History of the Travancore Kingdom
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The 1st century AD saw the arrival of Jewish immigrants. Syrian Orthodox Christians believe that St. Thomas the Apostle visited Kerala in the same century.
Much of Kerala's history from the 6th to 8th century AD is obscure, but Arab traders introduced Islam later in the period.
Under the Kulasekhara dynasty (c. 800-1102) Malayalam emerged as a distinct language, and Hinduism became prominent.
The Cholas often controlled Kerala during the 11th and 12th centuries. By the beginning of the 14th century, Ravi Varma Kulasekhara of Venad established a short-lived supremacy over southern India. After his death, the region became a conglomeration of warring chieftaincies.
The era of foreign intervention began in 1498, with the landing of Vasco da Gama at Kodungallur near Kozhikode (Calicut). In the 16th century the Portuguese superseded the Arab traders and dominated the commerce of Malabar. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese in the 17th century.
Marthanda Varma ascended the Venad throne in 1729. The reign of Marthanda Varma, saw the consolidation of many small chieftaincies (princely states) to form the State of Thiruvithamkur with its Capital at Padmanabhapuram. His reign was followed by that of Dharma Raja (1758 - 1798). The weakness of Dharma Rajah was taken advantage of by the East India Company, who compelled him to give up Nanguneri and take Shencottah in the year 1765 A.D.
Succession of Balarama Varma after the death of Dharma Raja resulted in the reversal of liberal policies followed by Marthanda Varma and Dharma Rajah. Weak and incompetent, his powers came to be exercised by certain unpopular ministers like Jayanthan Sankaran Namboodiri, Sankara Narayana Chetti and Mathu Tharakan. They levied forced loans from prominent individuals. Veluthampi reacted sharply to this unreasonable deed and organised a popular revolt against the ministers. Raja dismissed these ministers and Veluthampi and Chembaka Raman Pillai were appointed as Commerce Minister and Dalawa respectively. In 1800 Veluthampi was appointed as the Dalawa with the approval of Resident Mecaulay. He introduced a series of beneficial reforms in the fields of education and agriculture.
Veluthampi’s successor Ummini Thampi continued the reformatory programs. Establishment of courts and collection of revenue from all available sources were introduced in Travancore. But later Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bai dismissed Ummini Thampi and appointed Resident Col. Munroe as Diwan.
Rani Gouri Parvathi Bai who succeeded Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bai was a liberal administrator and she paved the way for development in all sectors of the society.
In 1829 Swathi Thirunal came into full power (From the time of his birth, as a child, he was ruling first under the Regency of his mother and on her demise even before he was two years old and then under the Regancy of his aunt) and his tenure is known as the ‘Golden Age’ of modern Travancore. Under his patronage, Art and music flourished. He was a great composer in Carnatic music. The economic and social up-lift during his reign was noteworthy.
Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma continued the reforms of his predecessor and resulted in the uninterrupted progress of modern Travancore.
In 1860, Ayilyam Thirunal succeeded Uthram Thirunal. Agrarian reforms, abolition of monopoly on pepper and tobacco, a review on British civil and criminal procedure code etc. were among the major achievements of Ayilyam Thirunal. During this period T Madhava Rao was in power as Diwan. Sheshagiri Sastri succeeded him and assumed power of Diwan in 1872. In 1877 Nanupillai was appointed as Diwan.
Rama Varma Visakham Thirunal was the follower of Ayilyam Thrunal. He bestowed attention on every branch of administration and continued till 1885. This period marked the beginning of the all round development of Travancore.
Sree Moolam Thirunal Ramavarma, the successor of Visakham Thirunal reigned Travancore from 1885 to 1923. He introduced revolutionary changes in the fields of education, agriculture and communication. His most significant reform was the introduction of Sree Moolam Praja Sabha - a popular assembly.
Sethu Lakshmi Bhai acted as the Regent from 1924 to 1931 during the minority of Chithra Thirunal Balarama Varma. During this period M.E. Watts, the first non-Hindu, held the office Diwan of Travancore . The Regency saw the abolition of Devadasi system and the Nair regulation of 1925.
Major-General H.H. Maharaja Raja Ramaraja Sri Patmanabhadasa Vanchipala Balarama Varma II [Sri Chithira Tirunal], Kulasekhara Kiritapati Manney Sultan Bahadur, Shamsher Jang, Maharaja of Travancore, 1924 -, who came to power in 1931 and was the last of the ruling sovereigns of Travancore. He introduced administrative and social reforms. Bicameral legislation, Temple entry proclamation and establishment of Travancore University were his significant achievements.
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