A letter from Col. Munro to the British Governor on the situation arising out of the demise of Swathi Thirunal’s Mother, Gouri Lakshmi Bayi.

Reproduced below is a letter from Col. Munro, British Resident in Travancore, addressed to Fort St. George Madras in 25th October 1814, embodying his recommendation to nominate the Principal Thampuratti of Attingal H.H. Gouri Parvathi Bayi as Regent. This letter reveals the administrative sagacity of Col. Munro, and the remarkable qualities and capacity of the Tampuratti. (regent)


The Chief Secretary to the Government,
Fort St. George.
I regret that indisposition has for some time prevented me from transmitting to you a report on the form of the Government proper in my judgment to be established in Travancore. The decision of this question appears to be limited necessarily to one of the two following arrangements viz. First that the British Government considering the Infant Rajah as a minor should assume the Chief control of the affairs of the country according to the system of measures pursued for some years in Mysore, or secondly that Her Highness the Principal Tumbratty of Attingal should be declared Regent of the country and placed at the head of its Government until the Rajah shall attain a suitable age.On grounds of justice the British Government appears to be authorized by the nature of the subsisting relations between the States to adopt whichever of those arrangements shall be best recommended by other considerations and the people of Travancore entertain at the present moment so firm a confidence in the moderation, honor and equity of the English nation that they will submit with readiness to such regulations as shall be established for the Government of their country.It may be proper to examine the probable effects of the two arrangements which I have mentioned in their relation to the prosperity of the country, the feelings and prejudices of the people, the safety of the young Raja, and the maintenance of the ancient forms and institutions of the State.A severe and oppressive system of Government in Travancore had nearly destroyed the sources of its prosperity, and had impressed upon its inhabitants a character of immorality; idleness, deceit and turbulence which rendered them equally dangerous to their own Rajahs and to the British power. Their history for many years exhibits a series of insurrections and crimes. The reformation of those evils has been a primary object of my policy, and I have many reasons to be satisfied with the result of the measures adopted for its attainment. But although many oppressive regulations have been repealed and several beneficial instructions have been introduced for the administration of justice and the management of the Revenues, much remains still to be for the relief of the people and it may be supposed that such further measures as are requisite for that purpose could be carried into execution with more promptitude and efficacy under the direct control of the British Government than under the administration of a Regent. This argument is far however from being conclusive all the arrangements hitherto pursued for the melioration of the conditions of the people have been introduced gradually and cautiously: they were invariably explained most fully to the late Rannee and received her consent and approbation and it is probable that whatever further measures of reform may be necessary will encounter no obstacles on the part of the Regent’s Government. The execution of those measures would indeed be facilitated in some respect by the existence of a local Government they would be regarded by the people with less jealously and suspicion in being issued such a Government than if they proceeded direct from a British authority. It may be expected that the young Tumbratty if appointed Regent may be induced by entrusted advisers to lavish the resources of the country, a defect from which her late sister was not exempted but this disposition may be restrained by proper advice on the part of the Resident and as it cannot interrupt the payment of the subsidy of the regular disbursements of the Government, it will never probably be productive of any practical inconvenience. Although the people of Travancore will entrust readily to any form of administration prescribed by the wisdom of the British Government, yet it is reasonable to suppose that they may be more partial to one system of Government than to another, as far as I am qualified to judge of their sentiments, I think that the appointment of a Regent by its preserving the appearance of a National and local Government would be more satisfactory to them than the measure of vesting the Chief control of affairs in a British authority. The appointment of a Regent would maintain the ancient form of the Government and prevent the appearance of innovation or intrusion. During the reign of the late Ranee I showed the most marked attention to her wishes and employed every means in my power to support her dignity and authority: the people were accustomed to regard her with reverence and respect which they had paid to their Rajahs: they saw her occupy the place of the Rajah and scarcely found any difference in the constitution of the Government. But at present as the infant Rajah is avowedly incapable of exercising any of the functions of his office the want of an ostensibly efficient head of the Government although it certainly would not occasion any movement among the people might serve as a presence for exciting discontent in their minds. There is however this objection to the appointment of the Regent, that it might furnish her with temptations to abridge the lives of the young Rajahs [The reference here is to Swathi Thirunal & Uthram Thirunal –Ed] in order to prolong the continuance of her power or transmit it to her children, and afford her facilities for the execution of that crime if she should ever mediate it. But the temptations to commit that crime and the facilities for executing it will be nearly the same whether the remains in her present situation. In the latter case the death of her sister’s children would occasion her elevation to the Musnud: and as Principal Tumbratty she has such constant intercourse with the family and so much influence in the place as to progress ample opportunities for accomplishing their destruction if she should ever seriously intend it. But there is nothing in the conduct, character or disposition of the Tumbratty that can allow us to suppose her capable of undertaking so terrible a crime. The warmest affection subsisted between the late Ranee and she seems to regard her sister’s children as her own. The Tumbratty has no-children: it is probable that a few years may elapse before she bears any, and in the mean time the young Rajahs will attain an age of greater strength and maturity.In appointing a Regent there will also be this advantage that the ancient system of the Government the correspondence with the Dewan and the regular forms of office will be maintained until the Rajah takes the administration into his own hands-and although a great degree of wisdom cannot be expected in the resolutions of a young woman, yet as she will be surrounded by the old friends and advisers of the Government-she will most probably act with propriety and the circumstance of the Dewan being required to report his proceedings and receive her orders upon all his measures will operate as a salutary check upon his conduct and serve as the means of recording all the transactions of the administration.The consideration which I have stated appear to concur in recommending the measure of appointing Her Highness the Tumbratty to the charge of the Government- measure is conformable to the institutions of the Hindoos which generally vest the change of affairs during the Infancy of a Rajah in the senior member of his family-Ossorio in his history of the Portuguese states that when that nation first arrived at Quilon “the Queen Dowagers was in the place of her son who was not of age then managed the Kingdom of Quilon with great reputation”. The principal Tumbratty’s talents are considered superior to those of her late sisters her disposition seems to be candid and sincere and there is every reason to suppose that she will act with prudence and rectitude if placed in charge of the Government. In the event of her being declared regent I beg leave to recommend that she may be addressed by the titles stated in the accompanying Paper (Nos.). They are the same which were addressed to her late sister with the exception of one word which is considered more suitable to the Tumbratty name which is Parwedi.After the date of my last letter to you I had several conferences with Her Highness the Tumbratty. In one of those having sent her attendants to some distance with the exception of a Brahmin who is much in her confidence, I requested Her Highness to state to me her real sentiments with those of her late sister regarding the Dewan, and the person most eligible to fill his place. I mentioned to the Tumbratty that I was anxious to receive on this subject her own opinion unbiased by the prejudices or enmities of any of her attendants. I told her that no person was more jealous of her welfare and Honor than the Dewan that he was an upright well-disposed man but enemies eager to misrepresent his actions-she replied that she entertained no personal hostility towards the Dewan but she as well as her late sister thought him unqualified for his office, and his conduct had in some instances since his appointment been improper and disrespectful. I said that the Dewan’s intentions could not always be understood from his ordinary behavior which was often blunt and informal and that I should beg permission on the next day to receive a more deliberate expression of her judgment regarding the Dewan. I then adverted to the high importance attached to the safety of the Infant Rajah. I mentioned that the solicitude, which must be felt on this point by all the friends of the State, would be much relieved and the safety of the young Rajah materially ensured by an officer being placed on the spot who having no other motives of conduct expecting zeal for the public interests would watch over the Rajah’s welfare. Take the most effectual precautions to guard him from all dangers and report the state of his health. I said that Captain Macleod was a person in whose discretion, judgment and temper the utmost veliance might be placed, and I begged to know whether Her Highness approved of his remaining at Trivandrum in the exercise of the duties that had been entrusted to Maha Sing. His functions would not I assured her produce the smallest interference with the established customs of the place, but would be limited to the means indispensable to the safely of the Rajah. Her Highness said she was extremely well pleased with the arrangement, which I had suggested: it would relieve her own mind from much anxiety and she hoped it might be carried into effect.On the following day I waited on the Tumbratty and received the accompanying Memorandum regarding the Dewan. I said that I should submit it to the Government.The sentiments of the principal persons in the Palace were entirely favourable to the arrangement, which I have stated regarding Captain Macleod. Indeed most of them expressed their satisfaction at a measure, which promised to afford the greatest practicable degree of safety to the Rajah and exonerate them from the suspicions that in case of accident might attach to their conduct. Those dispositions induced me to place Captain Macleod until the pleasure of the Government should be known in the charge that had been occupied by Maha Sing. I found it necessary to return to Quilon: the Public Cutcherry is at this place: and the state of affairs here required my presence.I have carefully considered the conduct of the Dewan; and my anxiety to form just opinions regarding his proceedings has also contributed to delay the transmission of this Report. He seems more deficient in capacity than in good dispositions and principles. To me he has always been most submissive and has constantly manifested an anxiety to follow the rules established for his conduct, to evince his attachment to the British Government and the Rajah, and to promote the good of the people. But on leaving me he is sometimes led into error by the suggestions of artful and interested advisers and he adopts measures which he views with extreme regent when their inefficiency is pointed out to him, as his age exceeds 60 years his memory has failed very much, and this circumstances has produced some contradictory orders and on some occasions led me to think he had acted with insincerity- He is anxious to act from himself and this feeling of his mind induces him frequently to neglect the advice of the principal public servants and occasions much detriment to the affairs of his administration. His temper is sometimes violent, but the habitual tendency of his mind inclines to clemency and humanity: a disposition, which frequently leads him to pass unpunished delinquencies of some injury to the public interests. He is averse to intrigues: he has not attempted to form any party in his favor: or to conceal any of his proceedings but he is at the same time jealous of the ablest servants in the Cutcherry and slow to consult them. The affairs of the country have fallen into considerable disorder from his want of energy and his lenity to crimes. The Revenues are in arrears: customs, that branch of the public Revenue of which the receipts depend so much upon the vigilance of the administration, scarcity exceed a half of their former amount, and the salaries of the public servants have not been paid for two months at the same time it is proper to state that the Dewan has not with serious contraction in consequence of intrigues at Trivandrum and of reports that the Rannees indisposition towards him would speedily produce his removal. The intentions and principles of the Dewan seem to be very good and the extreme difficulty of finding in this country a person of ordinary integrity and fidelity renders it desirable to retain him in office of that measure can be reconciled to the wishes of the Principle Tumbratty. I do not believe that the Tumbratty entertains any hostility towards the Dewan or is particularly solicitous for his removal. Indeed I have reasons for concluding that sentiments, which she expressed to me regarding him, proceeded from the suggestion of some persons about her who are offended at his unbinding temper. The Council and assistance of the Resident may render the Dewan’s proceedings more efficient until he acquires a sufficient degree of experience in his present office to act with success. But if the Tumbratty should be appointed Regent and continue decidedly hostile to the present Dewan, I see no alternative excepting that of removing him from office; and in this case Chidmbram Krishna Pillai the person mentioned by the Tumbratty for his successor seems to be eligible for that situation. He succeed the Dewan as Chief Judge of the Principal Court and is a man of prudence and abilities. Yet I hope it will not be found necessary to make change: when I wrote by last report at Trivandrum I had received from the persons about the Palace and even from many public servants information unfavourable to the principles and dispositions of the Dewan: but a deliberate consideration of his conduct has satisfied my mind that the error which he committed and he has certainly committed some, proceeded entirely from bad advice, and want of judgement, and do not impeach the purity of his principles or his attachment to the interests of the allowance.

I have the honour to be

Titles proposed to be addressed to the Principal Tumbratty: Padmoonaben Seveny, Vanjy Durma Vardany, Raja Rajeswary Rannee Parvidy Baee

(Padmanabha sevini Vanchi Dharma Vardhini Raja Rajeswari Rani Parvathi Bayi)


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