The life of Swathi Thirunal was an offering in music to God. A rare renaissance personality, Swathi Thirunal was a king among musicians and musician among kings. His musical compositions and his life were a mutual translation of his devotion to LordPadmanabha, the presiding deity of the Travancore Royal House....
Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma
was a progressive ruler who lived ahead of his times and was committed to the welfare of the people. Being an able administrator his far sighted reforms were responsible for introducing modern medicine, English education and a humane judicial system in Kerala....



Col. Munroe 17... to 18....

       Col. Munro was the British Resident during the period when Swathi Thirunal's mother ruled Travancore. He also held the additional charge of the Dewan for some time. He was a progressive administrator and many of the land mark proclamations done by the Rani is believed to be based on Monroe's advice. When Swathi Thirunal's mother was readying to occupy the throne, a family member of hers, Kerala Varma to contest the right to succession. He refused to take the previous decision of his claims as final. The East India Company had by this time made themselves responsible for the internal security of the state.
They had assumed the authority to determine the succession. The Rani invited the Resident for an interview and pressed her claims.

When Swathi Thirunal's mother was readying to occupy the throne, a family member of hers, Kerala Varma to contest the right to succession. He refused to take the previous decision of his claims as final. The East India Company had by this time made themselves responsible for the internal security of the state. They had assumed the authority to determine the succession. The Rani invited the Resident for an interview and pressed her claims.

Munro sent for the spiritual and temporal dignitaries including the members of the yagam in the Sri Padmanabha temple, the prominent priests and the important officers and took elaborate statements from them all regarding the contention of the Raja and the precedents on the subject. Though some of them at first supported the pretensions of the Raja, they gave an entirely different version when Munro directed them to base their opinions on the records in existence. It was in evidence that the pretender Kerala Varma was clandestinely taken into royal house through the machinations of a clique and made to perform certain auxiliary ceremonies in the temple in the face of the protest of the Senior Rani of Attinal. The contentions of the Thampuran were repelled. Foiled in his attempt, the Raja resorted to persuasion and blandishment which also proved equally unsuccessful. The Rani promptly rejected his proposal that she should adandon the right of succession in his favour.

Kerala Varma, however, continued to live at Trivandrum. He abused the kindness of the Rani by hatching many a plot against her. The country was split by factions, partisans of the young Raja and those of the Dewan. Both parties were unprincipled men. But the prince had been a partisan of Velu Thampi and was now surrounded by turbulent characters. The people adhered to no consistent principle. Their enmity and reconciliation were often sudden and apparently unaccountable. Col. Munro therefore found it necessary to maintain “a kind of balance of power”. While the Resident endeavoured to prevent the prince from adopting any improper measure, he found it expedient to support the Dewan’s party thus preventing a coalition. Nevertheless, it was soon apparent that the residence of Kerala Varma at the capital was dangerous to the interests of the country and the safety of the sovereign. He was therefore sent away as a state-prisoner first to Tellicherry and afterwards to Chingleput.

The Rani placed full confidence in Col. Munro and the British Government. The Rani frankly acknowledged in her installation speech that “being a young female quite unprepared and unqualified for such a high and responsible position, she could not do better than place herself 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.” “To you Colonel, “ she said, “I entrust everything connected with my country.”

When Lakshmi Bayi assumed the throne, she had no male heir and the country was in the fear of annexation by the British. It is known that, when the Rani was pregnant, Col. Monroe took the risk of assuming that the child would be a boy and wrote to Madras saying that a male heir was there and then went to pray in front of the Padmanabha swami temple to make his prediction come true. He is also said to have warned Lord Padmanabha that, in case he wasn't helped out, he would bring a canon and blow up the temple ! When Swathi Thirunal was born, Monroe was naturally pleased and he made an offering of a decorated umbrella to the temple, which is even today used in the processions inside the temple.

The Rani's personal relationship with the Resident was of a cordial nature. In everything that pertained to the welfare of the state the Rani was always ready to listen to Munro’s advice. But when the Resident went out of his way to interfere in domestic matters she was strong enough to resists the attempt. For instance, when Munro advised that the Koyil Thampuran, the Rani’s consort, should live separate for a time she sternly refused to accept the direction. Col.Munro was always ready to give her the benefit of his advice and his assistance.

Armed with the support of the Resident of Rani soon decided to remove Thampi Iravi from the Dewanship. Her feelings were embittered by the accounts of his misappropriation of certain ornaments and other articles which belonged to the late Dewan Velu Thampi and some of his principal adherents. It was stated that the article were seized on the pretext that they were to be confiscated to the state, but were misappropriated by the Dewan for his own use. The Rani wrote to the Resident that it was her earnest desire to fulfil her engagements and to strengthen her friendship which had so long subsisted between the state and the British Government. For the accomplishment of that object the removal of Thampi Iravi from his office was indispensable. Seeing that Thampi was particularly obnoxious to the Rani and that his continuance in office would therefore be unfavourable to the attainment of a close and cordial union between the ‘two States’ the Resident complied with the request. Munro took the matter to the notice of the Madras Government, and, after securing their approval for the intended step, he wrote to Thampi Iravi to say that “as there did not appear in the judgment of the British Government and of Her Highness the Rani to be any occasion at present for the office of Dewan he was relieved from the duties of that situation.” The Rani accordingly issued Nittus to her officers announcing the removal of the Dewan and the Resident’s assumption of the duties of the administration.

Thus removed from office, Thampi Iravi commenced his retaliation on the Resident. He set up Mallan Pillai, the former Valiya Sarvadhikaryakkar, to lay before the Government had too great a confidence in the Colonel to give any weight to those accusations. The attempt however recoiled on Thampi Iravi himself. It was resolved that he should quit Trivandrum. Munro fixed Quilon as his place of residence as he thought that the presence of the subsidiary force there would prevent him from doing anything to dusturb the peace. But troubles soon arose in Quilon where a conspiracy was set on foot and Thampi was implicated in the transaction. The design was to confer the sovereignty of Travancore upon the Pychy Raja, a nephew of the Pychy Raja already referred to. The chief body of conspirators consisted of discharged sepoys, fakers, and disaffected natives of the province. The European officers were to have been attacked while at dinner, and the barracks set on fire at the same time in order to distract attention, after which the public treasury was to have been given up to plunder. Information having been received by the officers in command, a general parade of the troops was held. Jamadar Shaik Hoossain of the 14th regiment; together with 2 havildars and 22 men of that battalion were called out of the ranks, and placed in confinement. Shaik Hoossian and a Muhammadan private were tried in a summary manner, found guilty and blown from a gun. Two havildars, and 26 private of the 14th , of whom 16 were Muhammadans, and 10 Hindus, were tried by court-martial, and sentenced to death. They were either shot or hanged, the sentence to death. They were wither shot or hanged, the sentenced to death. They were either shot or hanged, the sentences being carried into execution at Quilon , Cannanore, Seringapatam, Trichinopoly, Vellore, and St. Thomas’ Mount respectively. Thampi Iravi was seized by the Resident’s people as being the chief instigator. The result of the enquiries made by the Resident led him to the conclusion that Thampi and Shaik Hoossain had been the originators of the conspiracy. He and the Pychy Raja were tried by the Court of the Travancore Government. The former was sentenced to death but this sentence was commuted to banishment, and he was removed to Nellore. The Phychy Raja was banished to Chingleput, but was released from confinement in 1815.

On the dismissal of Thampi Iravi, Munro assumed the Dewanship at the request of the Rani and with the approval of the Government of Madras. Munro wrote to that Government that “the office of the Dewan should be discontinued and that the Resident should superintend the administration of affairs if that measure should be agreeable to the wishes of Her Highness the Rani and the people.” The appointment of the Resident as the minister of the state was opposed to principle. As pointed out by Nanoo Pillai, a former Dewan of Travancore, “Justice demanded that the Ruler should manage the affairs of the country through her own Minister.” The function of the British Government was only to correct abuses and control the administration of the state. According to the treaty in force the Company engaged not to impede in any wise the course of the rule or administration of the Raja of Travancore’s Government; not at all times to possess themselves or enter upon any part of what regards the management of the present Raja’s or his successors’ country. The Resident was the man on the spot to see to it that the provisions of the treaty were duly carried out. The Dewan was in law responsible to the ruler. The union of the two offices in one and the same person was therefore a violation of the principle. However, Munro entertained the idea of combining the authority as Resident with the powers of the Rani’s minister. Though the two jurisdictions were clearly incompatible with each other, the Madras Government gave their approval to that extraordinary scheme. Munro assumed the office of Dewan on the 23rd Edavam 986 (3rd June 1811). He conducted the administration obtaining the formal sanction of the Rani for the various details as well as for modifications of policy.

Munro was not satisfied with the arrangements for the government of the country. He entertained a very low opinion about the local system of administration and in his report to the Madras Government he have expression to his utter dissatisfaction. He exaggerated the evils that prevailed in the public service. In his report to the Madras Government dated 7th March 1818 he described the state of affairs in the following language. “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 authorized exactions made by themselves. They offered, on receiving their 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 realized, in the course of two or three years, large sums of moneys and were generally subjected to a complete confiscation of their property for the benefit of the State. The Rajah, therefore, imposed no restraint on their rapacity, aware that their plunder would be transferred to his own treasury. Nor does it appear that this consideration had any effect in checking their extortions. They calculated upon being able to conceal their extortions. They calculated upon being able to conceal their property during their lives, and felt little concern as to the mode of its disposal after their death. On the part of the people, complaint was useless, redress hopeless; they had only one remedy, and that was bribery. This practice was universal, and it was one of the melancholy circumstances in the situation of the people, that one of the greatest evils was necessarily resorted to as a good, to mitigate the still more intolerable grievances of injustice and oppression. Innocense was protected, justice obtained, and right secured by bribes. There were also still more efficacious means by injury, and their universal use produced an extraordinary spirit of avarice in the country; for every man endeavoured to have a secret hoard of money, as the best protection of his liberty, property and life.”

This description is a grossly exaggerated one. The desire for power is a well-known frailty of human nature, and Col. Munro wished to help the people of Travncore by taking charge of the duties of Dewan. The work that Munro was able to do in Travancore was beneficial to the state as some of the reforms introduced by him were of a useful and far-reaching character. But the claim to have brought sunshine into a land of darkness does not appear to be legitimate, for Travancore possessed the blessings of a settled government with proper arrangements for safety and security and a fairly good system of judicial administration. It is affirmed by all the historians that during Velu Thampis administration the affairs of government were conducted with such efficiency and expedition that public honesty was advanced. The administration of affairs in Travancore in the reigns of Marthanda Varma and Rama Varma have earned the especial commendations of all those who knew the country. Fra Bartolomeo refers to it in these words. “Public security is again restored throughout the whole country; robbery and murder are no longer heard of; no one has occasion to be afraid on the highways; religious worship is never interrupted and people may rest assured that on every occasion
Justice will be speedily administered. In the course of twenty-four hours he (the king) can be informed of every thing that takes place throughout his whole kingdom. After deducting the expenses of government, his yearly income may amount to half a million of rupees, arising from trade, duties, and various kinds of fines. One half of this revenue is deposited in the royal treasury and never touched but in cases of the utmost necessity.”

It is possible that the troubles of the rebellion and the subsequent happenings had made the general condition of the people rather hard. Two years had hardly elapsed when Munro took the administration into his own hands. Thampi Iravi, who was the Dewan during that short interval, was admittedly a man of capacity and ambition. He had been appointed Dewan with full concurrence of the British Government. The details of his administration prove that he was an efficient minister with a great deal of statesmanship. It is therefore, difficult to believe that Munro understood and represented the facts correctly when he described the condition of Travancore as chaotic. However, some confusion prevailed in the country as a consequence of the insurrection of Velu Thampi and the disputes of succession. The payment of the subsidy to the British Government according to the increased rate was in arrears for some time. The state was really unable to bear the burden of paying the subsidy. The Maharaja had little faith in Thampi Iravi; and this fact must have considerably encouraged the lower officials of the state to disregard the central authority. These temporary evils might have led Munro to think that the government of the country was ever weak and the public service always clogged by corruption. But the happenings in the early part of the reign of Bala Rama Varma show that the people would not put up with the exactions of the officers however high. No wholesale degradation as described by Munro could have occurred in the course of two or three years. Erring individuals there might have been, but a general condemnations was unwarranted.

However, Munro was able to strengthen the central authority by reorganizing the whole machinery of government. It was his desire to introduce into Travancore the system of administration which was in vogue in British India. The agency and the procedure for the transaction of public business were soon modified in order to prevent the officers pulling in different directions. Munro decided to keep the whole authority concentrated in his own hands. It was ordered that all letters to the Huzur should be addressed to the Dewan and that the letters sent out of that office should go under the name of the Dewan and bear his signature. The beginnings of a Secretariat system were laid. Letters received in the Huzur were to be read to the Resident before they were sent to the respective officers. This was only in accordance with the previous practice according to which even in comparatively unimportant mattes the measure proposed or initiated by the officers were adopted only with the approval of the Dewan and the specific sanction of the sovereign. The Rayasam branch was made an important annex to the Huzur. Cases of corruption were duly investigated and offenders promptly punished. Men of character and capacity were selected to fill the various offices, and the work of selection was entrusted to a competent Board. A rigid economy was practiced in the fields of expenditure. A retrenchment in salaries was effected by the abolition of certain establishments. The cost of the staff of the Huzur Cutchery which was 6,000 rupees per mensem was reduced to 1,500 rupees. Changes were effected in the nomenclature of offices by substituting the names of functionaries in British India, as for example Tahsildar for Karyakar.

The arrears of taxes were expeditiously collected and rules were framed to prevent misappropriation by the officers of money which belonged to the Government. An improved system of audit and accounts was introduced. The officers who violated the rules were punished, Munro did not believe in dismissing officers for slight faults. Like Velu Thampi he preferred to chastise them with a view to their improvement. Many were the public servants who turned over a new leaf by that treatment, Munro toured the country at frequent intervals and lent his ears freely to representations made by the people. Castes and communities which were kept in a position of inferiority by the force of custom received at the hands of Col. Munro the most sympathetic assistance.

There was a well-defined system of administration divisions and from the Mullakkars to the Sarvadhikaryakkars there was a regular gradation of officers. These officers were charged with a variety of duties. They had to look after the assessment of the revenue, the administration of justice, the punishment of offenders, the command of the militia and the defence of the country. The combination of these diverse functions are executives, judicial, military and revenue in the same officer had, to some extent ,become inconvenient in their operations and detrimental to efficiency. The Sarvadhikaryakkars and Karyakkars exercised very great power and influence within their jurisdiction. Most of them were arrogant in their ways and high-handed in their dealings. Munro abolished the posts of Valiya Sarvadhikaryakkar and Sarvadhikaryakkar. The Karuakkars were retained, but their designations was changed into Tahasildars. However, they were deprived of their military and judicial powers and reduced to the positions of collectors of revenue.

The efforts made by Munro to improve the material condition of the people were not less successful. Travancore was then mainly an agricultural country. Ceaseless cultivation and impoverished the soil in many places. Droughts were not uncommon as the crops depended on the uncertain monsoons. The taxes pressed heavily on the people. Munro made a careful enquiry into the actual conditions of the cultivators. He found that though remissions were allowed from time to time it was often a means of illegal profit to the tax-collectors. With a view to remedy this evil Col. Munro furnished the land-holders with documents called Pattayams. The Pattayams contained the extent, tenure, Government demand etc., of each ryot’s holding and a land-register called Pattayapperu was also compiled.

The accumulation of arrears was the besetting sin of the agriculturists. The law, no doubt, empowered the revenue officers to turn out the ryot from his holding but the effect of it was to make him waif and stray. The punctual payment of the taxes was therefore insisted on as the best means of safeguarding the interests of the state and the people at the same time. Those who would not pay their dues were placed in confinement and the officers responsible for collection were treated in the same manner and their properties attached for failure to realize the moneys due to the Sircar. Lands newly brought under cultivation were favourably assessed. The output of paddy and other produce was sought to be increased by taking away fields and gardens from the possession of indifferent and indolent owners and giving them to others who were ready to apply the requisite quantity of labour. Some of the provisions of Munro’s revenue code were high handed- and arbitrary, but the end appears to have justified the means.

Considerable relief was given to the people by the abolition of certain taxes which pressed heavily upon them. The succession tax called Purushantharam was abolished by a royal proclamations. I t was greatly appreciated throughout the country. Vrious fines imposed by public authorities were done away with. No fine was thereafter to be collected without the sanction of the Government. The tax of 1Re. Per para of cultivated paddy field and the light sum of a rupee per head imposed on every merchant and holder of property who was not a cultivator was also abolished. The extension of cultivation was encouraged by issuing small loans to the ryots and sanctioning the necessary staff for the destruction of wild animals dangerous to life and property.

Increased facilities were offered to trade by abolishing the system of farming the customs duties and by establishing a certain number of chowkeys or custom houses in suitable places under the control of responsible officers. Market regulations were strictly enforced. Provisions in common were new exempted from duty when sold in the bazaars. The sale of tobacco, arrack and other intoxicants was regulated in conformity with the rules framed buy the government. Princes were fixed week after week in consultation with the merchants and the people in the neighbourhood. This had a beneficial effect in preventing dealers from forming combinations to raise the selling price of commodities to the prejudice of the consumers. In certain matters the Government adhered to old methods as for instance in impressing labour for the service of the Government and the British troops in camp within the Travancore territory. The names of the impressed coolies were entered in a register. Those who went away after receiving wages in advance were punished. Improved methods were adopted in the manufacture of salt, which was collected and sold in Sirkar bankshalls.

A commercial agent was appointed at Alleppey. Warehouses were established in all centers of trade such as Padmanabhapuram, Trivandrum, Quilon, and Mavelikkara, Each warehouse was managed by a staff of officers and guarded by a detachment of the military. The destruction of the ‘lines’, the disbanding of the troops, and the increased communications with Malabar and Tinnevelly had exposed the country to the inroads of smugglers. There was a considerable number of weavers in Travancore. But the levy of duty of 35 and sometimes 40 Rs. Per candy on cotton imported from outside and the discontinuance of the Company’s investment. So the duty on cotton was reduced to Rs.15 per candy and he thought it expedient to reduce it further. This change encouraged a larger importation of cotton and larger manufacture. Pepper, tobacco and salt were government monopolies, but their sale was regulated by measure beneficial to the people.

The labouring population was also encouraged to pursue their vocation by the abolition of the poll-tax on the Ihavas, Mukkuvas and Parayas, the tax on nets and certain other imposts. The amelioration of the condition of slaves was another achievements to the credit of the administration. In Travancore the slaves were always treated with more kindness than it was the lot of that unfortunate class to receive in other countries. But they continued to be bought and sold, particularly in times of adversity. By a royal proclamation of 987 M.E. the purchase and sale of all Kuravas, Parayas, Pallas, Malayans and Vedans, were liable to confiscation of their property and banishment from the country. The total abolition of slavery and the enfranchisement of slaves however took place only in 1030 M.E. as will be seen latter.

Col. Munro resolved to take upon himself the dispensation of justice until a proper system could be designed and brought into operation. He encouraged the people to take their suits to him even in the first instance. Parties flocked to him in large numbers. This led to serious difficulties. “About a hundred persons came to me every day” says he “demanding justice. I hear the representations of these people. I generally investigate fully one or two cases daily, assisted by some pandits and I send the rest of the complaints to the Karyakkars with orders for their being settled by means of Panchayat.” The procedure was unsatisfactory and it led to inconvenience on both sides. It made continual inroads into Munro’s time. The long distances which the people had to travel to the Residency and back again to their own districts, the interruptions which their absence form home occasioned to their daily routine of work, the scant dependence that could be placed upon the decisions made by the Karyakkars and Pachayats assembled under them, and , many other difficulties besides made the continuance of the system impossible. Munro himself realized later on that thought it would be exceedingly satisfactory if the Resident himself could settle the complaints of the people, and nothing could contribute more to secure their attachment and inspire them with a sentiment of respect for the British Government, yet the arrangement was rendered impracticable by the immense number and the intricate nature of cases which were brought forward for his decision, and by the large area of the jurisdiction. It is no wonder that the scheme of expeditious justice inaugurated by the Resident terminated in complete failure in a country the inhabitants of which had been accustomed from early times to judicial processes of a different character. The mistakes lay in imagining that everything in Travancore was primitive and unsatisfactory. Col. Munro soon realized his mistake and made amends for it by devising a suitable scheme.

Zilla courts were established at Padmanabhapuram, Trivandrum, Mavelikkara, Vaikam and Always for the trial of offenders and the decision of civil disputes. A court of Appeal was established at the capital with five judges, one of whom was the Dewan himself. The judges were selected from among the most respectable Nayars, Brahmans and Christians. The district Courts had each of them three judges to hear and decide cases, and a Sasthri learned in the Dharma Sasthra to expound the law. A Duffadar or Daroga and a party of police men were also attached to each of the courts. Laws were promulgated for the guidance of the tribunals. These were based on a healthy compromise between the rules of the Dharma Sasthra and the regulations in force in British territory. The Huzur court was constituted for the trial of public servants who were guilty of acts of omission or commission in the execution of their public duty. The sections dealing with it may be quoted in full. “That when complainants may be preferred against any of the Sirkar authorities for matters connected with the execution of their public duty, or for abuse of authority, oppression, or acts of justice, the court shall examine upon oath the complainants, together with their witnesses, and shall, without summoning the defendants transmit the proceedings to the Principal court by whom they shall be submitted to the Dewan for his directions

“That the Proceedings of the court shall invariably be conducted in the most public manner, and that all trials shall be founded upon evidence to be delivered upon oath, and in the presence of the accused party”.

It must be said that the Huzur Court which was like droit administrative of France was opposed to the genius of British institutions. In Great Britain the citizen and the officer are subject to the same system of laws administered by the same tribunals. It looks therefore strange that Munro thought it necessary to establish a special court for the trial of officers rather than leave that work to be done by the ordinary tribunals, which it may be remembered, were guided and controlled by Government through the Appeal Court of which the Dewan also was a member. This was done in the light of the experience of administration in British India. Munro distinctly averred that if the officers were subjected “ to the jurisdiction of the courts it would materially interfere with the revenue arrangements of the country.”

The administration of justice in Travncore was according to the precepts of the Hindu law from the earliest times. There was a large Christian and a considerable Muhammadan population besides a smaller number of Jews and Parsees. Until then all communities submitted to the law of the Sasthras, the only exception being a body of Pathans who when entering the military service of the Raja and obtained from him a written promise to be tried in all matters, both civil and criminal, by the laws of the Quran. The Hindu law of punishment was more or less connected with the precepts of the Hindu religion, and was therefore unacceptable to the followers of other forms of faith. It was impracticable to erect tribunals for the investigation and decision of cases according to the tenents of all the prevailing religions. But a general code of law applicable to all communities in certain respects was essential to progress. Col. Munro therefore consulted the Pandits as to the manner in which the changes he desired to effect could be reconciled with the scheme and principles of the law of the land. It was found that the “sacred books” themselves permitted modifications of the law to suit the changing conditions in the progress of the country. The Pandits expressed the unanimous opinion that the Rani as sovereign ruler possessed full authority to frame and enforce laws provided they were not radically hostile to the laws of the land. The rigours of the law were softened by the discretion of the judicial officers who administered justice in the light of the principles enunciated and the laws promulgated in the Chattavariyolas of Marthanda Varma and Rama Varma. The Resident effected certain further changes with the sanction of the Rani. Trial by ordeal was prohibited and investigations into the crime were thereafter to proceed under due forms of law and judgments and decrees were to be based on evidence duly taken on oath in public court.

The enlargement of the police department marked a further step in the maintenance of internal security. There existed in the state a small police establishment recently formed by Thampi Iravi. Of that force Col. Munro speaks thus:- “It was without order or regulation and the peons scarcely possessed any knowledge of their proper duty. I was very soon convinced an efficient Police establishment was essentially necessary for the good government of the country.” There was much work to be done. The force at this time consisted of 200 men. Col. Munro increased the strength to 500, making a more than proportional reduction in the number of Nayar soldiers. He judged it expedient to retain the constabulary under his direct control and immediate direction. The force thus organized proved to be of great advantage in preventing crimes and apprehending offenders. Their services were also requisitioned in reducing the contraband trade and illicit imports and exports of dutiable articles, a work which was formerly performed by the military.

The newly instituted reform laid down the rule that all offenders whom it might be requisite to put under restraint should be placed in custody of the police. This rule produced a salutary effect; for, it put a stop to the indiscriminate action on the part of the Tahsildars. The evil practice received a further check by the peremptory instructions issued by Munro prohibiting the Tahsildars from levying fines or inflicting other punishments, and keeping persons in confinement under their own custody. The withdrawal of these powers from the Tahsildar and the empowering of the police force with these duties created a feeling of jealously between them. But it was distinctly to the advantage of the efficiency of public service, for each of them tried to find out the short comings of the other and report them direct to the Resident. The maintenance of peace within the borders of the state demanded the utmost vigilance. The southernmost taluks of Thovala and Agasthiswaram adjoining the British district of Tinnevelly were the scenes of robbery and plunder. Criminal tribes entered the state in large numbers through the Aramboly pass and committed raids. The police force was detached to act in conjunction with the military to put down the free-booters. Finding that the marauders played a game of hide-and-seek by escaping to Tinnevelly, biding their time for renewing their nefarious activities, the Resident secured the co-operation of the British authorities in bringing them to book. The military, till then stationed at Udayagiri, was transferred to Nagercoil which was considered a more favourable station as being nearer to the frontier. A Small guard was, however, retained at Udayagiri.

The assumption of the management of temples was an act with far-reaching consequences. The Government of Travancore was never a theocracy, but successive Majarajas have, from time immemorial, been interesting themselves in the proper management of these religious institutions in the exercise of their Melkoyma or sovereign rights. Some of them were founded and endowed by royalty while the vast bulk of their number had its origin in private endowments. The people of each locality interested themselves in the proper management o f their temples. The Uralars elected by the people came in course of time to occupy the position of trustees and later on that of owners for all practical purposes. The Samudayams or Manushyams administered the funds and managed the properties, but the supreme control remained in the Uralars who met w3ithin the temples at specified times and gave general or particular instructions. The suppression of village associations and the centralisation of political authority deprived these managing boards of their usefulness and enthusiasm. There arose a conflict of interests with duty, and the trustees and managers quarreled with one another in their dishonest attempts to turn the temple funds for their individual benefit. Consequently spiritual ministration suffered, and the properties of temples came to be more and more mismanaged.

As the temples had a well-defined place in the scheme of Hinduism, the State-religion, the Government could not shirk its responsibility in safeguarding their interests. It was also hoped that if the expenditure was properly ascertained and regulated the surplus might be utilised for Government purposes. Col. Munro therefore decided upon the assumption of 348 of the more important temples, and 1171 minor ones along with their properties. By the assumption of the Devaswams the State took over 62,000 gardens and 5,48,000 paras of rice lands. The gardens yielded a rental of about Rs. 50,000 annually, while the wet lands Rs. 3,50,000 thus aggregating four lacs of rupees. Besides these there were other sources of income of a fluctuating character which flowed into the treasury. These were four-fold .Firstly, offerings received in money and things; the latter in the shape of silk, silver, images etc; secondly, money put into the Vanchi; thirdly, proceeds from the sale of boiled rice; and fourthly, succession fee on Pagoda offices such as that of the Santhi or officiating priest, which varies according to the income. The gold and ornaments taken from the temples found their way into the Government treasury and were used to mint coins for the benefit of the State.

The revenue officers were directed to supervise the administration of temple affairs, realise the rents and profits, remit the collections to the treasury, and disburse the necessary amounts for the daily pujas and special ceremonies. Superior and subordinate officers were alike directed to do the work with the utmost care. It was expressly stated that in cases of misfeasance the officer responsible would be punished with immediate dismissal from service. Shortly afterwards a committee was appointed to consider and report upon the revision of the pathivus or allotted amounts. The intention of the Government was to see that the various ceremonies were conducted in proper time and fashion and not to reduce the expenditure which was sanctioned by uninterrupted custom. Munro had retrenchment of expenses also in contemplation as he felt that a sum of 2 ½ to 3 lakhs of rupees spent annually on the temples was too large a drain on the ‘treasury’ to permit its continuance. The committee considered all aspects of the question and made their recommendations. Reasonable allowances were sanctioned for the due performance of religious ceremonies in the assumed pagodas. Rules were framed to secure the payment of adequate prices to persons who supplied articles. Opportunities for exaction and corruption were thus brought down to a minimum. The result of the reform was that the religious and charitable institutions came under the direct control of government. The Government obtained considerable addition to the revenue. It appears to have been an equally important object of the Government to neutralise and destroy by that steps the influence of the Devaswams over the people and thus check any future commotions.

The administration of Co. Munro in his dual capacity was fruitful of great good to the state. He speaks of his own achievements in these words: “The principle of my proceedings was to conciliate both the Raja and the people, and this could be accomplished only by conferring benefits on them. To please the Raja, it was necessary that his authority, dignity and revenues should be maintained unimpaired, and especially that the burdens of the country should be speedly removed; and to please the people; it was requisite that the oppressions, the onerous imposts, and the ruinous monopolies under which they laboured, should be abolished, measures which would of course decrease the revenues and the means of paying the debt. I however cherished a hope, that
By a system of activity, order and justice, I might succeed in accomplishing those objects, apparently irreconcilable. My expectations were not disappointed: in less than three years, although I encountered far greater difficulties than I had anticipated, I succeeded in paying, besides the current subsidy, debts of 18 lacs of rupees to the company, and nearly 6 lacs to individuals; in abolishing the most oppressive monopolies and taxes; in getting the affairs of the country on principles of justice and humanity; and I restored the management of the State to a native dewan, delivered from its burdens, with a greatly augmented revenue and in a situation of complete internal tranquility.”

In his Memoir of Travancore, Lieut. Horsely has emphasized the beneficial reformation effected by Munro which deserved and received the gratitude of the people and established the name and authority of the British in thier affections. Shungoonny Menon is equally warm in his praise. But the principle of combining two offices, that of the Dewan of an Indian state and the British Resident, in the same individual was a step in contravention of all ruling principles. On this point the observations of Dewan Nanoo Pillai are worthy of citation. “Consistenly with the spirit of the subsisting treaty” says he “ the dictates of even a benevolent policy could scarcely have justified the Resident to administer the country for a prolonged period. Justice demanded that the ruler of Travancore should manage the affairs of the country through her own minister.” The trety empowered the Governor-General-in-Council in certain cases to assume such aprt or parts of the territorial possessions of Travancore as it shall appear to him necessary and bring them under the direct management of the Company’s servants. Even in normal times the ruler was bound to pay the utmost attention to the advice proffered by the British Government in regard to the administration of the state. But the treaties did not contemplate that a British officers should at any time make his residence in an Indian state practically useless by playing the role of the ruler’s servant. It was equally wrong to transmute a minister’s advice to a mandate from the Residency as occasion demanded.

Col. Munro did not in Cochin the same thing as he did not in Travancore. It might be that he assumed the powers of Dewan in both cases with perfect good faith, But the premises were wrong. The fundamental basis of his action was the alleged inefficiency and corruption which , according to him, were rampant in both the states. So far as Travancore was concerned it cannot be contended with any justice that the administrative talent and the statesmanly wisdom of the Travancoreans which shed their lustre in the reigns of previous rulers like Marthanda Varma and Rama Varma came to a sudden extinction soon after Velu Thampi’s insurrection. The only reasonable explanation therefore appears to be that Munro was unwilling to put his faith in the sons of the soil. This is corroborated by the appointment of his own protégés, Bappu Rao and Reddy Rao, to high offices in Travancore and Najappayya in Cochin. He did not consider it wrong in principle to appoint his own brother-in-law, Mr. Blacker, to administer the affairs of Cochin. Munro, however, was tactful and conciliatory and therefore afforded a direct contrast to Macaulay. It was the policy of the East India Company that their officers in India should not use their authority to advance the cause of conversions to Christianity; much less could that be legitimately done in a state where the ruler had no means of obtaining independent advice from her own minister. But Munro did more for Christianity in Travancore than any administrator was able to do in any other part of India. He was careful to utilize the surplus revenues from Hindu temples for the service of the public powers and he did not hesitate to exert his influence over the Ranis of Travancore to persuade them to confer upon the representatives of missionery societies various rights and privileges and sanction considerable sum of money for building churches and propagating his own faith. Munro’s policy in this respect may not be proper in a statesman, but as a man he must have felt justified in helping the progress of a religion in which he had the profoundest faith.

In 989 Col.Munro was relieved of his duties as the Dewan. It is creditable to Munro’s sense of justice that he himself recommended his appointment as Dewan though in the earlier days he was of the opinion that it was impossible to find a single individual in Travancore who was fit to occupy a responsible position in the public service. In this respect Munro was a shining example of justice and fairness, for he did not advance the fortunes of his own dependents to the prejudice of the permanent interests of the country. “It appeared to be desirable” said he “that the administration of affairs, particularly of such as relate to the treasury, finance and revenue, and the distribution of justice should be entrusted principally to the natives of Travancore.” That arrangement would contribute to conciliate the minds and gain the confidence of the people, and would likewise be productive of other benefits, for the natives of the country feelings some interests in its prosperity and knowing that they should always be responsible to the Raja’s Government would be less likely than strangers to commit great abuses.

When Gauri Parvathi bayi assumed the throne as regent in 1814, she was very young (13 years old), and was without any experience of the country and its affairs. Col. Munro continued to give her his advice with unabated ardour till he retired in 1819.

Letter by Col.Mounro



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