William Cullen [Resident] 1785–1862

In the year 1840 A.D, General (then Colonel) William Cullen was appointed Resident of Travancore. This marked a new phase in the history of Travancore and the reign of Swathi Thirunal. Initially, General Cullen was struck with the eloquence, affability and knowledge of the Maha Rajah at their first interview, and as the General was a good scientific scholar,he applauded the Maha Rajah’s learning,
his poetical taste, as well as His Highness’ patronage of the Western sciences and began to co-operate with His Highness in all his scientific improvements. [Not much is known on Cullen's scholarship except the following: 1. Cullen's name is referred in the Charles Darwin Archives maintained by University of Cambridge as Army officer and meteorologist: Lieutenant-general, Royal Artillery. Entered the East India Company, 1804. Resident at Travancore, India. Studied economic botany. Darwin had asked for information on fossil shells for his work on the formation of coral reefs to one John Grant Malcolm who was a surgeon and amateur geologist who had served in India. In a a reply by Malcom on 24 July 1839 and he refers to a number of finds of fossil shells by himself and others and says: The Madras coast however like that of Malacca is in some places wasting. In this I do not refer to the marine shells found by Colonel Cullen & mentioned by Dr Benza resting & covered by Basalt in a hill 40 miles from the sea & 5 miles south of the Godavary---- these I refer to the great \tertiary\ eruptions that gave the present form to the Indian peninsula and formed that most magnificent of all basaltic regions occupying \200,000\ square miles of the west & centre of that country. The fossils are figured in my paper now printing for the transactions and as bones of quadrupeds seem to be mixed with the fresh water shells these inferences are confirmed. In that paper I refer I think to Babington's shells. There are other tertiary deposits near Pondicherry & in Travancore, but we cannot yet venture to refer them to any particular epoch. Source: 2. Cullen seems to have taken active role in promoting the Observatory established by Swathi Thirunal a couple of years before Cullen’s arrival in Trivandrum. 3. The Museum in Trivandrum is known to have started with a collection of coins and curios contributed by Cullen]Krishna Row, was a great favourite of General Cullen, and he now began to be ambitious, and desirous of getting into the Travancore service. Though there was no opening at the time, the Maha Rajah thought it wise to do something for the young Brahman with the view of pleasing the Resident, and accordingly, a new office was created for him in the Huzzoor cutcherry under the denomination of deputy Peishcar on a monthly salary of 300 rupees. His duty was to manage the Dewaswam, Ootupurah and Sawyer departments. Matters went on satisfactorily and harmoniously for some time, but Krishna Row aspiring to a higher position began slowly to work with the view of overthrowing Dewan Suba Row.The Maha Rajah was naturally very sensitive, and therefore would not submit to the least contradiction, or slight thrown on his authority, from any quarter whatever. General Cullen, being a little defective in his sense of hearing, the Maha Rajah had to speak in a loud during his interview with him. This was not at all agreeable to His Highness. He was rather delicate in constitution, and the strain on His Highness lungs seemed to injure his health. His interviews with the Resident therefore were not very frequent and when a private meeting was sought, the Maha Rajah often tried to avoid seeming him under some excuse or other.
The Deputy Peishcar, Krishna Row was the principal person who used to furnish information to the Resident on all matters connected with the Government, and he took this opportunity of prejudicing General Cullen’s mind against Dewan Subha Row, intimating that the excuse of the Maha Rajah and his unwillingness to receive visits from the Resident, proceeded from a personal disregard to the Resident; that the Dewan advised the Maha Rajah not to make himself too friendly with the Resident; and that His Highness was acting solely under the counsel of Suba Row. Thus the first seeds of misunderstanding were sown in General Cullen’s mind, and he being a proud man, and of a somewhat resentful disposition, though kind and affable, as a rule, began to view things in Travancore with a prejudiced eye, and to weigh matters with a biased mind. Decisions on public questions of importance were altered, and objections to every measure proposed and suggested by the Dewan under the authority of the Maha Rajah, became the order of the day. The Resident commenced receiving petitions form parties concerned in police, revenue, and civil cases pending before the respective officers and tribunals, called for reports and records from the Dewan and the appeal court, and gave final opinions and decision on all questions brought to his notice. This as a matter of course, attracted the attention of grievance-mongers, who used to resort to the residency with their complaints, and thus the Resident’s office became virtually a court for hearing, inquiring, and settling all questions brought before it, questions affecting the general internal administration of Travancore.
The Resident assumed almost sovereign authority. Every appointment of importance, such as tahsildars, munsiffs, superintendents, &c., were ordered to be made after official communication with the Resident and after obtaining his special sanction. In short, the Dewan’s hands were tied up, and he was rendered incompetent to give even an increase of salary to the writers and others in his own office without the special sanction of the Resident. This extraordinary interference of the Resident irritated the Maha Rajah, and the misunderstanding between His Highness’ court and the residency became stronger and stronger. Meanwhile, General Cullen continued representing matters to the Madras Government so as to place the Maha Rajah’s administration of the country in an unfavourable light. The Government though reluctant to deal with such questions upon ex-parte statements, yet naturally placing confidence in the statement of their representative, viewed matters prejudicially to the Maha Rajah. The Maha Rajah also represented the state of matters to the Madras Government. But it was too late, and the Government did not give to his representation that attention which it deserved.The Madras Government passed several Minutes wherein unfavourable opinions were recorded regarding Travancore affairs at this period, and these opinions were endorsed by even the Honorable Court of Directors. The Deputy Peishcar, Krishna Row, who was anxiously waiting to obtain the coveted office of Dewan ever since he set foot in Travancore, now thought that the time for accomplishing his object had arrived, and he began to use his influence with re-doubled vigour. The people of Travancore, both officials and non-officials who were quick in foreseeing things, anticipated the ultimate fate of Dewan Suba Row, and the advancement of the Deputy Peishcar Krishna Row. Krishna Row became the head of a strong party, and thus arose two factions in Travancore. Suba Row’s influence gradually weakened and he became simply the nominal Dewan. Matters continued thus for some time. The Dewan now found the necessity of withdrawing from the conflict, and the Maha Rajah was constrained to accept his resignation. He was allowed to retire on a monthly pension of 500 rupees. After the retirement of Suba row was promoted to the post of head Dewan Peishcar, and was put in charge of the administration in 1842A.D. Thus did this protege of the Resident attain the object of his desire.The Maha Rajah had become disheartened ever since he felt his authority interfered with by the Resident, and the administration of the State unfavourably commented on by the Madras Government. This state of things hurt the Maha Rajah’s feelings considerably, and one day His Highness calling in his father and his brother the Elia Rajah (heir apparent), observed to them that the Madras Government appeared to be solely guided by the partial reports of General Cullen, and were thus doing great injustice to His Highness. He said that it was surprising that Government should pretend to evince more interest in the welfare and prosperity of Travancore, than the Maha Rajah himself who was the owner and the sovereign of the country, while the Honorable East India Company was only an ally of His Highness; that the present conduct of the Madras Government and of other representative towards His Highness and General Cullen’s constant interference with the internal administration of the kingdom, would seem to imply just the contrary ; that the Maha Rajah had at present, in his court, well informed persons from many parts of the Company’s Indian territories, and also from the native kingdoms of Mysore, Tanjore, Hyderabad, Cochin &C., from whom His Highness had learnt that those countries were not better ruled than Travancore; that the Maha Rajah’s rule in the earlier part of his reign had been highly approved of, not only by the Madras Government but also by the Government of India, that it was highly mortifying to find that fault had been now found with His Highness’ rule after a career of about twelve years, and after His Highness had become experienced in the art of Government, and that if the destinies of Travancore were to remain in the hands of a Telgu Brahman (referring to Krishna Row), the Maha Rajah would rather relinquish his connection with the kingdom, than be subjected to such humiliations. After these observations His Highness produced a long address which he had prepared to be forwarded to the Supreme Government, and handed it over to his brother. This letter was strongly worded, and His Highness the Elia Rajah as well as his father were quite alarmed at the Maha Rajah’s determination. They prayed His Highness to postpone his proceedings for further consideration and soothed his Highness’ troubled mind. Subsequently, Her Highness Parwathi Ranee, His Highness’ aunt, the ex-Dewan Suba Row, and several trusted officials and countries, waited upon the Maha Rajah, and requested His Highness to refrain from writing either to the Government of Madras or to that of India, against General Cullen and his protege, Krishna Row. Though the Maha Rajah yielded to the earnest solicitations of His brother, father, tutor and officers, still he was so much offended, as to declare that His Highness would not retain Krishna Row in the service, but would send him away even at the expense of the country.
The Maha Rajah informed the Madras Government that His Highness had no confidence in the head Dewan Peishcar in charge, and that he would not be confirmed in the Dewan’s office.As there was no fit person in office whom the Maha Rajah could select for the office of prime minister His Highness sent for the old-ex-Dewan Vencatta Row, commonly known by the name of Reddy Row, who had come to Travancore along with Colonel Munro, and who was Dewan during the reign of Her Highness Parwathi Ranee. Reddy Row responded to the call and was appointed Dewan in the Malabar year 1018 (1843 A. D.) The head Dewan Peishcar was however allowed to remain in office, but was only in charge of certain departments of the Huzoor. This was done at the earnest solicitation of the Maha Rajah’s brother (the heir apparent), and His Highness’ father, who feared an open rupture with General Cullen.The Dewan Reddy Row, though nearly forgotten in the country from his long absence and from the material changes it had undergone during a period of above twenty years, began a career quite different from that of his predecessor Suba Row. No sooner had he once more come into office, than a host of relatives and followers surrounded him, and ere long two of his sons were employed in the Huzzoor cutcherry.The head Dewan Peishcar, Krishna Row, and the Dewan Reddy Row could not agree, and the Huzzoor cutcherry became again the scene of divided partisanship. The Dewan had the support of the Maha Rajah, while Krishna Row was backed by General Cullen, who induced the Madras Government to believe that Krishna Row was the only Honest and able officer in the Travancore service, and who had the welfare of the country at heart. A few months previous to be appointment of Dewan Reddy Row, the two ex-Dewan Peishcar (both native Nairs of Travancore) were taken back into the service. One of them Kasava Pillay, was employed in the Huzzoor and the other, Cochu Sankara Pillay was appointed palace Peischar. These men had great experience in the service , both of them having risen gradually from the lowest grade to the high post of Dewan Peishcar. The appointment of a palace Peishcar was objected to by General Cullen, on the ground of its being a new office, but His Highness observed that the Resident need not extend his interference with the Maha Rajah’s domestic affairs.The proceedings of Krishna Row as head Dewan Peishcar were anything out satisfactory to His Highness. He always sought for an opportunity to make himself obnoxious to the Maha Rajah. Finding that the existence of Krishna Row in office was an obstacle to the Dewan in carrying on his business and that his party was growing powerful day by day, the Maha Rajah was determined to remove him from the service, and with all the support that General Cullen could give him, His Highness’ resolution prevailed, the Madras Government agreed with His Highness and allowed him to act according to His Highness’ own views in the matter.In the commencement of the year 1019 M.E. (1843 A.D.) six months after the appointment of Dewan Reddy Row, head Dewan Peishcar Krishna Row was dismissed from the service, and as the Maha Rajah prohibited his remaining at Trivandrum, the fallen statesman was obliged to take up his residence at Quilon.General Cullen considered these proceedings of the Maha Rajah as a slight offered to him, and under this impression, began to work for the expulsion of the Maha Rajah’s tutor, the ex-Dewan Suba Row, from Travancore. A good deal of correspondence passed between the Maha Rajah and the Resident, as well as the Madras Government, and at last, Suba Row’s removal from Travancore was insisted upon by the Madras Government and the Maha Rajah yielded to the decision of the paramount power.
After some time, the Maha Rajah succeeded in recalling Suba Row to his capital from Tanjore, where he had proceeded in obedience to the orders of the Madras Government. But the Maha Rajah was greatly affected by the decision of Government which he looked upon as unnecessarily severe. The Maha Rajah thought that His Highness’s authority and power in his own country had been set at nought. From this time His Highness became indifferent regarding the administration of the country and was dejected in mind. His health began to fail and a complaint which added to the uneasiness of his mind, began, to prey upon His Highness delicate constitution. Being a learned monarch, His Highness now began to devote his time more to religious devotions than to anything else, and spent his time mostly in prayer ablutions, and in attending to the worship of the great pagoda at Trivandrum. The Maha Rajah began to fulfil his vows by devoting large sums of money to His Highness’ household deity Padmanabha Swami, ever since the commencement of his ailments. On days when His Highness went to offer or fulfil the vows, he used to fast and abstain from taking his usual food and from receiving visits from any one; so much so, that His Highness even denied an audience to his nearest relatives. Hence, the Dewan could not find time for submitting his reports as usual, nay, he could hardly get admittance into the royal presence more than one in a month.In every month, several days were devoted for the fulfillment of the vows at the pagoda, and on each occasion a large sum of money was given to the shrine. On one occasion, the amount was one lac of Surat rupees, which was heaped in front of the idol of Sree Padmanabha Swamy, and the Maha Rajah took the numerous bags containing the rupees and poured the contents into the silver vessels which were kept there for the purpose. This work engaged His Highness about an hour, and had the determination of mind to go through the labour even in his delicate state of health.
During this period, money was apparently considered by the Maha Rajah as dust, and the palace expenditure became most extravagant and lavish. Purchases of sundry articles, such as silks, velvets, kincobs, neeralum (Gold cloth) and other descriptions of cloth, alone absorbed an annual sum of about three lacs of rupees, all valuable jewels brought for sale were at one purchased, and made over to the pagoda as votive offerings to the deity.
Costly buildings were constructed, such as the Karamannay stone bridge attached to the old palace, &c. There was a total discontinuance of interviews with the Resident, General Cullen, against whom the hatred of the Maha Rajah seemed to increase day by day, so much so, that his servants were afraid to utter the Resident’s name in the Maha Rajah’s presence. His Highness would, in conversation with his attendants, when alluding to the Resident, speak of him as “Shveatha” in Sanskrit, “Panddarah” in Mahratta, and “Vellah” in Malayalam.Latterly, the Maha Rajah would not see or receive visits from any European gentlemen, and even His Highness’ physician could not pay his visits to the ailing Maha Rajah, who totally refused to attend to any advice from the doctor or to allow himself to be treated by him.During this interval, Lord Hay, the son of the Marquis of Tweedale, the then Governor of Madras, came to Trivandrum, and it was with the greatest difficulty and in deference to the entreaties of the Elia Rajah and His Highness’ father, that the Maha Rajah was persuaded to see that noblemen.The numerous acts and proceedings of the Maha Rajah, fully attested His Highness’ refined moral principles, and had also shown that the Maha Rajah was a bitter enemy to corruption and immorality. About this time, the career of Dewan Reddy Row gave room to His Highness to suppose that he was too much given up to his dependents and relatives, and that it was through them that the affairs were managed in an unsatisfactory manner.At this interval, the Resident, General Cullen, reported to the Madras Government concerning the objectionable measure of the Dewan, in entertaining two of his sons in responsible offices in the Huzzoor cutcherry which was immediately under his charge, and the Government recommended the removal of those officers form their respective posts. The Maha Rajah was only too glad to attend to this advice of the Government.In the Year 1845 A.D the Dewan proceeded on a circuit to the Northern districts while the Resident was at Balghauty. Reddy Row visited several of the districts north of Quilon, and remained at Paravoor for some time, inquiring into certain charges brought against the tahsildar of that district. While there, the Dewan with all the officers and servants of the Huzoor cutcherry accepted an invitation from Anantha Rama Iyen, the son of Nunjappiah, the late Dewan of Cochin, who had done some good service to Reddy Row during his former incumbency in the reign of Her Highness Parwathi Ranee.
The Dewan, on this occasion, not only received presents himself from Anantha Rama Iyen, but also allowed his followers, the officers and servants of the Huzzoor cutcherry, do the same. In conducting the inquiry against the tahsildar of Paravoor, great irregularities had been practised by the subordinate officials as well as by the Dewan’s private agents, who had followed him thither for the express purpose of enriching themselves. The Dewan’s settlements of a boundary dispute with a certain Dewaswam in the north called Nayathottum, was also open to suspicion.By the time of the Dewan’s return to Trivandrum, every detail connected with his visit to Anantha Rama Iyen’s house, and his inquiry into the charges against the tahsildar, reached the Maha Rajah’s ears. The Resident, general Cullen, too, was in possession of similar facts.The Maha Rajah refused to give audience to the Dewan after his return, and, a few days afterwards, made the premier to understand that the disagreeable necessity of a public inquiry into his conduct might be avoided by his immediate resignation, Reddy Row wisely accepted the proposal, and sent in his resignation oath next day. Upon another occassion, Dewan Peishcar, a very able and experienced officer, who was in great favour with the Maha Rajah , was dismissed from the service on a charge of corruption. The following is an abstract translation of the short royal rescript issued to the Peishcar :-“As we had reason to appreciate your ability and long experience on public business during the time you were holding minor appointments, we promoted you to the office of Dewan Peishcar, but, in course of time, you proved yourself to be extraordinarily avaricious like other mean persons, and various evils have resulted, in consequence, we therefore have dismissed you from your present office”.Soon after Reddy Row’s retirement, Sreenevasa Row, the then first Judge of the appeal court, was appointed headed Dewan Peishcar, in charge of the administration. This officer was a very honest and quiet man, but had not that administrative tact which characterised many of his predecessors. Being called upon to assume charge of the administration at a time when the ablest Dewan, would have found it difficult to manage affairs satisfactorily ; he experienced great trouble in coping with the emergency. Reddy Row had brought the administration in to a state which Sreenevasa Row’s hand was too weak to rectify. The gradually growing illness of the Maha Rajah and his consequent indifference to the affairs of the State, the increasing misunderstanding between the court and the Resident; the general inactivity of the district officials, who had all a firm belief in the speedy return of Krishna Row to office, and above all the financial embarrassments of the country, were evils which Sreenevasa Row found too hard for him to surmount. People knew that his hands were tied; and that he had no power to act in any matter for himself. The Resident called for reports on every point connected with the administration, while he was utterly unable to get a reply from the palace to his references on important matters for months together. Revenue collections fell into arrears. The tobacco revenue, which was then the chief item among other branches, began to suffer owing to the prevalence of smuggling, while the daily expenses in the palace increased on account of ceremonies and other demands. The large sum of money amounting to upwards of thirty four lacs of Rupees which was the surplus in the treasury during the prosperous administration of Dewan Suba Row, and which had been transferred to the palace treasury on his retirement was all spent in vows and religious ceremonies at the pagodas, and the palace treasury also soon became empty. Thus, the financial difficulty became greater than all the other difficulties with which the acting premier had to deal. The head Dewan, Peishcar, Sreenevasa Row, was often found in a pitiful state, especially when the time for paying the monthly subsidy to the Resident’s treasury approached.The allowance to the various establishments had been in areas, and every day the Huzzoor cutcherry was invaded by crowds of people expecting and requesting payment.Sreenevasa Row had some good qualities. He was quite amenable to reason. He used to seek advice from able and honest officials of his cutcherry, without regard to their rank and position. He never shrunk from retracing his steps when he found it was necessary to do so. Buy such a sensible line of conduct Sreenevasa Row was enabled to show improvement in the financial department and in the general administration.In the next malabar year Year 1021 (A. D. 1845), the Maha Rajah wishing a change of air visited Quilon, and this entailed an enormous additional expenditure. Towards the close of the year, to aggravate the already existing difficulties, a great misfortune befell Travancore. An unusually heavy storm but over the country destroying both life and property to a considerable extent.The storm and the consequent floods destroyed many of other irrigation works in the South. Numbers of trees, houses,&c.,&c., in the north came down and many ryots had their houses washed away. By this event the improvement in the financial condition of the country was considerably retarded.In this year, the Maha Rajah’s father died. This was an irreparable and deeply felt loss to the State. Fro \m this date, the Maha Rajah’s ailments began to increase. He loved seclusion and solitude, and as his malady increased, his habit became more sedentary. No person had access to His Highness, save his personal attendants, of whom one man waited at a suitable place to attend when summoned. Even the physician attached to the Maha Rajah could not get any correct information regarding the State of His Highness’ health. His Highness’ brother, the Elia Rajah, who had a good knowledge of the medical science was his only medical attendant. Even the Elia Rajah himself could not go to see his brother without special permission. There were several native practitioners of some note and ability at hand, but they were of no use, as His highness refused to admit any of them to the royal presence. The Maha Rajah at this time was unable even to walk a few paces.His Highness one day called his brother the Elia Rajah, and observed that Sreenevasa Row , being a quiet man, would not be able to cope with the opposition of the Resident, General Cullen, and do his duties satisfactorily, and as His Highness had already permitted Krishna Row to return to Trevandrum and reside there, His Highness intended giving him a fresh trial, as he wished to see what effect that measure would produce in General Cullen’s mind . His Highness the Elia Rajah entirely agreed with the views of the Maha Rajah went to bathe in the tank, His Highness sitting there called the palace Rayasom (writer), and dictated a Neet (commission ) of appointment to Krishna Row as Dewan Peishcar. After this, Krishna Row was summoned to the Royal presence. Not knowing for what purpose he was so suddenly called to the palace, Krishna Row was frightened, but no sooner was he ushered into the presence of the Maharajah, than His Highness in a very unusual way, smiled and said, Here , Krishna Row accept your re-appointment into my service. I forgive and forget all what is past; from this day you are my man and not General Cullen’s . Go, work honestly for the advancement of my country and render every possible assistance to Sreenevasa Row.Krishna Row became speechless, shed tears copiously, and all that he could say in his own Telugu tongue was, Maha Rajah! Maha Rajah! I am your Highness slave and waiting boy, protect me, protect me. This was the last commission of appoinment signed by the Maha Raja and it took place on the 26th Vrichigum 1022 M.E ( 10th December 1846).After Swathi's demise, his brother ascended the throne and he held a cordial relationship with Resident Cullen. Cullen retired in 1860 and settled in Alleppy and passed away in 1862. When the news reached the Maharaja (Swathi's brother), mourning was ordered and a scholarship was instituted in his memory which is listed even today in University College Calender. There is a road named after Cullen in Alleppy town even today. In the CSI church in Alleppy, where Cullen was laid to rest, the memorial plaque reads: "LIEUT GENERAL WILLIAM CULLEN: Resident at the court of Rajah of Travancore and Cochin for twenty years from 1840-1860 was no less devoted to the British Government which he represented than to the development of the best interests of the population and the country which he had made his home: In rememberance of him this monument has been erected by his niece MARION MARJORI BANKS: October 1862"

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