness”.

NOTEs: * A Persian measure of length, containing 30 stadia, equal to 3¾ miles.

In 744 A.D. (the date fixed by Dr. Burnell), King Vira Raghava made a grant to Iravi Korttan, a Christian of Cranganore, making over to him the territory of Manigramam and giving him the rank of merchant.

The copper plate which is in old Tamil character with some Grantha characters intermixed, is preserved m the Kottayam Seminary, The accuracy of the date 744 A.D., is very doubtful.*

NOTEs: * Mr. Venkayya assigns the grant to the 14th century A.D on palæographical grounds.- Indian Antiquary Vol IV Page 293. Dr. Keilhorn accepts Venkayya's conclusion and fixes the date of the grant to the 15th March 1320 A.D. - Ind. Ant. Vol VI Page 83

In 822 A.D., two Nestorian Persian Bishops, Mar Sapor and Mar Peroz settled in Quilon with a large following.

Two years later (824 A.D.), the Malabar Era began, was called after Quilon, which was undoubtedly the premier city of Malabar (including Travancore and Cochin). Shungoonny Menon says that the era was founded by Koda Marthanda Varma, King of the South. Mr. Logan seems to think that the era was founded in commemoration of the independence of the chiefs of Malabar from the sway of the Perumal or of the religious revolution created by Sri Sankaracharya. Professor Sundaram Pillai surmises that the era may be merely an adaptation of the Saptarsha or Sastra Samvatsara era of the north. The era begins on the first Chingam or the middle of August for the southern portion of Malabar and on the first Kanni or the middle of September for the northern portion.

“In the same year King Sthanu Ravi Gupta anxious to secure the pecuniary assistance from the Christian merchants in his efforts to repel an invasion of Malabar by the Rahakas, granted the copper plate known as the second charter. In this, the King gave permission to Mar Sapor to transfer to the Tarasa church and community at Quilon, a piece of land near the city with the hereditament usual at the time of several families of low caste slaves attached to the soil.”+

NOTEs: * The Syrian Church in India - Milne Rae.


Trade with China

The trade with China, which had very much decreased in the previous centuries, revived with great vigour in the eighth century. According to the records of the Tang Dynasty (618 A.D. to 913 A.D.), Quilon was their chief settlement and they gave it the name of ‘Mahlai’. Several were the embassies sent by the Malabar Kings to the Celestial Emperor. The King of Quilon and the neighbouring districts is referred to in these records as Benati or Venad, the name by which Travancore is designated even to day. This Chinese trade decreased again about 900 A.D., and was not revived till the 13th century.

The Early Mahomedans

It was probably in the beginning of the 8th century that the Moslems of Arabia superseded the Greeks in their trade with the west coast of India. Their first arrival is closely mixed up with the tradition of Cheraman Perumal and his conversion. This last of the sovereigns of Keralam, so goes the story, was converted to Islam by the Mahomedan missionaries who visited his coast, and embarked with them to Arabia to see the Prophet in person. On reaching his destination, he was so struck with the grandeur of the faith and the enthusiasm of the believers that he immediately despatched missionaries to his coast with letters of introduction to the chiefs; one of them sent on his death-bed from Zapher, was Malik Ben Habeck, who travelled from Cranganore to Quilon. He built a mosque at the latter place, settled as a preacher and undertook several preaching expeditions in the neighbourhood.

Merchant Soleyman of Siraf in Persia, who visited Malabar in the middle of the 9th century, found Quilon to be the only port in India touched by the huge Chinese ships on their way from Canton to the Persian Gulf. At Quilon they paid a heavy port duty of 1,000 denarii* and it was the chief port of call between China and Western India.

NOTEs: * Denarius is a Roman silver coin equal to 92/5d.

Another Mahomedan traveller of the period describes it as the first port which vessels touch from Muscat at a month’s sail from that port. The Mahomedans probably settled in small numbers on the coast for trading purposes, but it does not appear that their religion made any progress. The traveller referred to above has left on record: — “I know not that there is any one of either nation (Chinese and Indian) that has embraced Mahomedanism or speaks Arabic.”

The Mahomedans first settled in Malabar in the 9th century A.D. We have an interesting, though brief, account of the origin and growth of this community in the early chapters Tahafit-ul-mujahideen—an historical work by Sheik Zeenuddin, a Malabar Mahomedan, who lived in the court of Sultan Adilshah of Bijapur.

In the Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems written about 950 A.D. by El Masudi, Arab traveller and merchant, we have an account of Malabar and a detailed narrative of a successful invasion of Travancore by the Hindu Emperor of Java.

Al Biruni (A.D. 970-1039) is probably the first to call the country Malabar. His account of the coast runs thus—

“Beyond Guzerat are Konkan and Tana; beyond them the country of Malibar, which from the boundary of Karoba to Kulam (Quilon), is 300 Parasangs in length. The whole country produces the pan, in consequence of which Indians find it easy to live there, for they are ready to spend their whole wealth on that leaf. There is much coined gold and silver there, which is not exported to any other place. Part of the territory is inland and part on the sea-shore.

They speak a mixed language, like the men of Khabhalik in the direction of Rum, whom they resemble in many respects. The people are all Samanis (Buddhists) and worship idols. Of the cities on the shore the first is Sindabur, then Faknar (Barkur in South Canara), then the country of Manjarur, (Mangalore), then the country of Hili, then the country of Sadarsa, then Jangli, then Kulam.

The men of all these countries are Samanis. After these comes the country of Sawalak* which comprises 125,000 cities and villages. After that comes Malwala* which means 1,893,000 in number. About forty years ago the king of Malwala died, and between his son and the minister a contest arose and after several battles they ended with dividing the country between them. The consequence is that their enemies obtained a footing and are always making their incursions from different parts of Hind, and carrying off goods and viands, sugar, wine, cotton cloths, captives and great booty. But through the great wealth of that country no serious injury is done.”

NOTEs: * Probably Laccadive and Maladive islands.

Territorial Extent. The account given above is what the foreign travellers and traders knew of the Malabar Coast and its people generally. An attempt may next be made to describe briefly the social and political condition of South India before the 11th century of the Christian era. The following stanza ascribed to the famous Tamil poet Kambar who is said to have flourished, in the 9th century A.D., gives the boundaries of Chera or Kerala thus —


which translated means,

“To the north lies the place (or fane) Pulney, to the east Chengodu (Shencottah); the western limit is Kolikudu (Calicut), and the southern the sea. Say these are the boundaries of Chera, 80 Katams (leagues) from north to south.”

There are two other readings of the stanza and these are thus translated by Mr. Logan.

One version:

1. To the North, the place Palani — hail ! to the East, the South Kasi,

2. The West point Koli-kudu will become. The sea-shore of

3. The margin that will make the south. An 80 Katams (leagues)

4. The Cheranad boundary; speaking, say thou.

Another version:

“On the north Palani, to the East the great town (Perur) on the south the sea. On the West the great mountain, from East to West 40 Katams (leagues), from South to North 40 Katams (leagues) making together 80 Katams”.

There is a difficulty about this last stanza. Pulney is the northern boundary. Perur, near Coimbatore, lies north of Pulney and cannot be the eastern boundary. It is probable Perur lies somewhere near Shencottah or Tenkasi. Again, the western boundary is the great mountain. The other two stanzas make it the sea.


Neighbouring Kingdoms

We have already seen that Megasthenes and the Edicts of Asoka refer to three kingdoms in the south: Chera or Kerala, Chola and Pandya. It must not be supposed that all these were independent kingdoms at all times; sometimes Pandya held supremacy over the other two and sometimes Chola. We see the Chola king invading Ceylon in the 3rd century B.C, 2nd century B. C, and again in the 2nd century A.D. In the 6th century A.D., the Pallavas of Kanchi rose from small dimensions and, before two centuries elapsed, were masters of the whole of South India. In the 6th century, the western Chalukyans rose to power. In the beginning of the 7th century, one of the kings of this dynasty, Pulakesin II, “caused the great prosperity of the Cholas, and the Keralas, and the Pandyas, but became a very sun to (melt) the hoar frost which was the army of the Pallavas”.

On the death of Pulakesin II, the Southern Powers combined to overthrow the western Chalukyans. This was successful for a time, for the sons of Pulakesin were yet children. “But retribution speedily came, for it is recorded of Vinayaditya that during the lifetime of his father Vikramaditya I (circa 670-680. A.D) and by his command, he arrested the exalted power of the Pallavas, whose kingdom consisted of three component dominions”. There is little room for doubt that the last phrase refers to the Chola, Pandya and Kerala rulers, who, in another grant of Vinayaditya’s, are specifically referred to as the “proud summits of three mountains which he rent open (like Indra) with the thunderbolt which was his prowess”.

Vikramaditya II of the same dynasty (732-747 A.D.) is said to have “withered up Pandya, Chola, Kerala, Vallabha and other kings”.

The Rattas or Rashtrakutas superseded the Chalukyans about 750 A.D., and the lien on Kerala for tribute must have passed on to the conquerors of Chalukyans. Govinda III (about 800 A.D). is said to have conquered Kerala. According to the Malayalam tradition the Rashtrakuttas were driven back.

The extent of these kingdoms is not known. But it may be roughly stated thus. The Pallavas ruled over Chingleput, North and South Arcot; the Cholas over Tanjore and Trichinopoly; the Kongus over Coimbatore and Salem; the Pandyas over Madura and Tinnevelly; the western Chalukyans over the Karnataka and South Mysore; and the Rashtrakutas over North Mysore.

The Nannul and its original Tolkapyam refer to the following twelve ‘Nadus’ as the places where old Tamil was spoken.


1. South Pandy, 2. Kuttanad, 3. Kudanad, 4. Karkanad, 5. Venad, 6. Pulinad, 7. Panrinad, 8. Aruvanad, 9. the country north of that, 10. Sitanad (or the cold country), 11. Malanad, 12. Punnad. These were not all independent kingdoms; they were probably chieftainships under the main kingdoms already referred to.

Mr. Logan says that about this period (1,000 A.D),

“The Cochin Rajas seem to have been the principal power in central Kerala, and it is in accordance with this that in the Kollam year 93 (A.D 917-918) an expedition (probably of Kongus or Gangas) from Maisur was driven back when attempting an invasion of Kerala via the Palaghat gap. Local tradition assigns this as the date on which the Cochin Rajas acquired the small district of Chittur still held by them and lying to the east of Palaghat in the very centre of the gap”.*

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol 1. Page 179

By the 11th century A.D, the Pallavas had sunk to the position of mere feudatories of the Cholas who now became the great suzerain power of South India. The Malanad (Hill country, West Coast, or Malabar) was more than once invaded by the Cholas at this time, and they doubtless drew tribute from one or more Malayali chiefs. These invasions, however, do not seem to have left any permanent traces on the country or to have given rise to any political changes among the ruling families.

The Chola supremacy in South India continued throughout the 12th century A.D; it attained its widest bounds probably in the reign of Kulottunga Chola (from about 1064 to 1113 AD.) and in 1170 A.D., Madura, the Pandyan capital city, had become incorporated in the Chola dominions.


Political Organisation in Malabar

Below the suzerain power of Malabar were a number of chieftains or princes (Udayavar, literally owners) of Nads (countries), including among them the well-known families of Venad (Travancore), Eranad (Zamorin), Vallavand, and Nedum-puraiyanad (Palghat).

The Nad was the territorial organisation of the ruling Nayars. It was divided into a number of Desams or villages. The Tara was a Nayar organisation and was not conterminous with the Desam or the village. One Desam may have more than one Tarawad and sometimes a Tara included two or more villages. The Nayar inhabitants of a Tara formed a tribal Government, as it were, under the patriarchal rule of their Karanavar. These Karanavars formed the ‘Six Hundred’ who were the supervisors (Kanakkar) and protectors of the Nad. Their duty according to the Keralolpatti was “to prevent the rights from being curtailed or suffered to fall into disuse”. They were in short the custodians of ancient rights and customs; they chastised the chieftains’ ministers when they committed unwarrantable acts, and were the ‘Parliament’ of the land.

Each village and Nad had its hereditary chief who was subject to the king of the country. He paid a certain sum of money annually to the king in addition to the men and provisions. In his own little dominion he was absolute. This was the case in the northern parts of Malabar as then known. No vestiges of it are to be now found as a political organisation in any part of Travancore except the Tarawad and the rule of the Karanavans, which prevailed universally throughout the coast.

Mr. Logan in his Malabar Manual makes mention of three deeds, one granted by Bhaskara Ravi Varma in 700 A.D, another by Viraraghava Chakravarti in 774 A.D.and the third by Sthanu Ravi Gupta in 824 A.D., and draws from them certain inferences regarding the political organisation of Kerala. Prof. Kielhorn and Mr. Venkayya consider that the Kottayam plate of Viraraghava belongs to 1320 A.D., and not to 774 A.D. There is also reason to suppose that these grants are spurious. For, at least in one case, the Portuguese version of the grant does not in the least agree with the Sanskrit version of the same. Until the dates of these grants are ascertained with any certainty, it would be idle to speculate upon their contents or on the names of the sovereigns mentioned in them.

We do not know what the divisions of Kerala were at this period. Mr. Ellis considered that Malabar was divided into chieftainships (Udayavar) about 389 A.D. Nor are we in a position to state anything definitely as to the sovereigns who ruled over Venad till the beginning of the 12th century A.D. From an inscription in the Temple of Mahavishnu at Parthivapuram, it would appear that between the years 149 M.E and 106 M.E. (974-981 A.D.), there ruled over Venad two kings — Kodai Aditya Varma and Virakerala Varma, but more definite information is awaited from the archaeological researches in progress.


The People

Custom was the law of the land. Agriculture was the chief occupation. Trade was in the hands of foreigners. The inhabitants were Brahmins, Nayars and the lower castes. The Jews and the Christians occupied probably only selected spots on the coast. Mr. Logan is of opinion that the Vedic Brahmins must have arrived in Malabar in the early part of the 8th century A.D., and not earlier and that they must have come by the coast from the Tulu country. But the arguments on which his conclusions are based will not bear any critical scrutiny. As has been shown in the section on Ancient History, there is convincing evidence that South India and Malabar had become Brahminised at a very early date.

The language spoken by the people at this period was probably Tamil. Dr. Caldwell holds that Malayalam is a recent language derived from Tamil. Dr. Gundert thinks that Malayalam and Tamil had a common source. But from the Stanzas from Nannul and Tolkapyam quoted above, it is clear that a large part of this country was Kodun Tamilnad (the tract of country where corrupt Tamil was spoken). Probably it was from this period that Sanskrit words began to be largely incorporated into the native tongue.


After Parasurama, the founder of Keralam, no name is more intimately connected with the religious and social history of the people on this coast, than that of the great Brahmin savant and reformer, Sri Sankaracharya. To the historian of Travancore, Sankara’s life is important for, (1) he was a native of Travancore, (2) his name is so closely associated with the reform of society, (3) he overthrew Buddhism and (4) he popularised Saivite and Smarta forms of worship throughout India. His life and teachings which have shed lustre throughout the Indian continent will be referred to, in detail, later on.

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vic5t4 #. Part II (1100— 1400 A.D.)

In the beginning of the 12th century A.D., a battle was fought between the king of Kupakas (Travancore sovereign) and Rajasimha, the Pandyan king, at the dam of the river Parali, alias ‘Pandian Anai’, during which the dam was demolished by the forces of the king of Kupakas. He defeated Rajasimha and conquered the country of Kottar together with the whole of Nanjanad on the 11th Chingam 292 M.E (1106 A.D.). It does not appear that this king of Venad, whose name we do not know, ruled long over Nanjanad, for we find that at the end of the 1st quarter of the 12th century A.D., Vadasseri was the eastern limit of his territory and Kottar and other portions of Nanjanad were under the sovereignty of Kulottunga Chola Deva who was one of the Mummudi Chola kings, named Rajakesarivarman alais Rajendra Chola Deva, and who reigned for a long period of forty and odd years with Kanchipuram as his capital. He changed the name of Kottar to Mummudi Cholanallur, approximately in the 39th year of his reign. Rajendra is then said to have come to Vizhinjam. “He with his army commencing his march towards the west on an auspicious day, caused the mountains to bend their back, the rivers to forsake their beds and the Vilinjam seas to be stirred and agitated”.* In confirmation of the above fact we find that until recently the town of Vizhinjam was called in deeds and documents Vilinjamana Rajendra Cholapattanam.

NOTEs: Mr. V. Kanakasabhai Pillai's Tamil Historical Manuscripts. The Indian Antiquary Vol. XXI

Shungoonny Menon gives the following events for the period: — It was about this period that the combined army of Travancore and Kolathunad drove out the Bellalas from Kerala and enjoyed their respective territories as originally assigned to them by Parasurama — the former from Korampuzhay to the south and the latter from that river to the north. Again the Travancore territories were reduced to small dimensions, the Raja of Cochin taking possession of the northern Districts of Travancore and the Pandyan kings assuming Nanjanad and other possessions. The petty chiefs of Changanachery, Thekkamkur, Vadakkamkur, and other places asserted their independence and consequently the vast kingdom which once extended to 800 miles in length was reduced to a length of 70 miles and a breadth of 20 miles, that is, from Edawa near Varkala in the north to Erattamalai (eastern side of Udayagiri) in the south. Two members of the Royal family of Travancore were adopted to the Madathinkur Swarupam at Mavelikara, which was originally related to the Travancore Royal family and thus the two territories became united.

During the Mahomedan rule of Pandya which continued for half a century, one Nanja Koravan, a feudatory chief of Travancore, obtained possession of Nanjanad and established himself as a petty ruler. But subsequent to the release of the Madura kingdom from the Mahomedan sway, Nanja Koravan and his confederacy were driven away by the king of Travancore in the year 292 M.E (1117 A.D.)

In 301 M.E (1125 A.D.), Sri Vira Kerala Varma I flourished in Venad and his loyal chieftains made over the tax in paddy and money due from Vadasseri as a gift to the temple of Rajendra Cholesvara for the daily performance of Tirumadura-Panakam. Travancore or Venad, as it was then called, was under him a well-organised principality with loyal feudal chieftains to transact public business and to levy taxes, as it is done now, both in kind and in cash; the Government dues were then moderate and fair.

The circumstances under which Sri Vira Kerala of Venad was prompted to dedicate so piously a portion of his revenue to a temple founded by a foreign monarch are difficult to determine. The grant was, however, meant in all probability as a political peace-offering to the representatives of the Mummudi Chola power in the land.*

NOTEs: * Early Sovereigns of Travancore - By the late Prof. P. Sundaram Pillai M.A.

We do not know how long this king ruled. We find his successor Sri Kodai Kerala Varma ruling in Venad between 320 and 325 M.E (1145—1150 A. D.) This king recovered possession of Suchindram and other portions of Nanjanad and made to the temple of Suchindram a gift of lands in the following villages, namely Suchindram, Karkadu, Tenvalanallur (or Kakkumudur) as it is now called and Tenkanpudur. During his reign, the measurements of land and grains were the same as they were in the Chola country. Kodai was an epithet applied to the kings of Travancore.

The successor of this king was Sri Vira Ravi Varma who ruled over Venad from 336 to 339 M.E. (1161—1164 A.D.). The remaining northern portion of Nanjanad was added by him to his kingdom. The gift of the lands in Tazhakudi Puduvurarmulai to the temple of Puravavi Vinnavar Alvar was made by his loyal chieftains Singan Rangan of Pasunkulam (Painkulam) Tennadu, and three others on the 6th of Edavam 336 M.E. There was no uniform standard for measures and weights anywhere in Southern India; each temple used its own under the name of the local deity. The village governments that existed received the support and sympathy of this sovereign. One of his documents confirms the inference that has already been drawn with respect to the eastern boundary of the Venad principality at that time. Since the executive officers referred to in the deed are styled “officers in charge of the affairs of Nanjanad” Image the Chola power must have been by this time altogether extinct there. Vira Ravi Varma ruled peacefully over all South Travancore, his affairs in Nanjanad being administered by a triumvirate composed of Kerala Santosha Pallavaraiyan, probably the chief of the local officers, Govindan Vikraman and Anandan Chakrapani who were in charge of the civil administration. The Rajah’s ministers of State at the capital were the loyal chieftains, Pullalan Aiyan, Singan Rangan, Narayanan Shungaran and Kodai Devan.

The immediate successor of Ravi Varma was Sri Vira Kerala Varma II, who reigned over Venad from 339 to 342 M.E (1164 to 1167 A D.). His experienced Prime-minister was Singan Rangan of Pasunkulam, who made gifts to the temple of Puravari Chaturvedimangalam in 336 M.E His officers in charge of the civil administration at Nanjanad were Kali Kunra Peralan, and Nayinan Kunra Peralan. During this reign the Pandya king Maravarman Sri Vallabha, who ascended the throne in 333 M.E, married the daughter of Vira Kerala’s younger brother, Sri Vira Udaya Martanda. Sri Vallabha belonged to the family of the Canarese Rajahs whose capital was Attur Image before he intermingled with the Pandyas. For, he subscribed to one of his edicts as “the lord of Vali-Attur” to show his patriotism. The channel of the Tamrapumi river known as ’Kannadiyan Caul’ in the Tinnevelly district commemorates the original tribe of Canarese people to which he belonged.

Sri Vallabha Pandya ruled over Eastern and Western Vembanad (i.e Tinnevelly and North Travancore) until the year 364 — 365 M.E, (1190 A.D.) with Valiiyur (ancient name Alliyur) for his capital. It was somewhere between 337 and 339 M.E., that Sri Vallabha married the daughter of Sri Vira Udaya Martanda, the date of whose accession was about 348 M.E. His wife assumed the name of Tribhuvana Devi after one of his surnames, viz., Tribhuvana chakravarti (i.e., the emperor of three worlds). The king Sri Vira Kerala II gave the village of Vira-Keralamangalam in Valliyur, as dowry to the princess Tribhuvana Devi at her wedding.


In 841 M.E, the queen Tribhuvana Devi was delivered of a son. In 349 M.E (1174 A.D.), the Sri Vaishnavas and the temple authorities of Puravari Chaturvedimangalam in South Travancore petitioned to Sri Vallabha for the gift of certain lands free of tax to the temple of Puravari Alvar. The gift was duly made by him in 351 M. B., (1176 A.D.) with the knowledge of his wife, and the implied consent of his son Kulasekhara, who was then ten years old, as the property was a portion of his wife’s dowry granted by Vira Kerala II. Consequently one niyogam (order) was issued by the minor son to the assembly of Vira-Keralamangalam with a Image certificate of his guardian Image directing them to place the property under the management of the temple of Puravari Alvar. To symbolise the minor’s right over this donation an emblematic style Image was engraved on the boundary stone, besides the disc of the divine donee. Meanwhile Tribhuvana Devi gave birth to a second son Elaya Perumal and died. Elaya Perumal erected the Udayamartanda mantapam, and deified his mother therein as a common tutelary deity Image to protect the two families of Cheravarasam Image and Srivallabhavamsam Image. The first son of Maravarman Sri Vallabha was Jatavarman Kulasekhara Perumal who ascended the throne in 365 M.E, the last year of the reign of Sri Vallabha.

Sri Vira Udaya Martanda Varma, the brother of Vira Kerala II, and the father of Tribhuvana Devi, succeeded to the throne in 348 M.E., (1173 A.D.). His capital was Kolidaikuru, now the insignificant village of Kulikod near Padmanabhapuram. He built the front mantapam in the temple of Tiruvattar, and named it after him. According to Shungoonny Menon, the Pantalam Royal family which had already settled in Travancore in 904 A.D., received some territorial grants from the Travancore king in 345 M.E. (1170 A.D) so also did the Punjar Rajah who emigrated to Travancore at the time. Evidently the Rajas of Travancore with their diminished dominion and power were not then in a position to make large grants to the chiefs of Pantalam and Punjar.

The next sovereign we have to note is Sri Devadaram Kerala Varma (Sri Vira Kerala III), who flourished in Venad in Kanni 368 M.E. He founded a village (with a temple) called after his name Virakeralapuram or Viralam, as it is now called, near Attungal in Chirayinkil Taluq. The country about Attungal was known in early times as Kupadesam - a province altogether distinct from Venad. Jatavarman Kulasekhara, who ascended the throne in 365 M.E., and reigned over North Travancore for a period of thirty years, was the contemporary of Sri Vira Kerala III and of his successors Sri Vira Rama Varma and Sri Vira Raman Kerala.

In 371 M.E (1196 A.D.), the ancient throne of Venad was occupied by SRI VIRA RAMA VARMA TIRUVADI. From the inscription in which this king is mentioned, we are able to trace two or three striking features of the social economy of the times.

“Besides the village associations already noticed, Venad, it would appear, had an important public body under the name of the ‘Six Hundred’ Image to supervise the working of temples and charities connected therewith. What other powers and privileges this remarkable corporation of “Six Hundred” was in possession of, future investigation can alone determine. But a number so large, nearly as large as the British House of Commons, could not have been meant, in so small a state as Venad was in the 12th Century, for the single function of temple supervision. There is an allusion again in this record to the Valanjiyars of the eighteen districts. The ‘eighteen districts’ were no doubt eighteen administrative divisions of Venad ................We may reasonably presume that the eighteen Valanjiyars were eighteen local magnates, or feudal barons of the realm.......... It looks probable that the loyal chieftains transacting business in the name of the king and forming, as it were his government or cabinet ministry came from this class of Valanjiyars or feudal barons”. *

NOTEs. * Early Sovereigns of Travancore. Indian Antiquary, Vol XXIV Page 285

There were also slaves attached to the land and there were two important kinds of land tenure, Ural or Uranmai subject to the control of the village associations, and Karanmai or freeholds, directly under the control of the state.

The successor of this Rama Varma was probably Sri Vira Raman Kerala Varma who ruled over Venad from 384 to 389 M.E (1209— 1214 A.D.). His daughter Sri Vira Umaiyammai, constructed the temple of Mahadeva at Kadinangulam on the 18th day of the month of Minam in 389 M.E. Raman Kerala Varma’s inscription at Trivandrum clearly shows, according to Prof. Sundaram Pillay, “that in 384 M.E, Trivandrum like so many other villages, had a sabha or assembly, with a sabhajnita, chairman or secretary of its own, and that it used to meet on occasions of importance in the old temple at Mitranandapuram about a furlong to the west of the present shrine of Sri Padmanabha. The south-western comer of the courtyard of this temple is still pointed out as the sacred spot where sabhas used to meet of old, and the word tek or ‘south’ serves as no dubious guide to that spot. The raised floor of this hall still remains but the roof which must have resounded with the voice of many a wise counsel, is no more. The other inscription of Sri Vira Raman Kerala Varma taken from the temple of Kadinangulam proves beyond all doubt that on the morning about 8 A.M. of Thursday the 18th Minam 389 M.E (1214 A.D), that sovereign occupied the throne of Venad. How long ago he ascended it, and when exactly it passed away to his successor are points yet to be determined by further researches.


Next in order comes Sri Vira Ravi Kerala Varma, as may be inferred from a Vattezhuttu inscription at Manalikarai, a petty village near Padmanabhapuram in South Travancore. The purport of the inscription is that on the 27th Medam 410 M.E, when Jupiter was in Vrischigam, was issued the following Proclamation: —

“Agreeably to the understanding arrived at in a consultation duly held among the loyal chieftains of Sri Vira Iravi Kerala Varma Tiruvadi, graciously ruling over Venad, the members of the sabha (or assembly) of Kodainalloor, and the people of that village as well as Kandan Tiruvikraman of Marugatacheri, entrusted with the right of realising the government dues: We command and direct that the tax due from government lands be taken as amounting in paddy to ..........................and 24, in arakkal crop (Kanni crop), and 725 and 24, in charal crop (Kumbham), and making up per year a total of ................and the same, due from tax -paying village lands, be taken as amounting in paddy to ................and 24, in arakkal crop; and 728 ..............and 24, in charal crop, and making up per year a total of.................. 709 2/10; ....................and that when the due quantity is measured out, a receipt be granted, discharging the liability; the fact being duly noted also in the rent roll, and we command moreover that the order of permanent lease (now in force) be surrendered into the hands of the clerks who write or issue such deeds .................From the Tuvami, (Swami), too, no more lease be taken. When part of the tax is paid, and part is still due, a list shall be prepared showing the arrears for the whole year; and an anchail (or authorisation) taken in writing to realise the same from the sabha and the inhabitants; and the arrears then recovered accordingly.

“In seasons of drought and consequent failure of crops, the members of the sabha and the people of the village shall inspect the lands, and ascertain which have failed and which have not. The lands that have failed shall be assessed at one-fifth of the normal dues, but this one-fifth shall be levied as an additional charge on the remaining lands bearing a crop. If all the taxable lands appear to have equally failed, the sabha and the villagers shall report the matter to the Swami and, after the Swami has inspected the lands and ascertained the fact, one-fifth (of the entire dues) shall be levied. This one-fifth shall be taken to include pattavritti and, onachelavu amounting in paddy to................ If the members of the sabha and the inhabitants agree among themselves, and pray in common for a postponement of payment, as the only course open to a majority among them, this demand (one-fifth drought rate) shall be apportioned over all the lands paying tax to government (to be levied in the subsequent harvest) but without interest and pattari rent roll of the current year being scored out. Should anything whatever be done contrary to these rules, the deviation shall be visited with fine .................and the strict procedure again adopted. This Our regulation shall continue in force as long as the moon and the stars endure.”

This is a true stone-inscribed copy of the Royal writ. According to the late Prof. Sundaram Piilay, the Travancore Honorary Archaeologist,

“This grants not a perpetual lamp or ‘a mountain-like drum’ to the Gods above, but peace and protection to toiling humanity here below. One of the most momentous questions in all human communities has been, and will always be, the price each individual in it has to pay for the advantages of organized social life. In proportion to the fixity and definiteness characterizing this price, in all its aspects, is the government of the community said to be civilised, stable and constitutional. An important item in the price to be thus paid is the pecuniary contribution given by each individual for the maintenance of the State. In all agricultural countries, the bulk of the contribution must assume the form of land tax. In Travancore, then, which is little else than agricultural, where in fact there is no individual but has his taravad his plot of land, the plot in which he is born in which he lives and works and in which he dies and is cremated too, so that his very ashes stick to it even after his soul departs from this world, in a country so entirely agricultural, there can be no question of more vital interest, or of more universal concern, than the nature and amount of land tax, the manner and time of paying it, and the machinery through which it is realized for the State. It appears to have been the practice with several governments in by-gone days to farm out the land revenue to the highest bidders, with a view to save themselves the trouble and expense of collecting it in dribblets.

“The iniquity of the system may be better imagined than described. It seems, nevertheless, to have been current in the neighbouring districts of Tinnevely and Madura to the very days of the Honourable East India Company. But in Travancore, thanks to the village associations and the magnanimity and political sagacity that seem to have uniformly characterized the Venad sovereigns, the system, if it was ever largely introduced, was nipped in the bud, and the disasters of the fable of the goose with the golden eggs were early averted.

“For, observe how the royal writ before us deals that system a death blow. It quietly takes away, in the first place, its sting by fixing the government dues exactly and unalterably per year and per harvest. The lease again is not to be a tira taracu, an enduring one, but to be renewed from time to time so that the government farmer would have no chance of abusing his power on the strength of the hold he might otherwise have of the people. The writ provides further, for the reduction of the government demand to one-fifth in times of drought and failure. Why, when some lands alone fail in a village, this one-fifth should be given up on those lands, but levied as an additional charge upon the remaining, might demand a word of explanation. In seasons of partial failure, and in tracts of land not fully opened out by easy lines of communication, the price of corn goes easily high; and the Kodainallur council seems to have thought it just, or at all events conducive to fellow-feeling, that those that are benefited by such an adventitious rise of prices should forego a portion of their profits for the sake of their suffering fellow-villagers. At any rate, the measure must have acted as a check upon false complaints of failure, since the duty of determining what lands had failed, and what not, was left to the villagers themselves under the supervision of the sabha.

“It would be interesting to know who the Swami was, to whom the edict assigns the duty of ascertaining and certifying the fact, in case the whole village fails. He was, no doubt, some high ecclesiastical functionary, with a considerable portion of the land revenue of the village probably assigned to him for his own support and the support of the temple he was in charge of. The prohibition to take out leases from the Swami would then mean prohibition to farm out to the highest bidder the land revenue so assigned to him. Anyhow, when the Swami certifies a complete failure of crops in the whole village, the government reduces its total demand to one-fifth, and, forgoes in addition, its right to levy two minor charges, under the name of pattavritti (probably a present on the anniversary of the Sovereign’s accession to the throne), and onachelavu, a special contribution to keep up the annual national festival of that name (Onam).”


Further he writes; —

“It is said that the edict is issued in terms of the understanding come to, in a council composed of the loyal chieftains or ministers of the king, the assembly of Kodaniallur, the people of the village, and Kandan Tiruvikraman, the local revenue farmer or collector. I call him the collector, for, however oppressive a lessee or farmer he might have been before the date of this document, he and his successors in office could have been nothing more than simple collectors of revenue after the exact definition of the government dues given in the edict itself. No doubt he must have been a terrible man in his day with an appointed function in the evolution of history, not unlike perhaps the one played by those who went forth to demand ‘ship money’ in the days of Hampden. The good people of Kodainallur seem to have been also equal to the occasion.

“Here is proof, if need be, of the independent nature and constitution of the old village assemblies of Travancore................ The sabha appear as permanent and well constituted public bodies that acted as a buffer between the people and the government.... The whole procedure reflects the greatest credit on all the parties concerned, their conjoint action resulting in so precious a charter to the people, and so unmistakable a monument of the sovereign’s unbounded love of his subjects. Though the wording of the document makes the enactment applicable primarily only to the village of Kodainallur, I have no doubt it was sooner or later extended to the whole of Venad. A just principle needs but once to be recognised to be applied on all hands. I hesitate not, therefore, to call this Manalikarai Proclamation, one of the great charters of Travancore.

“But the immediate purpose for which the Manalikarai charter is here introduced, is to prove the rule of Sri Vira Ravi Kerala Varma on the 28th Medam 410 M.E or about April 1235 A.D. Having met Sri Vira Rama Kerala Varma only 21 years prior, we may take the two reigns as having been conterminous with one another’ *

NOTEs: * Early Sovereigns of Travancore. Indian Antiquary Vol XXIV Page 311

From a Vattezhuttu inscription at Varkala, it is inferred that seventeen years later still, another monarch ruled over Venad, Sri VlRA PADMANABHA MARTANDA VARMA TIRUVADI, whose loyal chieftains in 427 M. E (1252 A.D) repaired the temple of Vadaserikkarai at Udayamartandapurum in Varkala. The sacred spot where the temple of Janardanaswami now stands was then called Udayamartandapuram, no doubt, in commemoration of an earlier sovereign at whose instance it was built.

According to the mention in the inscription of the temple of Arulala Perumal at Kanchipuram (Conjeevaram) published by Prof. Kielhorn, there was a queen of the Kupaka family named UMA Devi who was ruling over Venad in 1252 A. D She was married by Jayasimha Deva, a king belonging to the Yadu family of the Lunar race. JAYASIMHA DEVA ruled over Kerala with his wife Uma Devi who brought forth a son Ravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal in the Saka Samvat 1188 (1266-7 A.D). This Jayasimha seems to have been a good warrior, for he brought the whole of Kerala under his sway. Quilon was his capital, and the country round about was till recently called ‘Jayasimhanad’ after his name.

The date of Jayasimha’s death cannot now be definitely ascertained. He probably lived to the last years of the 13th century. His son, the great Ravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal was ruling over Kerala in 1299 A.D., with Quilon as his capital. He had already defeated the Pandyan king and married his daughter. He made the Pandyas subject to the Keralas. He was famed as a great warrior at the time of the invasion of South India by Malik Kafar in 1310 A.D. Within a few years of his accession to the throne of Quilon, he seems to have made large conquests in South India. He conquered the Cholas and the Pandyas and at the age of 46, i.e. in 1312 or 1313 A.D., he was crowned on the banks of the Vegavati at Conjeevaram.

The king of Venad at the time was Sri Vira Udaya Martanda Varma Tiruvadiyar alias Vira Pandya Devar. Ravi Varma Kulasekhara had evidently already subjugated him. ‘He apparently again made war against Vira Pandya, defeated him and drove him into Konkana and from there into the forests and conquered the Northern Country’. This war against Vira Pandya took place in 1316 A.D.

To return to Venad. Sri Vira Udaya Martanda Varma Tiruvadiyar occupied the throne of Venad in 1316 A.D. The inscription at Keralapuram two miles from Padmanabhapuram, which mentions his name, also calls him Vira Pandya Deva. It may be interesting to know the circumstances that led to the assumption of this new and foreign title. Prof. Sundaram Pillay surmises: —

“May it be that when the Pandya power shrunk back to its original condition, after having been blown out into dangerous and meddlesome greatness by the breath of a Kochchadaiyan or a Komaran, the Venad kings not only regained their lost ground, but also retaliated by invading and conquering a portion of the dominion of their recent conquerors and assumed, too, their style and manners to legitimise their hold upon the territories so added to their own? Agreeably to this foreign title, we find also the no less foreign method of dating the inscription in the year of the sovereign’s reign”

From one of the grants of Martanda Varma, we learn that bamboo-grain and hill produce were the staple products on which hill men subsisted. To the known tax on handlooms we find here attached a tax on the palmyra, and it looks probable that what is meant is a tax for tapping and not for otherwise using that palm. Besides fines, the government of those days appropriated certain payments under the name of ko-muraipadu literally ‘royal-justice-income’. It could be taken to represent the court fees and judicial revenue of modern times. Karaippattu means ‘adhering to’ or ‘reaching land’, and it might be taken to include treasure-troves, mines, jetsams and floatsams, and all such royalties known to law.

According to Shungoonny Menon, in the year 480 M.E (1305 A.D.), two females from Kolathunad family were adopted by Aditya Varma who then reigned and they were installed as Attungal Moothatampuran (Senior Rani) and Attungal Elayatampuran (Junior Rani). Palaces were constructed at Attungal for their residence, and country around was assigned to them, the revenue derived therefrom being placed at their disposal.

The accounts of the Vaikam temple show that in 505 M.E. (1330 A.D., the king assumed authority over the affairs of that temple, which proves that the king of Travancore extended his sovereignty over some of the northern Devaswams at this period. It has to be noted that this information is not corroborated by any inscriptions.



A short digression is necessary here to view in brief the history of Nanjanad, the tract of land lying between the Kerala and Pandyan kingdoms. In the palmy days of the ancient Pandyan Empire, this district, along with the rest of South India belonged to it. When the Cholas conquered the Pandyas, Nanjanad passed to them by right of conquest. The kings of Kupaka seem very early to have claimed the district, for we saw the king of the Kupakas defeating the Pandyan king at Parali in 1100 A.D. The country thus conquered remained with the Venad king Sri Koda Kerala in 1145 A.D. In 1166 A.D., Suchindram and the country adjoining were again under the Pandyan king, Maravarman Sri Vallabha. About the close of the century the country seems again to have been reconquered by the Venad kings. Three dated inscriptions of the temple of Rajendracholesvaram Udaya Nayanar clearly show that the foreign adversaries again transformed Kottar into Cholakeralapuram from 1217 to 1265 A.D.

It appears from some of the inscriptions of Rajendracholesvaram and Suchindram that one — Kochchadaiya Varma alias Sundara Chola Pandya Deva ruled over the whole of Nanjanad in South Travancore up to the 11th year of his reign, 1262 A.D. Sundara Chola Pandya Deva succeeded at least in subjugating the whole of the district of which Kottar was the centre. He seems to have also established his authority so widely and well as to leave private parties to reckon their grants by the year of his reign, and to call an ancient hamlet like Suchindram by a new-fangled name Sundarachola Chaturvedimangalam coined specially to flatter his vanity.

Sundara Chola Pandya Kochchadaiya Varma was by no means the last of the revived dynasty of the Pandyas to molest Travancore. This Sundara Pandya is identified by some scholars with the Pandya sovereign Jatila Varma who about 1275 A.D., is said to have “unsheathed the victorious weapon in order to destroy the town of Vilinjam which has the three waters of the sea for its ditch, whose strong and high walls which rub against the inner part of the receding sky rise so high that the sun has to retire in his course, which is as strong as the fort in the beautiful town of Ilankai (Ceylon), and whose lofty halls and walls are resplendent in jewels, conquered and destroyed the king of Venad who had a victorious army and took possession of numerous elephants resembling hills, horses with manes, the family treasures and the fertile country along with its magnificent treasures.” * This certainly speaks for the prosperity of the country of Venad in the thirteenth century.

NOTEs: * Mr. Venkayya's Translation of the Madras Museum plates of Jatila Varma - Indian Antiquary, Vol XXII.

About the close of the century, Jayasimha conquered part of Nanjanad and this partial conquest was completed by his son, the great Ravi Varma who was crowned at Conjeevaram. It was probably after the death of this Ravi Varma that the district came under the sway of Nanji Koravan, the traditionary account of whose life may be thus briefly given.

The country of Nanjanad comprised twelve pidagais or small divisions belonging to the two Taluqs of Tovala and Agastisvaram. After the downfall of the government of the Chera, Chola and Pandya kings, there were many petty States, each independent in itself, ruled by petty chiefs. At that time there was one Konangi Koravan leading the life of a hunter. He made his livelihood by making baskets &c., from the fibre of the date and other palms. He had two wives, the elder of whom had a son about eighteen years of age. He was wandering with his son and wives in the woods in search of date palms for making baskets and one day he came near Bhutapandi and saw a large bush of palm on what is called the Taduga Malai, a little hill to the east of it. While he was tearing the stem of the date leaves with his scythe, all at once the scythe was turned to a golden hue. He was very much surprised and called his wives and son to his side and they all began to examine the place. A well was seen there. All the weapons they had were dipped into it and they at once turned gold. They then concealed the well from view. Konangi Koravan soon became very rich.

He built a house and a small hamlet around it and the inhabitants were all brought under his control. He increased his influence and power gradually and made himself king of the Koravas. The probable date of his rule may be taken to be after 455 M. E. (1280 A.D.). The villages of Cape Comorin, Suchindram &c., came gradually under his sway. He ruled over his subjects very kindly, the tribute paid to him by his subjects being only iron implements; they were thus left in the undisturbed enjoyment of the whole produce of their lands. The Korava chief collected all iron implements from his subjects and converted them all into gold by immersing them in the well. This Konangi Koravan is said to have ruled over the two Taluqs for about thirty-five years.

His son, Bommayya Koravan, also followed his father’s example in ruling over his subjects kindly and considerately. He amassed immense wealth by turning all iron vessels and implements into gold. He had under his command an army of 10,000 foot and 100 elephants. He also gave all the produce of the fields to his subjects and looked after their welfare. He is said to have ruled for about thirty-two years. Nanji Koravan was the son of Bonnnayya Koravan. He was a very intelligent and capable ruler. He equipped himself with all the necessary weapons and acquired influence over the neighbouring Poligars. He looked after the welfare of his subjects and gained their respect and good-will. While thus ruling, the want of a son to succeed him made him miserable. He married seven wives and at last had a son by the seventh wife. He was very much gratified, invited all his subjects to his palace, gave them liberal charities and entertained them sumptuously. He caused sandal and betel to be distributed among those present enquiring of each to what caste he belonged.

He came to know that there were several castes of people under his sway, of whom the Vellalas occupied the highest social position. The ceremony of Annaprashnam or the first giving of rice to the child was performed with great mirth and festivity. All the subjects of the kingdom were invited and sumptuously fed according to their respective ranks and social position. The Vellalas he treated with especial respect and after dismissing all the other caste people he addressed the Vellalas as follows: — ‘You have already promised to co-operate with me in satisfying my eager longing at the time of the birth of my child. I now ask you to give one of your daughters in marriage to my son”.

The Vellalas were horrified at this strange request and remained speechless being unable to express their opinion boldly. At that juncture one of them by name Periaveettu Mudali said that he had a female child of three months and that he would willingly give that child in marriage to the son of the ruler. All the Vellalas were then sent away with suitable presents and the Periaveettu Mudali was made his minister. The Vellalas joined together and concerted a plan to get rid of the odious Korava chief and his family. The Mudaliar as minister told the chief that the marriage of his child should not be performed like that of ordinary persons in a thatched pandal, but a huge mantapam of stone should be constructed for the marriage. Accordingly the stone mantapam work was begun in earnest on a huge scale and it is said that the Periaveettu Mudali contrived a mechanism by which the stone fabric might tumble down any moment he wanted. Preparations for the marriage went on a grand scale as soon as the boy completed his fifth year. All the inhabitants of the country were invited and everything was ready for the marriage. Certain ceremonies were gone through inside the mantapam with the bride and the bridegroom seated on a raised dais.

Then the Koravas were informed that it was the custom among the Vellalas that the bridegroom and his relations should be seated inside the pandal, while the bride and her mother followed by all the relations of the bride with music and the beating of tomtoms &c., should go round the pandal three times and then enter it when the Tali-tying ceremony should be gone through. This was of course agreed to and while all the Koravas were seated inside the mantapam the Vellalas went round it with the bride taken by the mother. At that nick of time the stone roof collapsed and crushed to death all the Koravas seated inside it. So ended it is said, the Korava dynasty of Nanjanad. After the Koravas, the land was ruled by the Vellalas belonging to the family of Periaveettu Mudali for a very long time.

Resuming our historical narrative, we find that according to the fragmentary inscription at Krishnan Koil, Vatasseri, there was a sovereign named Aditya Varma Tiruvadi who ruled over Venad on the 23rd Dhanu 508 M.E (January 1333 A.D.). It was probably this king that transformed Krishnan Koil into Adityavarma Chaturvedhimangalam. It is possible that he was the immediate successor of Ravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal of Jayasimhanad.

The next sovereign was Sri Vira Rama Udava Martanda Varma, the senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy, who reigned in Venad from the 7th Makaram 511 M.E., to 21st Mithunam 518 M.E, (1336 — 1342 A.D). It could be traced from the inscription of Kurandi that on the 23rd Mithunam 518 M.E., a chief of Kothukulam (Dyuta caste), named Suryan, constructed a temple and a well under the command of the Kothukula assembly of Rajakanneri alias Srivallabhamangalam of Kilakkalakkuru in Pandinad, to commemorate the name of this sovereign. Hence it seems that Udaya Martanda Varma was very kind towards foreign settlers and encouraged them very much.

The Kothukula assembly of Rajakkaneri was in affluent circumstances at the time and was very skilful in winning royal favour; and they were also very charitable. This sovereign might have been identical with the king of whom Shungoonny Menon writes, ‘Sri Vira Rama Marthanda Varma, who was then in his 28th year was installed on the musnud in 510 M.E., (1335 A.D)”. But Shungoonny Menon makes this king rule forty years, while according to the inscription he could not have ruled more than nine years.

At the end of the year 520 M.E. (1344 A.D), there was a sovereign who was known by the name of Sri Vira Kerala Varma Tiruvadi, as mentioned in the temple chronicles of Sri Padmanabhaswamy. The chronicle reveals that on the 32nd Mithunam 520 M.E, Sri Vira Kerala Varma Tiruvadi made, as atonement for the sin of having murdered Desikal (the Brahmin) emigrants in Nilaimelkunnu, a hilly tract in the Taluq of Chirayinkil, certain grants of lands to the aggrieved survivors in Vellanad and Kurakkodu, and also 157 kottas of land in Munaraichuttu and also 30,000 fanams to the temple of Sri Padmanabhaswamy as garvakkattu (an amercement) for overbearing conduct. But the actual transfer of lands to the aggrieved Desis, and the remittance of the sum specified in the gift to Sri Padmanabhaswamy were made by one of his successors named Bala Martanda, according to the resolution passed at the sabha of Mahabharata-Konam, when he was in urgent need of Desis for the celebration of the local festival on the 2nd Alpasi 911 M.E. But the circumstances under which the Brahman emigrants at Nilaimelkunnu were then murdered by this sovereign are yet unknown, and they are to be determined only on further researches.


The inscriptions of the temple of Udaya Martanda. Vinnavar Emperuman at Putugramam alias Raja Narayana Chaturvedimangalam go to prove that from the 13th Tulam 538 M.E, to 14th Chingam 541 M.E., Sri Vira Martanda Varma III ruled over Venad and made gifts of lands in Teranalakya Cholanallur to the village temple. The first writ was executed by him when he halted in the new quarters at Kottar and the second writ when he was at Amaravati. The transformation of the village Putugramam into Raja Narayana Chaturvedimangalam was probably made either by Raja Narayana, the descendant of Nanji Koravan, or by Kulottunga I alias Rajakesari Varman, whose reign commenced according to Prof. Kielhorn, between the 14th March and the 8th October 1070 A.D.

The temple chronicle states that in the year 557 M.E., this Martanda Varma having put to death several men during the war that took place in several places especially in Manur (Kilimanur in Chirayinkil Taluq), made a gift of four silver pots and five thousand fanams as garvakkattu to the temple of Sri Padmanabhaswamy, similar to the gifts of Sri Virakerala IV. During this period Kottar and other portions of Nanjanad in South Travancore were probably under foreign sway; for one Kochchadaiya Varman alias Tribhuvana Chakravartigal Sri Parakrama Pandya, reconstructed the temple of Rajendra Cholesvaram at Kottar and granted some lands in Chengalakurichi to the temple of Suchindram according to the inscriptions of Kottar and Suchindram. The inscriptions of Rajendra Cholesvaram state that in the Saka Samvat 1295 (1373 A.D), the temple of Rajendra Cholesvaram Udaya Nayanar at Kottar, alias Mummudicholanallur, in Nanjanad, was reconstructed by Sri Kochchadaiya alias Tribhuvana Chakravarti Sri Parakrama Pandya Deva during the fifth after the tenth year of his reign, when the sun was in Makaram on the third day after the new moon which was Friday, the star being Sathayam.

From this it could be traced that this Pandya king is certainly Jatavarman Parakrama Pandya whose reign commenced between the tenth of July 1357 A.D., and the ninth of January 1358 A.D. His other document at Suchindram records that in the 28th year of his reign Jatavarman Parakrama Pandya granted lands in Chengalakurichi (Tinnevelly) District to the temple of Mahadeva at Suchindram for the performance of Parakramapandya Sandhipuja. As this royal writ was executed by him in the 28th year of his reign, its date must be 1385 or 1386 A.D. (560 or 561 M.E.). It seems from this edict that the birthday of this Pandya king was the star of Mrigasiram in the month of Medam. It is therefore clear that Parakrama Pandya ruled over Nanjanad in South Travancore for a period of 12 or 13 years from the 15th to the 20th year of his reign i. e., about 548 — 561 M.E Hence it is reasonable to think that one of the wars in which several individuals were killed by Sri Vira Udaya Martanda Varma in the year 550 M.E., was made against Parakrama Pandya in South Travancore.

Mr. P. Sundaram Pillay mentions also a king Sarvanganatha Aditya Varma II who built the temple of Gopalakrishnaswamy at Trivandrum in 1372 A.D. He was probably a governor or sub-king under this Martanda Varma.

An inscription at Tiruvitancode in the Taluq of Kalkulam, shows that Sri Vira Ravi Varma, the Senior Tiruvadi of Tiruppapur (Kilapperur), ruled over Venad in the year 558 M.E (1383 A.D.). He seems to have been the immediate successor of Sri Vira Udaya Martanda Varma.

Sri Vira Ravi Varma might have conquered Kottar and other portions of Nanjanad in South Travancore from Jatavarman Parakrama Pandya. Sri Vira Kerala Martanda Varma of Kilapperur and Martanda Varma who was the Senior Tiruvadi of Tiruppapur in Tulam 587 M.E (1412 A.D.), were the successors of this Ravi Varma. The chronicle reveals that in Malabar year 592 (the end of 1416 A.D.), Sri Vira Ravi Varma, the Senior Tiruvadi of Tiruppapur, granted six silver pots and an elephant together with a lump sum of 5,000 fanams as garvukkattu to Sri Padmanabhaswamy as an atonement for sin committed during the wars that took place at Karuvelankulam, Nityanadai and its adjoining countries.

At the same time he made also some other gifts as an atonement for wrongly appropriating properties belonging to the Kurvai lllam. All the properties were restored to the owner and the Illam as well as all other estates belonging to the aggrieved were exempted from the usual land-tax. The war at Karuvelankulam that was made by this sovereign might have been against Jatavarman Parakrama Pandya as the battlefield was apparently in the District of Tinnevelly which was then under the sway of this Pandyan king.

From an inscription at Alvar, about three miles to the south of Padmanabhapuram in South Travancore, we learn that Martanda Varma “of boundless fame and mild disposition” was the chief among the kings of Kerala in 578 M.E. (1403 A.D.). This would imply that there were at this period several kings in Kerala. From this inscription we learn also that as late as 578 M.E., the measure used was kalam and not kottai marakal or parah. The word ‘perai’ occurs as part of the name of a particular piece of land. This may be traced to ‘pirai ‘ and therefore to ‘peru’ meaning ‘to contain,’ ‘to be worth’ or ‘ to multiply.’ The use of the expression ‘home measure’ implies that some foreign measure was also then current in the country. Reference is made to the village councils of those days which, it would appear, had influence and independence enough to obstruct the provisions of a Royal Chapter. In cases of such obstruction, however, provision was made for an appeal to be taken to the door of the temple, and therefore, to the government authorities connected with the temple. The caste name, Varian, occurs in this inscription. A temple in South Travancore too had then Varians who were bound to do all duties in accordance with the daily pujas of the temple and supply a garland of flowers as in the temples of North Travancore.

From a fragmentary inscription Suchindram, we find that Martanda Varma continued to rule in Saka 1332 (1410 A.D). According to Shungoonny Menon the king that died in 1382 A.D, was not Martanda Varma, but Ravi Varma. His successor was Kerala Varma who performed the coronation ceremonies and assumed the title of Kulasekhara Perumal. He died after a very short reign of three months. His twin-brother Chera Udaya Martanda Varma succeeded him. The reign of this Sovereign appears to have been the longest on record in the history of Travancore. He regained all the southern possessions on the Tinnevelly side, and often resided at Valliyur and Cheramahadevi (Shermadevi) which once belonged to Travancore. In consequence of the mild and unwarlike disposition of this king, some of the subordinate chiefs in the East became refractory, and there was constant fighting and latterly, while this sovereign was residing at Trivandrum, the chief of Rettiapuram invaded Valliyur, and the king’s nephew, being defeated in battle committed suicide. Chera Udaya Martanda Varma died in 619 M.E (1444 A.D.) at the ripe age of seventy-eight.

It should be noted here that this account of Shungoonny Menon differs from the information gathered from inscriptions. The differences here, as well as elsewhere, are difficult to reconcile, but Mr. Menon had no epigraphical data to guide him. The following surmise may however be safely made. I have already adverted to the fact that Travancore was divided into a number of small chieftainships. We see from the archaeological accounts that a certain king of Jayasimhanad (Ravi Varma who was crowned at Kanchi) was a contemporary of Chera Udaya Martanda Varma, king of Venad, who was also called Vira Pandya Devar. Thus there were at least two kingdoms one at Quilon and the other further south. It has already been noted that the inscription at Alvar calls Martanda Varma ‘chief among the kings of Kerala’. Is it not therefore probable that all these were really independent chiefs who ruled over small portions of territory? In his own kingdom each Rajah was a great king; but the poor gifts to temples which the inscriptions record, indicates the smallness of their possessions.


Accounts of Travellers

Al Idrisi, the greatest of Arab geographers, who flourished in the twelth century, and who lived for some time at the court of the enlightened Roger II of Sicily, gives some interesting information regarding Malabar. But as he obtained it chiefly from books and from travellers and had no personal knowledge of the countries he wrote about, his account is much confused.

“From Bana (Tanna) to Fandarina is four days’ journey. Fandarina is a town built at the mouth of a river which comes from Manibar (Malabar) where vessels from India and Sind cast anchor. The inhabitants are rich, the markets well supplied, and trade flourishing. North of this town there is a very high mountain covered with trees, villages and flocks. The cardmon grows here and forms the staple of a considerable trade. It grows like the grains of hemp, and the grains are enclosed in pods. From Fandarina to Jirbatan, a populous town on a little river, is five days. It is fertile in rice and gram, and supplies provisions to the markets of Sarandib. Pepper grows in the neighbouring mountains.”

This was the person who wrote that the pepper vine grows nowhere else but in Fandarina (Northern QuiIon), Jirbatan ( Srikandapuram) and the large and pretty island of Mali, and asserted that the pepper vine leaves curl over the bunches of grapes to protect them from rain and return to their natural position afterwards — ‘a surprising fact’!

Al Kazwini (1263-1275 A.D.) is another Mahomedan geographer who compiled his account of India from the works of others. Among other places, he mentions ‘Kulam, a large city in India. Mis’arbin Muhalhil who visited the place, says that he did not see either a temple or an idol there. When their king dies, the people of the place choose another from China.* There is no physician in India except in this city. The buildings are curious, for the pillars are covered with shells from the backs of fishes. The inhabitants do not eat fish, nor do they slaughter animals, but they eat carrion”; and he goes on to describe the pottery made there and contrasts it with Chinaware.” There are places here where the teak tree grows to a very great height exceeding even one hundred cubits.”

NOTEs: * Probably a mis-statement for Chera.

Marco Polo, the great Venetian traveller, had in 1275 A.D., gone to the court of Kublai Khan, had risen high in Chinese service, and visited Quilon and other places when he was a Chinese mandarin under him. Kublai must have had a good deal of diplomatic intercourse with Quilon. From the Chinese Annals, we learn that in 1282 A.D., some envoys from the king of Quilon landed at Zayton (T’swan-chau), the chief port of China at that time, with presents of various rarities, and that the king of Quilon was called Pinate (or Benate which represents the lord of Venad). The royal residence was called Apu’hota.

Marco Polo on his way home to Venice in the suite of the Princess Kokachin visited Quilon in 1293 A.D. He spent a long time in Malabar. He has given interesting descriptions of Quilon, Comorin and Malabar.

Of the kingdom of Quilon (Coilum) he says —

“When you quit Maabar* and go 500 miles towards the south-west you come to the kingdom of Coilum. The people are Idolaters, but there are also some Christians and some Jews. The natives have a language of their own, and a king of their own, and are tributary to no one. A great deal of brazil is got here, which is called brazil Coilumin from the country which produces it; it is of very fine quality. Good ginger also grows here, and it is known by the same name of Coilumin after the country. Pepper too grows in great abundance throughout this country, and I will tell you how. You must know that the pepper-trees are (not wild but) cultivated, being regularly planted and watered; and the pepper is gathered in the months of May, June and July. They have also abundance of very fine indigo**. This is made of a certain herb which is gathered, and (after the roots have been removed) is put into great vessels upon which they pour water and then leave it till the whole of the plant is decomposed.
NOTEs: * * 'Maabar was the name given by the Mahomedans in the 13th and 14th centuries to a tract corresponding in a general way to what we call the Coromandel Coast. The word in Arabic signifies the passage or ferry, and may have referred either to the communication with Ceylon, or, as is more probable, to its being in that age, the coast most frequented by travellers from Arabia and the Gulf". Yule's Marco Polo, Vol II Page 332. According to Abulfeda whose geography was completed about 1321 A.D. Cape Comerin was the point where Malabar ended and Maabar began. But Wassaf, an earlier writer, says that Maabar extended in length from Kaulam (Quilon) to Nilwar (Nellor).

** No indigo is made or exported at Quilon now, but still there is the export of sappan-wood, ginger and pepper.

They then put this liquid in the sun, which is tremendously hot here, so that it boils and coagulates, and becomes such as we see it. The merchants from Manzi (China), and from Arabia, and from the Levant come thither with their ships and their merchandise and make great profits both by what they import and by what they export. There are in this country many and diverse beasts quite different from those of other parts of the world. Thus there are lions black all over, with no mixture of any other colour; and there are parrots of many sorts, for some are white as snow with red beak and feet, and some are red, and some are blue, forming the most charming sight in the world; there are green ones too. There are also some parrots of exceeding small size, beautiful creatures. They have also very beautiful peacocks larger than ours, and different; and they have cocks and hens quite different from ours; and what more shall I say? In short, everything they have is different from ours, and finer and better.......

“Corn they have none but rice. So also their wine they make from (palm) sugar; capital drink it is and very speedily it makes a man drunk. All other necessaries of man’s life they have in great plenty and cheapness. They have very good astrologers and physicians. Man and woman — they are all black and go naked, all save a fine cloth worn about the middle. They look not on any sin of the flesh as a sin. They marry their cousins german, and a man takes his brother’s wife after the brother’s death; and all the people of India have this custom.”

This is his account of Comari or Comorin —

‘Comari is a country belonging to India, and there you can see something of the North Star which we had not been able to see from the Lesser Java thus far. In order to see it you must go some 30 miles out to sea, and then you see it about a cubit above the water. This is a very wild country, and there are beasts of all kinds there, especially monkeys of such peculiar fashion, that you would take them for men! There are also galpants (a kind of ape?) in wonderful diversity, with bears, lions, and leopards in abundance.’’


Of Melibar he says.

‘Melibar is a great kingdom lying towards the west. The people are idolaters; they have a language of their own and a king of their own and pay tribute to nobody.’

He then proceeds to describe the pirates of Melibar and of Gozurat, and their tactics in forming sea cordons with a large number of vessels each five or six miles apart, communicating news to each other by means of fire or smoke, thereby enabling all the corsairs to concentrate on the point where a prize was to be found. Then he goes on to describe the commerce:—

“There is in this kingdom a great quantity of pepper, and ginger, and cinnamon, and turbit, and of nuts of India. They also manufacture very delicate and beautiful buckrams. The ships that come from the east bring copper in ballast; They also bring hither cloths of silk and gold and sandels; also gold and silver, cloves and spikenard and other fine spices, for which there is a demand here, and exchange these for the products of these countries. Ships come hither from many quarters, but especially from the great province of Manzi. Coarse spices are exported hence both to Manzi and to the west and that which is carried by the merchants to Aden goes on to Alexandria, but the ships that go in the latter direction are not one to ten of those that go to the eastward; a very notable fact that I have mentioned before.”*

NOTEs: * Yule's Travels of Marco Polo Vol II Page 390

FRIAR JORDANUS OF SEVERAC. In 1324 A.D., Friar Jordanus of Severac came to Quilon and spent some years in mission work among the Nestorians. He was subsequently nominated Bishop of the See of Kaulam, latinised as Kolumbum. He is the first writer who gives an account of the Marumakkattayam law. The king of Quilon was a Nayar Lingayet and the commercial wealth of the port had made the kingdom powerful. Jordanus built St. George’s Church and established Christians at Quilon and other towns on the coast. In his Mirabilia Descriptia, Jordanus pays a noble tribute to the ruler of Malabar for their toleration and mildness and gives a favourable account of the character of the people. ‘The people’ he says, ‘are clean in their feeding, true in speech and eminent in justice, maintaining carefully the privileges of every man according to his degree, as they have come down from old times.’ He also speaks highly of the astrologers and physicians of Malabar. *

NOTEs: * Gasper Correa, the historian of Portuguese India, gives a story of a Kanian or astrologer living at Cannanore about three hundred or four hundred years before the arrival of the Portuguese "who had such a great reputation for astrology that his predictions were committed to writings, one of which related to the arrival of Europeans from the west, who would attain supermacy of India."

FRIAR ODORIC. Almost at the same time. Friar Odoric of Podrenore, a native of Bohemia, visited Malabar on his way to China. He reached Pandarani near Calicut, touched at Chaliat, Kodungalur and Quilon; in the last two places, he met several Jews. He mentions the great respect paid to the cow by the Hindus, as does Friar Jordanus too.

IBN BATUTA. A few years later, Quilon was visited by the great traveller Abu Abdulla Mahomed, better known as Ibn Batuta, the greatest traveller of the Arabian race. He left his native country Tangiers for a pilgrimage in the 725th year of the Hejira (1324-1325 A.D.). His coming to Quilon forms an interesting episode in the history of the time.

After passing through various parts of the world in 1332, he passed over from Afghanistan to the Court of Mahomed Tughlak at Delhi where he was made chief judge. About 1347 A.D an embassy came from China seeking permission to rebuild a Buddha temple in the Himalayas, much frequented by the Chinese pilgrims. Ibn Batuta was selected to answer the embassy and he with a large retinue started from Delhi. The party embarked in country ships in the Gulf of Cambay and landed at Calicut where he was the guest of the Zamorin. When they were about to start, a sudden storm arose, the ships were obliged to put out to sea and Ibn Batuta who was on shore was thus cut off from his ship. He then travelled by backwater to Quilon to reach the ships, but the storm destroyed them. Batuta was not willing to go to Delhi, so he stayed three years wandering in the Malabar cities. His account of Malabar covers 100 pages in a French translation. What was a loss to the Emperor’s embassy turned out to be a gain to the early history of Malabar, for he was a prolific writer of the places and things he visited. He describes Quilon as ‘one of the finest cities in Malabar with magnificent markets and very wealthy merchants’. The king was a person called Attrewery (Tiruvadi or Royal feet), ‘eminent for his strict and terrible justice’. Here is an interesting picture of criminal justice of the times. He writes —

“During my stay at Kaulam, a Persian archer, who was wealthy and influential, killed one of his comrades and then took refuge in the house of one Alawedji. The Mussulmans wanted to bury the dead body, but the officers of the king would not allow them to do so, until the murderer was seized and punished. The officers of the king took the dead body in a bier to the gate of Alawedji and left it there to rot. The smell soon compelled Alawedji to hand over the murderer to the officers of the king, who refused a large bribe offered by the Persian, and had him forthwith tried and executed. The body of the victim was then buried.”

This barbarous custom might perhaps have been introduced into Quilon from China where it appears to prevail even now, Quilon being then the port most frequented by Chinese ships. Calicut had already become a great rival of Quilon. The trade with the West, Arabia, Egypt, and Venice was absorbed by Calicut, while the trade with the East, Bengal and Malaccas remained with Quilon. The following is his description of Malabar:

“We next came into the country of Malabar which is the country of black pepper. Its length is a journey of two months along the shore from Sindabur to Kawlam. The whole of the way by land lies under the shade of trees and at the distance of every half mile there is a house made of wood in which there are chambers fitted up for the reception of comers and goers whether they be Moslems or infidels. To each of these there is a well, out of which they drink: and over each is an infidel appointed to give drink. To the infidels he supplies this in vessels; to the Moslems he pours it in their hands.

“They do not allow the Moslems to touch their vessels, or to enter into their apartments; but if any one should happen to eat out of one of their vessels, they break it to pieces. But in most of their districts the Mussalman merchants have houses and are greatly respected. So that Moslems who are strangers, whether they are merchants or poor may lodge among them. But at any town in which no Moslem resides, upon any one’s arriving they cook, and pour out drink for him, upon the leaf of the banana; and whatever he happens to leave is given to the dogs. And in all this space of two months’ journey, there is not a span free from cultivation. For everybody has here a garden, and his house is placed in the middle of it; and round the whole of this there is a fence of wood, up to which the ground of each inhabitant comes. No one travels in these parts upon beasts of burden; nor is there any horse found, except with the king who is therefore the only person who rides. When, however, any merchant has to sell or buy goods, they are carried upon the backs of men, who are always ready to do so (for hire).

“Every one of these men has a long staff, which is shod with iron at its extremity and at the top has a hook. When, therefore, he is tired with his burden, he sets up his staff in the earth like a pillar and places the burden upon it; and when he has rested, he again takes up his burden without the assistance of another. With one merchant you will see one or two hundred of these carriers, the merchant himself walking. But when the nobles pass from place to place, they ride in a dula made of wood, something like a box, and which is carried upon the shoulders of slaves and hirelings. They put a thief to death for stealing a single nut, or even a grain of seed of any fruit, hence thieves are unknown among them; and should anything fall from a tree, none except its proper owner, would attempt to touch it.

“In the country of Malabar are twelve kings, the greatest of whom has fifty thousand troops at his command; the least five thousand or thereabouts. That which separates the district of one king from that of another is a wooden gate upon which is written: ‘The gate of safety of such an one’. For, when any criminal escapes from the district of one king and gets safely into that of another, he is quite safe; so that no one has the least desire to take him so long as he remains there.

“Each of their kings succeeds to rule, as being sister’s son, not the son to the last. Their country is that from which black pepper is brought; and this is the far greater part of their produce and culture. The pepper tree resembles that of the dark grape. They plant it near that of the cocoanut, and make frame-work for it, just as they do for the grape tree. It has however, no tendrils, and the tree itself resembles a bunch of grapes. The leaves are like the ears of a horse; but some of them resemble the leaves of a bramble. When the autumn arrives, it is ripe; they then cut it, and spread it just as they do grapes, and thus it is dried by the sun. As to what some have said that they boil it in order to dry it, it is without foundation. I also saw in their country and on the sea-shores aloes, like the seed-aloe, sold by measure, just as meal and millet is.”


MARIGNOLLI OF FLORENCE, the Papal Legate, visited Quilon in 1347 A.D., on his way to Europe from China — Quilon which he called ‘the very noble city of Columbum where the whole world’s pepper is produced’. He lived for over a year at Quilon and preached in the Latin Church of St. George founded by Jordanus and got one hundred gold fanams every month as his tithe. There is still a Syrian Church of St. George at Quilon and a mosque. A vague tradition of extensive trade with China still survives. He gives a ravishing account of Malabar. Being an ambitious man, he wished that the people of Quilon should never forget his name. According to his own account,

“And after I had been there sometime, I went beyond the glory of Alexander the Great, when he set up his column. For I erected a stone as my landmark and memorial and anointed it with oil. In sooth, it was a marble pillar with a stone-cross on it, intended to last till the world’s end. And it had the Pope’s arms and my own engraved on it with inscriptions both in Indian and in Latin characters. I consecrated and blessed it in the presence of an infinite multitude of people and I was carried on the shoulders of the chiefs in a litter or palanquin like Solomon’s. So after a year and four months I took leave of the brethren.’

But though the monument lasted for several centuries being washed away by the sea only a few years ago, it did not serve to keep fresh the name of Marignolli. The inscriptions were destroyed by the climate and the sea-air. The pious Christians of Quilon, however, attributed the pillar to St. Thomas, the founder of their Church and revered it as a proof of the visit of the great Apostle of the Indies to the shores of Malabar.

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PART III (1400—1600 A.D)

State of South India

Before passing on to the history of the next century, it will be necessary to note the great events in South Indian history at this period. Reference has already been made to the supremacy of the Cholas, Pallavas, Western Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas of South India. About the end of the tenth century the Rashtrakutas were superseded by the Western Chalukyas under Tailappa II. The Hoysala Ballalas appeared in 1080 A.D., and took possession of the Kongu territoiies. How the Cholas revived under Kolottunga Chola and how the Pandyan capital was incorporated into its dominion in 1070 A.D, has already been stated.

In the first half of the twelfth century A.D., the Hoysala Ballalas of Halabid were the rising power in the south. Their king Vishnuvardhana took Talakad, the Ganga or Kongu capital, and brought that dynasty to a close.

“A few years later (A.D. 1182 or 1189) the suzerains of the Kongus — the Western Chalukya dynasty, came to an end in the reign of Somesvara Deva, the last king of that branch of the family, that territory being swallowed up by the Yadavas of Devagiri coming from the north, and by the Bijjala of Kulabhuriya Kula who was in turn supplanted by the Ballalas advancing from the south.”*

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol. 1. Page no. 282.

It was about this time that the Chola territories were invaded by the king of Ceylon on the south, apparently in aid of the Pandyas, and by the Warrangal dynasty in the north. The Ballalas took Canara in their movement southward and they called this country Kerala; but it does not appear that they had anything to do with Kerala Proper or Malabar.

In the beginning of the fourteenth century, Southern India was convulsed by a Mahomedan invasion from the north under Malik Kafur (1310 A.D.). Mr. Logan says, “It has sometimes been supposed that the Malabar Coast fell in common with the rest of the Peninsula before the Mahomedans at this time; but there is nothing to show that this was the case and the name applied at this time by Marco Polo (1293 A.D.) and by Ibn Batuta (1342 — 1347 A.D.) to the eastern portion of the peninsula — namely, Maabar, probably gave rise to the idea.” Both Chola and Pandya kingdoms, however, succumbed to the Mahomedans, but Kerala escaped probably owing its immunity from invasion to its dense forests and mountain fastnesses.

With the founding of the Vijayanagar dynasty in 1336 A.D., a new political influence appeared in the south. Before the century expired, the kingdom of Vijayangar had extended itself to the whole of the Peninsula. The establishment of the Bahmani kingdom and its contests with Vijayanagar and the final supremacy of the latter do not concern us here. It may be noted here that “the Mahomedans continued their raids into Southern India during the fourteenth century, and in 1374, in one of these under Mujabid Shah of the Bahmani dynasty, they came as far south as Ramesvaram, but the rapid rise and extension of the Vijayanagar Raj in the last half of the century put an end for a time to these Mahomedan raids into the south.”

Even in Malabar, which was free from such expeditions, Mahomedan influence was on the increase and it is not improbable that owing to this circumstance the influence of the Zamorin was in the ascendant at the end of the fourteenth century as he was in close touch with the Mahomedan merchants of Calicut, a port which attracted considerable trade by the safety and facility it gave.


According to Mr. Logan,

“One of the first effects of this Mahomedan alliance seems to have been that the trading rivals of the Mahomedans, the Chinese merchants whose fleets Ibn Batuta so graphically describes, received some bad usage at the Zamorin’s hands, and deserted Calicut and the Malabar coast generally after undertaking an expedition of revenge in which they inflicted no small slaughter on the people of Calicut. This happened, Colonel Yule thinks, about the beginning of the fifteenth century.”*

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol. 1. Page no. 294.

Internal History

From 1444 to 1680 A.D, all that we have in the shape of history is but a list of names of kings and their dates.


The inscriptions no doubt give some more information but of a meagre kind. But there is a difficulty about the names of some of the kings. Two or more kings of the same dynasty are mentioned as ruling at the same time. It may be that both were independent chiefs ruling over small tracts. Or it may be that the senior associated the junior with him in governmental affairs e. g., we find the Mogul Emperors appointing their sons governors of provinces. Or again it may be that one of them is the reigning sovereign while the other is only a member of the family making certain gifts under his sanction.

Mention has already been made of Sri Vira Ravi Ravi Varma, the Senior Tiruvadi of Tiruppapur,* who ruled in Venad in 592 M. B. (1416— 1417 A.D.).

NOTEs: * Tiruppapur is a village ten miles north of Trivandrum from which the Travancore kings take their title 'Tiruppapur Swarupam'. From a religious point of view this is an importent place as the Travancore Maharajahs have to go there and worship at the temple at the time of their coronation ceremonies.

The next ruler we meet with is SRI VIRA RAMA MARTANDA VARMA KULASEKHARA. A Vattezhuttu inscription at Tirunavaykulam in the Taluk of Chirayinkil records that in 614 M.E (1439 A.D), Sri Vira Rama Martanda Varma Kulasekhara of Kilapperur, the Senior Tiruvadi of Venad, constructed a granite temple of fine workmanship with the mantapam and the inner shrine roofed with copper plates. In connection with this, the temple chronicles of Sri Padmanabhaswamy state that Sri Vira Rama Martanda ruled over Venad till the 21st Kanni 644 M.E (1468 A.D), and two writs were issued by him concerning the temple arrangements, one on the 19th Dhanu 634 M. E. (1459 A. D) and the other on the 20th Makaram 636 M.E (1461 A.D). On the 21st Kanni 644 M.E (1468 A.D.), this Rama Martanda Varma Kulasekhara Perumal of Jayasimhanad made a gift of 13,000 fanams to cover the cost of making a golden elephant and 360 fanams for four silver pots for Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in order to expiate the sin committed by him during the war against Jayasimhanad. The chief against whom this war was made cannot now be identified.

Another Prince CHEMPAKA ADITYA VARMA, the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy, is also mentioned as a ruling king of the period. On the 20th Edavam 630 M.E (1455 A.D.), he consecrated an image of Gangadhara in the Krishnancoil at Vatasseri. It looks strange that a Siva image should be put into a Vaishnava temple. This Aditya Varma and Rama Martanda Varma Kulasekhara Perumal might have been co-kings, i e,, members of the same family in charge of different portions of the country, ruling on behalf of the head of the family and under his authority. It is equally probable that Venad and Jayasimhanad which became one kingdom in the reigns of Ravi Varma Kulasekhara and his successors were again separated into two kingdoms ruled respectively by Martanda Varma and Aditya Varma who according to the inscriptions belong to the Tiruppapur (Jayasimhanad) and Siraivoy (Attungal) or Venad dynasties respectively.

At that period there was also one queen of the Kupaka family who was known by the name of Kulasekhara Nambirattiyar. The temple of Kariyamanikka Vinnavar Emperumal at the village of Idaraikudi in the Taluq of Agastisvaram was constructed by this queen with an additional sopanam and mantapam. This work was completed and consecrated by her on the 30th Medam 643 M.E (May 1468 A.D.). This temple was probably founded by a Pandyan or other foreign king Kariyamanikka and named after himself.

The next Prince of whom the epigraphical records give some information is Sri Vira Rama Varma alias Chempaka Rama Varma of Jayasimhanad, the Senior Tiruvadi of Tiruppapur. An inscription in the temple of Suchindram records certain gifts made by this king for the performance of daily pujas in that temple. From this inscription we learn that the reign of Sri Vira Rama Varma commenced even before 1468 A.D. , that the market rates of the goods and aromatics mentioned in it were only one-seventh of the present rates and that the measurements of the lands and grains were then the same as they were at the time of his predecessors.

There was on the 1st of Kumbhom 647 M.E, (1472 A.D). a king by the name of Sri Vira Kodai Aditya Varma of Kilapperur, Jayasimhanad, the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy according to the temple chronicles of Sri Padmanabhaswamy. But beyond this bare fact nothing could be ascertained except that he might have been one of the co-regents at the time. There is an inscription to prove that Aditya Varma, the Senior Tiruvadi of Jayasimhanad, as well as his younger brother named Rama Varma, the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy, reigned on the 14th Kumbhom 659 M.E (1484 A.D.). This latter may be identical with Sri Vira Kodai Aditya Varma who flourished in Venad in 1472 A.D. But he is mentioned in the temple chronicles as the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy while Aditya Varma of 1484 A.D., is clearly referred to in the inscription as the Senior Tiruvadi of Jayasimhanad, Kilapperur. On this basis the reign of Sri Vira Kodai Aditya Varma may be taken as having lasted up to the year 1484 A.D. His younger brother
Rama Varma was probably his co-regent under the title of the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy.

SRI VIRA RAVI RAVI VARMA, the Senior Tiruvadi of Tiruppapur, ruled over Venad for a period of thirty-two years from 654 to 686 M.E (1479-1512 A.D.) for the first five years of which he ruled probably as co-regent. The temple chronicle records that on the 3rd Karkadagam 673 M.E (1498 A.D.), Sri Vira Ravi Ravi Varma made a gift of twelve silver pots and granite images as an atonement for sin committed in a fight which took place at the northern entrance of Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, and that he granted some lands adjoining the tank of Viranarayanaseri to the aggrieved parties. It states also that on the 24th Medam 675 M.E (1500 A.D.), he gave 5,000 fanams as garvakkattu together with a silver vessel to the temple of Sri Padmanabhaswamy to expiate the sin of having destroyed several villages at that time. Ravi Varma having killed several people during the fights that took place in the year 682 M.E, (1507 A.D.) made another gift of twenty-seven silver vessels to the same temple together with the grant of lands at Vembanur, Kaladi and Kappukal. It appears from these gifts that at this period several small battles were fought between the years 673 and 682 M.E (1498-1507 A.D.) during which many people were killed. The inscriptions also make mention of several princes at the time. Of these Aditya Varma and Udaya Martanda Varma were reigning sovereigns. Jayasimha Deva (afterwards Jaya-simha II )and Sakalakalai (Sarvanganatha) Martanda Varma were probably their co-regents.


There is also evidence to show that at this lime some other princes also ruled over small bits of territories showing divided authority and internal dissensions in the ruling family.

Of the above-mentioned co-regents, Jayasimha Deva II reigned in Venad in the year 661 M.E (1486 A.D.), and Sakalakalai Martanda Varma about 670 M.E (1495 A.D.). The latter established a temple of Vinayakar at the village of Marungur in Agastisvaram Taluq after his own name. His coat of arms consisted of three swords, a drum, a bow and an arrow, all of which formed his escutcheon; that of Jayasimha II consisted of the divine thunderbolt after the manner of Indra’s Vajrayudham, an umbrella, a chowri, a flag and one Purnakumbham. The same ensigns, were used by the kings of Jayasimhanad even at the commencement of the second quarter of the sixteenth century A.D. Of Jayasimha II, we gather the following information from the pillar inscription of Parasurama Perunteru in Kottar. On the 1st Chittrai 661 M.E, (1486 A.D.) the crowned king of the Chera family by name Jayasimha Devar came on tour to Vatasseri in South Travancore.

The Brahmins, the Pillamars and the other superior sections of the community looked down upon the inhabitants of Parasurama Perunteru who earned their bread by dyeing clothes and who had come from distant lands and colonised the said Perunteru. They further kept them aloof saying that they were of low origin and that they belonged to the left hand caste of the community.

They were subjected to further hardships by being prevented from paying their respects to the king except through themselves, and that they should not worship the village gods as the high class people did, that they should readily submit to pay any kind of tax levied upon them and that, if any of these rules were infringed, they would be subjected to corporal punishment and forbidden from living even in their own village or from using the village wells. The poor people took advantage of the Royal presence in their midst and prayed for redress of their grievances. The king Jayasimha Deva was pleased to grant them audience and after hearing them issued orders to the following effect: —

(1) That if they had any grievances to be redressed they might appear before the king and acquaint him of the same whenever he came in procession on his elephant;

(2) That they need pay no other tax than that for the maintenance of the navy, viz. Kappalvari Image and that of the army, viz., padai panam Image.

(3)That the superior classes (including the right hand castes) should not interfere with their religious worship, with the celebration of their festivals, nor with the use of the necessary flags and other appendages within certain limits exclusively set apart for their use;

(4) That no injustice should be done to them;

(5) That they should be allowed free use of the public wells and tanks;

(6) And that any interference on the part of the Brahmins, Pillamars and other superior sections of the community with the affairs of the left hand caste would meet with Royal displeasure and be punished accordingly.

It may be pointed out here that the king’s order to allow these low born subjects of the left hand castes to approach him whenever he came in procession on an elephant is based on the old orthodox belief that the presence of an elephant purifies a crowd and no pollution ensues by the approach of low castes then. We may add that this feeling of tolerance is characteristic of the Maharajahs of Travancore though sufficient credit was not always given them for it in later times. Needless to state that this humane order allowing full privileges to the people of low castes for using public wells and tanks, and dispensing justice to them all impartially and prohibiting the Brahmins, Pillamars and other high castes from molesting them under pains and penalties, reflects great credit on the early sovereigns of Travancore who ruled five centuries before our time and shows in them possession of rare tact and talent for conciliating conflicting interests.


Accounts of Travellers for the period

It may be of some interest to refer to the accounts given by the various travellers who visited the coast in the fifteenth century, which give a general idea of some of the sea-coast towns, their rulers and population.

MAHUAN visited the coast in 1409 A.D. He writes of Cochin thus: —

‘The king or ruler is of the solar race and is a sincere believer of Buddhism and has the greatest reverence for elephants and oxen and every morning at daylight presents himself before an image of Buddha. The king wears no clothing on the upper part of his person; he has simply a square of silk wound round his loins kept in place by a cloured waist band of the same material and on his head a turban of yellow or white cotton cloth. The houses are built of the wood of the cocoanut tree and are thatched with its leaves. There are five classes of men. The Nayars rank with the king. In the first class are those who shave their beards and have a thread or string over their shoulders. These are looked upon as belonging to the noblest families.* ‘In the second are Mahomedans, the third the Chetties who are the capitalists; in the fourth Kolings who act as commission agents, the fifth the Mukuvas#, the lowest and poorest of all. The merchants of the country carry on their business as pedlars do in China. All trading transactions are carried on by the Chetties who buy and sell pepper to foreign ships and buy and collect precious stones and other costly wares.

NOTEs: * This probably refers to the Brahmins

# The fishermen on the sea-coast

The coinage of the country is a gold piece called a fanam; there is also a little silver coin called a taurha (worth half a penny) — fifteen taurha make one fanam. There are no asses or geese in the country, neither wheat nor barley; rice, maize, hemp and millet abound.”*

NOTEs: * Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for April 1896

NICOLO CONTI, a Venetian noble, also visited Malabar in the earlier part of the fifteenth century. He says that after having quitted Java he bent his course westward to a maritime city called Ciampa which journey occupied him one month, and departing thence he in a like space of time reached Coleon (Quilon), ‘a noble city the circumference of which is twelve miles”. The province he calls Melibaria (Malabar), where ginger, pepper, brazil wood and cinnamon are collected. He accurately describes the jack tree, which he calls cachi. ‘’A tree grows here in great abundance, the trunk of which produces fruit resembling the pine-apple, but so large as to be lifted with difficulty by one man; the rind is green and hard, but yields nevertheless to the pressure of the finger. Within are from two hundred to three hundred apples resembling figs, very sweet to the taste, and which are separated from each other by follicles The fruit of this tree is sometimes found under the earth in its root; these excel the others in flavour and for this reason it is the custom to set these apart for royal use”. He also describes the mango under the name of amba (Sans. Amra).

ABD-ER-RAZZAK visited Malabar in 1442 A.D. From him we learn that the Chinese influence on the Malabar Coast had then declined completely and that the whole trade was in the hands of the Mahomedans from the west. He gives a very interesting account of his sojourn at Calicut, which he describes as a “perfectly safe harbour’. He bears testimony also to the excellence of the Zamorin’s rule which may be taken as the type of administration then in vogue on the coast generally.

“Security and justice are so firmly established in this city that the most wealthy merchants bring thither from maritime countries considerable cargoes, which they unload, and unhesitatingly send into the markets and the bazaars, without thinking in the meantime of any necessity of checking the accounts or of keeping watch over the goods. The officers of the custom-house take upon themselves the charge of looking after the merchandise, over which they keep watch day and night. When a sale is effected, they levy a duty on the goods of one-fortieth part; if they are not sold, they make no charge on them whatever.”

Of the people he says: —

“The blacks of this country have the body nearly naked. In one hand they hold an Indian poignard which has the brilliance of a drop of water, and in the other a buckle of ox hide, which might be taken for a piece of mist. This custom is common to the king and to the beggar. As to the Mussalmans, they dress themselves in magnificent apparel after the manner of the Arabs, and manifest luxury in every particular. The sovereign of this city bears the title of Sameri. When he dies, it is his sister’s son who succeeds him, and his inheritance does not belong to his son, or his brother, or any other of his relations. No one reaches the throne by means of the strong hand.”*

NOTEs: * Major's India in the Fifteenth Century, - Journey of Abd-er-Razzak, Page 17


The Portuguese in Malabar and Travancore

It was in 1497 A.D., that King Emmanuel of Portugal fitted out three vessels on an expedition to find a route for India. The little fleet left Lisbon harbour under Da Gama on the 8th July. After various vicissitudes of fortune the vessels reached Calicut on the 28th May 1498. Gama soon after sent a message to the Zamorin announcing his arrival as an Ambassador from the king of Portugal with a letter and presents.

The traders from Egypt and Arabia who till this time completely monopolised the commerce of the coast viewed the advent of the interlopers with extreme jealousy. They were able to convince the Zamorin, his ministers and chief men of the place that the Portuguese were pirates and not the peaceful merchants they appeared to be. The result was that though Gama had landed his goods and the Zamorin gave him a house, the factor placed in charge of the house could neither sell nor buy and was soon treated as a prisoner. Gama in return seized some fishermen. The king’s officers when they heard of this released the factor. But Gama did not free all the fishermen as he wanted to carry some of them to Portugal.

This proceeding confirmed the natives in their suspicion that the foreigners were pirates and slave traders. The alarm spread along the whole coast and Vasco da Gama found that the country was against him. He left Calicut with his ships and returned to Portugal after an absence of twenty-six months, on the 29th August 1499. The king of Portugal immediately sent another expedition under Cabral with thirteen ships and twelve hundred men.

Cabral reached Calicut on the 13th of September 1500 A.D., with six ships. The Zamorin now became more friendly to the Portuguese and gave them a house at Calicut, where a factor was placed with goods and money under the protection of sixty chosen Portuguese.

But the Portuguese were not successful in trade, as their old enemies the Moors had persuaded the people not to sell them any goods. The Portuguese admiral was in a rage and in a fit of passion ordered the capture of a Moorish vessel and transferred the cargo to his own ship and set the enemy’s ship on fire. The Moors were not prepared to put up with such violence and an attack was immediately made on the factory which was plundered, fifty men being killed. The Portuguese burned fifty native ships that were lying in the harbour and cannonaded the city of Calicut for two days. They then returned southward to Cochin whose Rajah had a special feud against the Zamorin and was therefore anxious for the friendship of the powerful strangers. The Rajah concluded a treaty with the Portuguese, supplied them with cargoes and permitted them to build a fort within his territory.

The ruler of Quilon in 1501 A.D, sent a deputation to Cabral at Cochin inviting him to visit Quilon, and promising to supply him with pepper and spices at a cheaper rate than he could obtain at Cochin. But the offer was politely declined. Soon after, Cabral returned to Lisbon.

The disasters of Cabral did not in the least discourage the King of Portugal. He was ambitious of founding an oriental empire and, having obtained a bull from the Pope conferring on him the sovereignty of all the countries visited by his fleets in the East, he assumed the title of “Lord of the Navigation, Conquest and Commerce of Ethiopia, Persia, Arabia and India”, and fitted out a third expedition under Gama with fifteen vessels. Gama arrived at Calicut and demanded reparation for the insult offered to Cabral, which being refused, he set the town on fire. He then proceeded to the friendly port of Cochin.

The King of Cochin realised much profit by his trade with the Portuguese. Gama treated him with much liberality. When the Queen of Quilon heard of these, she sent a message to Gama, as she had pepper enough to load twenty ships each year, requesting him to send two of his largest ships to her port which she promised to load with pepper on the same terms as he had already established at Cochin. Vasco da Gama replied that as he had promised the King of Cochin not to do anything in that country in the matter of trade without his leave and good pleasure, she could better inform the King of Cochin of the matter. The Queen immediately sent a message to the King who, thinking that as the Portuguese could obtain all the pepper they required from Cochin, they would not trouble to send ships to Quilon, gave his assent and communicated it also to Gama.

‘’Two ships were sent to Quilon and they were taken to a river called Callecoulam (Kayangulam) which was five leagues south from the port (Cochin), were filled up in ten days and returned to Cochin loaded with pepper and spices. Besides, the Queen sent a present to Vasco da Gama (Captain Major) of several silk stuffs of various colours which were made in the country, and very fine white stuffs of very great worth”.

Gama left Pacheco at Cochin with a handful of men to protect the Portuguese factories and unaccountably set sail for Europe.

On the departure of Gama the Zamorin of Calicut invaded Cochin for having harboured the Portuguese, but Pacheco with his comrades was able to defeat him severely thus demonstrating for the first time the superiority of European over Asiatic soldiers. Da Gama was succeeded by Albuquerque (Afonso Dalboquerque) who arrived at Calicut in September 1508. The first European fort in India was built at Cochin and christened Emmanuel after the name of the sovereign of Portugal.


Albuquerque lands at Quilon

The trade in Quilon at that time was even more extensive than that of Cannanore and Cochin, and vessels laden with rich merchandise daily came from Ceylon, Bengal and Malacca. The state of Quilon at this time is thus described:—

‘At the time when Afonso Dalboquerque arrived at Coulao, it was a very large city, peopled with heathens, with not a single moor in it, nor any foreigner except the brother of Cherinamercar of Cochin, who had gone thither just lately to reside. This city was a great seaport of merchants, and anciently had in it many merchants stopping there from all parts of India, principally from Malacca. And as it was a port sheltered from the wind on every side, the ships which go to India, as well as those which passed the island of Ceilao (Ceylon) and Chale (Kayal?) made their entrepot there. In those days the island of Ceilao was subject to it, and paid tribute to it, and it possessed all the land from Coulao to Chale, which is about sixty leagues, and the distance from Caulao to the island of Ceilao is eighty leagues. The King of Coulao was a very honest man, and very gallant, and in the war which he carried on with the King of Narasinga, who had many soldiers, both horse and foot, he attacked him with sixty thousand archers and overcame him. Besides the Nambeadarim, who was the chief governor of the land, there were in the city thirty-six principal men who governed it, so that it was the best ruled city at that time in those parts.” *

NOTEs: * Commentaries of Alfonso Alburquerque, Vol. 1, Page 11

Albuquerque soon after started from Cochin and arrived near Quilon, and when the sea became calm he ordered a few of his crew to go ashore to see what they could discover. On landing they were received by about four hundred men on the beach lost in admiration of the boat in which they arrived and its contents. The following account as told by Eupoli, one of the crew thus sent, of their doings at Quilon is interesting and may be quoted here —

“As soon as we were near enough, we gave them to understand by means of our interpreter that we were Christians, the which they sooner heard than they gave evident signs of the greatest satisfaction; at the same time intimating that they also were Christians, having been so from the time of St. Thomas; they were in number near three thousand souls. They showed us a church, which they had built after our form, but of an indifferent architecture, ornamented with saints and a cross and called Santa Maria; and in the neighbourhood of the church dwelt these people, who call themselves Nazarenes.

“We were then presented to the king, Nambiadora, who received us with great kindness and urbanity; and having asked him if we could be supplied with spices, he answered that in twenty days he would engage to load us with every kind of spice we could wish. We returned on board with the agreeable information, and immediately set about careening ships; as soon as that was finished, we took in our lading complete, of most excellent spices, which were in such abundance, that we could not take the whole of what was offered us.

“As we now began to think of departing, a meeting betwixt the king and the captain was resolved on, and upon the day fixed, the captain ordered out six boats armed and elegantly decorated with velvet at the stern, Jack and flags flying, himself dressed in gold brocade, with gold-chains and other ornaments in honour of his sovereign; the crews were dressed also in form. The whole being arranged, were ordered to lay close in with the beach and wait the coming of the king. In an hour the king came down, attended by an innumerable concourse of people, all marshalled in procession, according to their several degrees; the whole closing with the king, seated cross-legged on an ivory chair, and carried by four Brahmins. The king was dressed in silk embroidered, with an upper robe of gold muslin; he wore rings of a considerable value, and had on his head a crimson velvet cap highly ornamented with jewels, and long chains of pearls and brilliants hanging from the top of the cap, with his hair flowing loose upon his shoulders. There were a number of elephants, and Persian horses followed in the train, which made an elegant appearance.

“A number of various war-like instruments joined in the procession, playing as they passed. Soon as they arrived opposite to where the boats lay, they made a halt; immediately the captain made the signal for a salute from the ships, the band playing all the time: he then was rowed to the shore, to have the honour of kissing the king’s hand. The king perceiving this, ordered all his people to retire some distance in order to convince the Portuguese of the confidence he had in the captain by meeting him alone. Compliments being paid and the ceremony being gone through, the following compact was mutually entered into by each party: that the king should annually grant to the Portuguese all the spices which his territory produced, which we agreed to take at prices stipulated, paying for the same in goods at regulated prices. We also requested that whoever was left as agent for the king of Portugal, should have the right of punishing or trying any of his Portuguese Majesty’s subjects who should remain on the land. This the king granted, though with reluctance, considering it as an interference with his juridical right. The whole being transcribed in silver letters, was properly signed and sealed; and thus the matter was concluded. The natives being desirous of seeing our priests, we landed the two friars, and had mass solemnly performed in their church, with a sermon preached afterwards and explained to the people by the interpreter”.*

NOTEs: * Collection of Early Voyages, Vol 1, Book iii - Voyages of Albuquerque

Albuquerque, after establishing a commercial depot and factory at Quilon with a small staff and after loading his ships with pepper, sailed for Cochin on the 12th January 1504 A.D. It has to be mentioned here that the Moorish merchants of the land were greatly averse to this new friendship between the Portuguese and the king of Quilon they spread all sorts of rumours about the Portuguese and strongly dissuaded the people from having any dealings with them. The Zamorin of Calicut also as soon as he heard of this, sent his ambassadors to the king of Quilon saying that “he must beware of what he was about, for the Portuguese were a very bad race, and if he admitted them into his land, they would rise up against him,” and added that this was the chief reason which had induced him to insist so strongly upon driving them out of India. He also sent large presents to the governors of the land begging them to influence the king against giving cargo to the Portuguese or receiving them in his port.

But all these availed nothing, “for the king of Coulao was a man of such truthfulness that in spite of all these arguments which the Camorim advanced, he kept his word and established his friendship with Afonao Dalboquerque. And he answered the Camorim that he had received no injury or insult from the Portuguese, but rather was convinced that they were men of their word and unless it was their own fault, he would not withdraw from what he had agreed upon.” # Evidently the Zamorin was not pleased with this reply and was very much annoyed at his inability to destroy the king of Quilon and hinder the Portuguese from carrying on the pepper trade.

NOTEs: # Commentaries of Alfonso Alburquerque Vol 1, Page 10

In 1505 A. D., Albuquerque was recalled and Almeyda was sent out to India with the grand title of “Viceroy of India” though the king of Portugal did not possess a foot of land in it; Almeyda had special instructions for the erection of forts at Anjediva, Cannanore, Cochin and Quilon. The fleet of Francisco D’almeyda reached Anjediva about September 1505.


Almeyda and Quilon

Almeyda deputed captain Homem to go to Quilon on behalf of the Portuguese company to fetch cargo. When he met the foreign agent at Quilon, the latter told him that he was not sure if he could get pepper that time, for certain Arab merchants had already filled their boats with pepper. Captain Homem emboldened by the previous order of the king giving him permission to load his ships with cargo, at once sent his veterans to seize the masts and rudders of the Arab vessels. They did so and the rudders etc. were taken to the Portuguese house and lodged there.

The Arab merchants of Quilon smarting under the wanton insult offered to them by the Portuguese captain, combined together and went in a body to the ministers of the Rajah and represented their grievances. The chief ministers of the State at once went to the Portuguese house and asked Antonio De Sa, the keeper of the house, to return the things the captain had wrested from the Arabs. De Sa, though naturally of a modest and quiet temperament, had now become emboldened after the arrival of Almeyda. He insulted the ministers and refused to return the goods.

Thence a fight ensued between De Sa supported by a few of his followers and the Nayars and Jonakas of the place. Each party used swords and other weapons, and at last the Portuguese escaped to a Bhagavati temple which was surrounded on all sides by the Nayars and set fire to. Thirteen were burnt alive that day. When the Viceroy who had just then reached Cochin with large force heard of the disaster, he at once deprived Homem of his command and appointed his son Lorenzo in his place. Lorenzo landed at Quilon and destroyed twenty-seven boats in the harbour and went straight to seize the Arab vessels. But on account of the force of the current his ships were driven to the shores of Ceylon. Lorenzo spent the winter there and started to Portugal. He then heard that there were some of the Jonakas who joined the Quilon revolt at Vizhinjam. On landing there he destroyed their vessels and blocked the Moplah trade from Cape Comorin to Cannanore. The town itself was sacked and mercilessly burnt.
Almeyda was in his turn superseded by Albuquerque who on his arrival in India attacked his old enemy the Zamorin of Calicut but lost a fourth of his force in the attempt. He came to the conclusion that instead of these desultory wars in which the Portuguese had been hitherto engaged it would be more profitable to get a permanent footing on the coast in some place which would afford a safe shelter for their ships and become the centre of their influence. He pitched upon Goa on the coast of Canara for this purpose. In the midst of his triumphs he was in 1515 A. D, superseded by the intrigues at the court, and he died broken-hearted in December 1519, at the age of sixty-three just when he was leaving the port of Goa to his native land.

The Portuguese Viceroy Soarez concluded a treaty of peace dated 25th September 1516 A.D., with the Queen of Quilon and with the governors of the land under which the latter agreed to rebuild at their own expense, in the same style and in the same place as before, the church of St. Thomas which had been destroyed when the factor was killed. They also agreed to favour and protect the Christians as formerly, to pay five hundred bahars (candies) of pepper in three yearly instalments commencing with the then current year 1516 A.D., to let the Portuguese have all the pepper and other spices they might require at the same prices as they could obtain them at Cochin, and not to export any drugs or spices without the knowledge of the Portuguese. In case of war with common enemies each party agreed to assist the other; no ships from Quilon were to enter the Straits of Aden beyond Cape Guardafui, unless in the service of the Portuguese, and any of the Queen’s subjects whether native or Moor who might desire to become Christians were to be at full liberty to do so. *

NOTEs: * The Portuguese in India - Danvers. Vol. 1. Page 336.

The special mention of the ‘Governors of the land’ as parties to the treaty by the Portuguese with the Queen of Quilon, probably refers to the semi-independent chiefs of the neighbourhood under the nominal suzerainty of the Queen of Quilon, or the Ettuvittil Pillamars who acquired such enormous power and influence in the next century.


Factory and Fort at Quilon

Heytor Rodriguez was then appointed captain and he landed at Quilon on the 1st February 1517 A.D. He paid a visit to the Queen and the ministers with suitable presents, and asked them for the balance of pepper due to the Portuguese. The Queen and the ministers promised to supply the same. But there was great delay.

The Queen addressed him by his name and spoke to him as follows: — “We are going to invade our neighbouring kingdom of Travancore for which we start to-morrow. As we are now greatly pressed for money, please do not ask us about the church endowments now. As the clerks and Nayars are all accompanying me everything has to be settled in my presence only after our return from victory. Please therefore do not ask me about them before I return.”

The captain was satisfied and requested that he might be allowed to build a house to give them safe shelter. This request was a take-in on his part made at the instance of his master, Soarez, who had ordered him to pitch upon a convenient spot for building a small fortress. After fixing upon a suitable place he at once commenced work. On hearing of this the Jonaka Moplahs became very apprehensive and complained to the Queen that the place had been selected not for building a house but for building a fortress. The captain bought over the Queen’s ministers to his side who helped the Portuguese in the selection of a site with abundance of good water, and a small building was soon completed. The Moplahs spread all sorts of rumours to the effect that the Governor Soarez was killed in an encounter near Humes (Gogala, called by the Portuguese Villa dos Rumes), that the Mahomedans had started for the capture of Goa and so on. The captain hearing of this, gave strict orders to his men not to get involved in any quarrel, or fight. News, however, soon arrived that Soarez was returning victorious and that the attempt of the Mahomedans to capture Goa proved futile. The captain was much gratified, and by his tact and care was able to conduct himself to the Queen’s entire satisfaction.

Soarez thought that a factory alone at Quilon was insufficient and that a fort was indispensable. Ho deputed Rodriguez to go to the Queen and the chief minister with presents to the value of four thousand Cochin fanams. The Queen was delighted and accepted the money and presents. Rodriguez interviewed the three great officers of the country, namely Ummini Pillay, Bala Pillay and Kuruppu, and having made himself sure of their friendship broached to them the idea of the fort and they promised to assist him. The work was soon begun. But this enraged not only the Moplahs, but also the junior Princes and Princesses. These latter tried to prevent the fortification work, but they were soon pacified and an open revolt was averted. Yet the Princes were not satisfied on the day when Rodriguez with twenty-seven of his people laid the foundation stone, about two thousand Nayars collected there and tried to oppose them. But Rodriguez not minding raised one wall and apprehending a fight the next day mounted two of his big guns. The sight of these guns frightened the Nayars and they retreated; the Moplahs too lost courage and looked on. The work of building the fort was vigorously pushed on even in the rainy season, and the whole fortress was completed by September 1519 A.D., and christened Fort Thomas.

“The Queen indifferent to the feelings of her own people, encouraged Rodriguez in the building of the fort and rendered him all possible assistance. As a Portuguese author quoted by Elphinstone in a foot note to his Rise of the British Power in India observed — “The fort of Quilon was afterwards razed by the same hand that built it, after having cost many lives, all the effect of the ill usage of the Portuguese towards the natives from their unlimited pride and boundless avarice.”


Siege of the Quilon Fort

The captain never asked for the balance of pepper due while the fortress work was in progress, but as soon as it was completed, he reminded the Queen of the balance due to him. The Queen was much put out at this inconvenient demand. She never thought that she would be asked to pay this after she had given permission to build the fort. On the captain’s insisting upon payment, she thought of taking the fort. At her instigation the young Prince Martanda Tiruvadi began to annoy the captain in several ways. The captain complained to the Queen but without effect. He was enraged and immediately prepared for war against the Queen and her subjects with the three chief officers above referred to for his assistance. Relying on their false promises he began preparations for the struggle. But they at last with a large force laid siege to the fort and took it without much difficulty. The first who took the offensive was Bala Pillay who with 1,500 Nayars started to the front of the main gates while from the back side all the Moplahs scaled the fort walls. The Nayars as soon as they entered the fort imprisoned all the Christians, the blacksmiths, the masons and others who were engaged in the building of the fort. A fight ensued at the end of which the Quilon troops sustained severe loss from the guns of the Portuguese. All the Europeans within the fort had to starve for want of food and many actually died of hunger and disease. On these news reaching Cochin, the Governor sent his nephew with a consignment of provisions and a small band of veteran soldiers. They reached Quilon speedily and saved the lives of the survivors within the fort. This happened in August 1520 A.D.

The Queen of Quilon then sent a letter of apology to the Governor at Cochin and an amicable settlement was effected between the two parties. By this treaty dated 17th November 1520 A. D., it was stipulated that the pepper still due under the treaty of 1516 should be paid at once, that all pepper in the land should be sold to the King of Portugal and to no one else, that all ships arriving at that port (not being enemies’ ships or laden with pepper) should be allowed free access and be well received, and that the captain of the fort should grant all reasonable assistance the Queen might require.

State of the Country and condition of the People

At this time trade was prosperous and the people throve. Ludovica di Varthema who visited Malabar in 1505 A.D., describes the extensive trade that was going on and speaks highly of the protection afforded by the native kings to their subjects, particularly the great security to person and property which they enjoyed. He praises the administration of justice and the probity of the merchants. Duarte Barbosa who visited the coast about 1514 A.D., bears similar testimony to the good administration of India especially in regard to justice in olden times.

From Calicut, VARTHEMA travelled by a river, “the most beautiful he has ever seen”, and arrived at Cacolon (Kayangulam) distant from Calicut by fifty leagues. The river is evidently the continuous water communication formed by the rivers and backwaters and estuaries and running parallel to the coast from Ponnani as far as Quilon. “The king of Cacolon is a pagan and is not very rich and follows Calicut in his manner of living, dress and customs. A good deal of pepper grows in their country. There are some Christians of St. Thomas here, who say that a priest comes there every three years to baptise them.” After leaving Cacolon, he came to Colon (Quilon) distant twenty miles.

“The king of this city is a Pagon and extremely powerful, and he has 120,000 horsemen, and many archers, and is constantly at war with other kings. This country has a good port near to the sea-coast. No grain grows here, but fruits, as at Calicut, and pepper in great quantities. The colour of the people, their dress, manner of living, and customs, are the same as at Calicut. At that time, the king of this city was the friend of the king of Portugal, but being at war with others, it did not appear to us well to remain here. Wherefore, we took our way by sea, aforesaid, and went to a city which is called Chayl, belonging to the same king, opposite from Colon fifty miles.”*

NOTEs: * Travels of Ludovico Di Varthema - Haklyut Society, Page 184

We have next the account of DUARTE BARBOSA who visited Malabar and Travancore about 1514 A.D.

“Coulam. Beyond this kingdom of Cochin towards the south, the kingdom of Coulam is entered between these kingdoms there is a place which is called Porca, it belongs to a lord............ Having passed this place the kingdom of Coulam commences, and the first town is called Cayncolan in which dwell many Gentiles, Moors, and Indian Christians of the doctrine of St. Thomas. And many of those Christians live inland amongst the Gentiles. There is much pepper in this place of which there is much exportation.

“Further on along the same course towards the south is a great city and good seaport which is named Coulam, in which dwell many Moors and Gentiles and Christians They are great merchants and very rich, and own many ships, with which they trade to Cholmendel, the island of Ceylon, Bengal, Malaca, Samatara, and Pegu: these do not trade with Cambay. There is also in this city much pepper. They have a Gentile king, a great lord of much territory and wealth, and of numerous men at arms, who for the most part are great archers. At this city, withdrawn a little from it, there is promontory in the sea where stands a very great church which the apostle St. Thomas built miraculously before he departed this life.......... This church was endowed by the King of Coulam with the revenue from the pepper which remains to it to this day.” *

NOTEs: * A Description of the Coasts fo East Africa and Malabar - Haklyut Society. Page 57

Barbosa also tells us that the king of Coulam was called Benatederi (Venad Tiruvadi). Dr. Caldwell explains ‘Pinate’ or ‘Benate’ as representing Venadan, lord of Venad, that being the name of the District to which belonged the family of the old kings of Kollam, and ‘Venadu’ being their regular dynastic name. The Rajah of Travancore is still styled Venadan. Barbosa then describes how Sernaperimal (Cheraman Perumal), ruler of Malabar, divided the whole of his kingdom amongst his relations and constituted three kingdoms in the country, namely Calicut, Cananor (Cannanore) and Coulam, and commanded that no one should coin money except the king of Calicut, but that the kings of Coulam and Cananor afterwards struck money for a certain time in their countries without having the power of doing so.

“Trinangoto. Further on along the same coast towards the south, is a town of Moors and Gentiles called Trinangoto, (Tiruvitancode), which also possesses shipping. The town and territory belong to a lord, a relation of the king of Coulam; it is abundantly supplied with provisions, rice and meat. Further along the coast is the Cape of Comery where the Malabar country finishes; but the kingdom of Coulam reaches thirty leagues further, as far as a city which is called Cael (Kayal)”

The king of Quilon at this time must according to the Travancore authorities have been SRI VIRA RAVI VARMA. Kayal was regarded by the earliest Portuguese as belonging to Travancore and the king of Travancore as the legitimate sovereign of the whole of the south of Tinnevelly.


Barbosa writers thus graphically of the Brahmins and their customs —

“The Gentile Brahmins are priests all of one lineage, and others cannot be priests, but only their own sons. And when these are seven years old they put round their necks a strap two fingers in width of an animal which they call Cressna Mregam (Krishnamriga, the black deer) with its hair, which is like a wild ass; and they command him not to eat betel for seven years, and all this time he wears that strap round the neck passing under the arm, and when he reaches fourteen years of age they make him a Brahman removing from him the leather strap and putting on another of three threads, which he wears all his life as a mark of being a Brahman. And they do this with much ceremony and festivity, just as here at the first mass, and from this time forward he may eat betel. They do not eat flesh nor fish, they are much reverenced and honoured by the Indians, and they are not executed for any offence which they may commit: but their chief, who is like a bishop, chastises them in moderation. They marry only once, and only the eldest member has to marry and of him is made a head of the family like a sole heir by entail, and all the others remain bachelors, and never marry. The eldest is the heir of all the property. These Bramans, the elder brothers, keep their wives very well guarded, and in great esteem, and no other man can approach them and if any of the married one die, the person who becomes widowed does not marry again. And if the wife commits adultery, the husband kills her with poison.

“These young men who do not marry, nor can marry, sleep with the wives of the nobles, and these women hold it as a great honour, because they are Bramans, and no woman refuses them. And they must not sleep with any woman older than themselves. And these live in their houses and estates, and they have great houses of prayer, in which they do service as abbots and whither they go to recite their prayers at fixed times of the day, and worship their idols and perform their ceremonies. And these temples have their principal doors to the west, and each temple has three doors, and in front of the principal gate, outside of it, is a stone of the height of a man, with three steps all round it and in front of the stone inside the church is a small chapel, very dark, inside of which they keep their idol, of gold, silver, or metal, and three lamps burning. And no one may enter there except the minister of that church, who goes in to set before the idol flowers and scented herbs, and they anoint it, with sandal and rose water, and take it out once in the morning, and another time in the evening with sound of trumpets and drums and horns.

“And he who takes it out first washes thoroughly, and carries it on his head with the face looking backwards and they walk with it three times in procession round the church, and certain wives of the Bramans carry lighted lamps in front, and each time they reach the principal door, they set the idol on that stone and there worship it and perform certain ceremonies and having ended the three turns with music and rejoicing, they again place it in the chapel, and each day they do this twice, by day and at night. And around this church, there is a stone wall, between which and the church they walk in the before-mentioned procession, and they carry over the idol a very lofty canopy upon a very long bamboo (cadjan umbrella) for state as for kings. They place all the offerings upon the stone before the principal gate of the temple, and twice a day it is washed, and they set cooked rice upon it to feed the crows twice a day with great ceremony.

“These Bramans greatly honour the number trine they hold that there is a god in three persons, and who is not more than one. All their prayers and ceremonies are in honour of the trinity, and they, so to say, figure it in their rites and the name by which they call it is this, Berma, Besnu, Maycereni, (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesvara), who are three persons and one sole god. Thus they confess him to be from the beginning of the world. They have no knowledge or information of the coming of Jesus Christ. They believe many more vain things, which they speak of. These people each time that they wash put some ashes upon their heads, foreheads and breasts, in token that they have to turn again into ashes and when they die they have their bodies burned. When the wife of a Brahmin is in the family way, as soon as the husband knows it, he cleans his teeth, and eats no more betel nor trims his beard and fasts until his wife gives birth to her child. The kings make great use of these Bramans for many things, except in the deed of arms.

“Only Bramans can cook the king’s food, or else men of the king’s own family, and so all the king’s relations have this same custom of having their food cooked by Bramans. These are the messengers who go on the road from one kingdom to another, with letters and money and merchandise, because they pass in safety in all parts, without any one molesting them, even though the kings may be at war. These Bramans are well read in the law of their idolatry and possess many books and are learned and masters of many arts and so the kings honour them as such.” *

NOTEs: * The Coasts of East Africa and Malabar. Page 123.

This account though not free from mistakes is very creditable to Barbosa considering the times he lived in and the obstacles to get at correct information in those days.

Of the kings, their laws of succession and customs, he writes thus: —

“In the first place, the kings of Malabar are, as has been said, gentiles and honour their idols they are brown, almost white, others are darker; they go naked from the waist upwards, and from the waist downwards are covered with white cotton wraps and some of them of silk. Sometimes they clothe themselves with short jackets open in front, reaching half way down the thigh, made of very fine cotton cloth, fine scarlet cloth, or of silk or brocade. They wear their hair tied upon the top of their heads, and some times long hoods like Galician casques, and they are barefooted. They shave their beards and leave the moustaches very long, after the manner of the Turks. Their ears are bored and they wear in them very precious jewels and pearls set in gold, and on their arms from the elbows upwards gold bracelets, with similar jewels and strings of very large pearls. At their waists over their clothes they wear jewelled girdles three fingers in width, very well wrought and of great value...........

“When they are in their houses they always sit on high benches, and in houses without storeys. And they keep there a stand very white and four fingers high, and a cloth of brown wool undyed, after the manner of a carpet of the size of a horse cloth , folded in three folds and upon this they sit ............... and they lean upon pillows, round and long, of cotton, silk or fine cloth. And they also sit on carpets of cloth of gold and silk; but they always keep under them, or near them, that cloth of brown wool, on account of their sect and for state and when any one comes to see them, they bring him this brown woollen cloth and put it near him and when he goes out a page carries the cloth folded before him for state and ceremony. And likewise he always keeps a sword near him, and when he changes from one spot to another, he carries it in his hand naked, as they always keep it. These kings do not marry, nor have a marriage law, only each one has a mistress, a lady of great lineage and family, which is called Nayre, and said to be very beautiful and graceful. Each one keeps such a one with him near the palaces in a separate house, and gives her a certain sum each month or each year for expense, and leaves her whenever she causes him discontent, and takes another.... And the children that are born from these mistresses are not held to be sons nor do they inherit the kingdom, nor anything else of the king’s.

“The heirs of these kings are their brothers, or nephews, sons of their sisters, because they hold those to be their true successors, and because they know that they were born from the body of their sisters. These do not marry, nor have fixed husbands, and are very free and at liberty in doing what they please with themselves.

“The kings of Malabar when they die, are burned in the country with much sandal and aloes wood and at the burning all the nephews and brothers and nearest relations collect together and all the grandees of the realm. And before burning him they keep him there when dead for three days waiting for the assembling of the above mentioned persons, that they may see him if he died of a natural death or avenge his death if any one killed him, as they are obliged to do in case of a violent death. And they observe this ceremony very rigidly. After having burned him, all shave themselves from head to foot excepting the eye-lashes, from the prince the heir to the throne, to the smallest child of the kingdom i.e., those who are gentiles, and that they also clean their teeth, and universally leave off eating betel for thirteen days from that time and if in this period they find any one who eats it, his lips are cut off by the executioner.

“During these thirteen days the prince does not rule, nor is he enthroned as king, in order to see if in this time any one will rise up to oppose him and when this term is accomplished, all the grandees and former governor make him swear to maintain all the laws of the late king and to pay the debts which he owed and to labour to recover that which other former kings had lost. And he takes this oath, holding a drawn sword in his left hand, and his night hand placed upon a chain lit up with many oil wicks in the midst of which is a gold ring which he touches with his fingers, and there he swears to maintain everything with that sword. When he has taken the oath, they sprinkle rice over his head, with many ceremonies of prayer and adoration to the sun, and immediately after certain counts, whom they call caymaIs, along with all the others of the royal lineage, and the grandees, swear to him in the same manner to serve him and to be loyal and true to him. During these thirteen days, one of the caymals governs and rules the State like the king himself; he is like an accountant-general of the king, and of all the affairs of the kingdom. This office and dignity is his, by right and inheritance. This person is also the chief treasurer of the kingdom, without whom the king cannot open or see the treasury neither can the king take anything out of the treasury without a great necessity, and by the counsel of this person and several others. And all the laws and ordinances of the kingdom are in the keeping of this man.”*

NOTEs: * The Coasts of East Africa and Malabar. Page 1108.

This account too, though not quite accurate, is very creditable to Barbosa.


To return to our historical narrative, from two inscriptions at Marungur (South Travancore), we have seen that the royal insignia of Sakalakalai Martanda Varma consisted of three swords, a drum, a bow and an arrow and that in 1495 A.D., he promulgated certain rules for the conduct of the right and left hand castes of the community towards each other. In 1507 A.D., both Martanda Varma and Aditya Varma issued a writ to redress certain grievances of the Nadars in the villages between Parali and Tovala mountains. Aditya Varma died about 1517 A.D.

Aditya Varma’s younger brother, BHUTALA VIRA SRI VIRA UDAYA MARTANDA VARMA, who was already associated with him in the government in 1494 A. D, continued to rule over the country till 1535 A.D. But his name is erroneously entered in one or two edicts of the temple chronicles of Sri Padmanabhaswamy as Sri Vira Rama Martanda Varma, the Senior Tiruvadi of Tiruppapur and also as the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy. His surname waa according to epigraphical records, Mankonda Bhutala Vira Sri Vira Udaya Martanda Varma. He was a famous warrior and conquered almost the whole of the Tinnevelly District from the Pandyas and ruled over it in addition to his own kingdom. He married a Chola princess by the name of Cholakulavalli who brought with her the district of Calacaud (Cholakulavallipuram) as a dowry. Bhutala Vira made Calacaud his capital and built in it a new palace under the name of Viramartanda Chaturvedimangalam-putumalikai.

He was also called PULI MARTANDA VARMA, as he married the Chola princess whose house had the leopard for its royal insignia; the dam across the river which stands even now under the name of Virappuli anai, was erected at that period. He was the first of the three Bhutala Viras whose names occur in the coins of Tinnevelly. The title “Mankonda Bhutala Vira’ was assumed by him just after his conquest of the Tinnevelly District. He had two loyal chieftains in Tinnevelly one of whom was known by the name of Singa Perumal at Sevval and the other by the name of Chempakavanan Perumal at Sentanseri on the banks of the Chittar. His contemporaries among the Pandyas were probably Jatila Vaiman Parakrama Pandya, Kulasekhara Jatila Varman Sri Vallabha and Maravarman Sundara. Either Parakrama Pandya Kulasekhara who ascended the throne in 1480 A.D., or one of his co-regents or immediate successors seems to- have been defeated by the famous warrior, Bhutala Vira I. Sri Vallabha-mangalam, Sevval and several other places in the Tinnevelly District were under the sway of this Bhutala Vira Martanda Varma, even before 1495 A.D. It is probably of this Martanda Varma that Mr. Logan says: —

‘His territory extended from Quilon to Cape Comorin and embraced besides the southern portion of the Pandyan kingdom including the port of Kayal. The Raja exacted tribute from Ceylon, kept a corps of three hundred female archers, and it is said he had not hesitated to challenge to battle the Raja of Vijayanagar.” *

NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual, Vol. 1. Page 310.

There is evidence to show that there was perpetual war between Travancore and Vijayanagar lasting for over a century i.e., from 1530 till at least 1635 A.D. He made several gifts of lands as pallichantam to the god in the temple of Nagercoil, at the special request of Jivakarudaiyan Gunavira Panditan, and Narayanan Kamalavahana Panditan. The very names of these two persons are sufficient to prove that they were Jains. Pallichantam means a royal gift of lands to the deities of other religions at the special request of their adherents.

About the same time the Christian Paravas, who resided at Kumari-muttam near Cape Comorin, were harassed and ill-treated by the Hindus. On the 20th Minam 701 M.E (1526 A.D.), a royal writ went forth for redressing the grievances of the Christian Paravas under the sign-manual of Bhutala Vira Sri Vira Udaya Martanda Varma to the senior and junior Kangan (the head-man and his assistant among the Hindu fishermen) who resided in the haven at Kumari-muttam, commanding them that they should not thereafter molest or harass in any way the Christians who were exempted from paying the taxes due to the village community of the heathens, such as idankai- valankai-panam (the tax for the right and the left hand castes) padai-ppanam and prachandakanikkai &c. The pillar on which this edict is engraved stands in a dry field called ‘Muthanayinar Vilai’, near Cape Comorin.

The immediate successor of the said Bhutala Vira Sri Vira Udaya Martanda Varma was BHUTALA VIRA SRI VIRA RAVI VARMA, as mentioned in the inscription engraved on the southern side of the rock near the shrine of Kailasanathar in the temple of Suchindram. It reveals that on the 19th Medam 712 M.E. Bhutala Vira Sri Vira Ravi Varma granted some lands in Irukkanturai in the District of Tinnevelly to Suchindram Udaya Nayanar, for the daily performance of Udayamartandan Sandhipuja. This gift was made by him in the name of his predecessor Bhutala Vira I.

It appears that one SRI VIRA RAMA MARTANDA VARMA who was the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy and eventually became the Senior Tiruvadi of Tiruppapur was a co-regent of Bhutala Vira Udaya Martanda Varma. He made some gifts to the temple of Padmanabhaswamy as an atonement for the sins committed during the internal dissensions of 704 M.E His name also occurs in the later records dated 713-723 M.E, (1538-1548 A.D.) of the temple chronicles of Sri Padmanabhaswamy as Sri Vira Rama Martanda Varma, the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy. The inscription dated 716 M.E (1541 A.D.) on the western wall in the outer mantapam of Suchindram temple shows clearly that this was Sakalakalai Martanda Varma II, the Senior Tiruvadi of Siraivoy.

The successor of Bhutala Vira Ravi Varma was BHUTALA VIRA KERALA VARMA, the Senior Tiruvadi of Jayasimhanad. His name appears in a neet given to one Dikkellampukazhum Perunial of Vijayagudi in Tinnevelly, appointing him temple-accountant on the 27th Vrischigam 720 M.E (1544 A.D.)


Advent of Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier arrived in South Travancore about 1543 A.D., and sought to introduce Christianity on the west coast. He was specially sent from Goa to look after the fishermen converts of Father Miguel Vaz at Cape Comorin. He wandered through fishing villages and baptised all those who submitted to it. He founded many congregations and built a number of churches. Before the close of 1544 A. D., he had founded forty-five churches in Travancore. These were at first merely booths made of branches of trees and palm leaves which in time were replaced by stone and cement. Kottar was his principal residence. In one of his letters dated March 1544, he describes the king of Travancore as the ‘Great King’ having authority all over South India. He also mentions that a near relative of the king resided at Sael (Cael or Kayal), and that the Badagas whom he described as ‘tax gatherers’ and ‘lawless marauders’ invaded Travancore in great force by the Aramboly Pass and endeavoured to possess themselves of the coast as far sout