Before Kerala came into existence on the 1st of November 1956, it was a collection of kingdoms. And while much of this history has gone undocumented (and lost to time), there are a few rulers who have made their mark and are, therefore, remembered to this day. Here are 5 such Kings who’ve made a lasting impact on modern Kerala.
Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma is known as the Maker of Modern Travancore and was the ruler of the Indian kingdom of Travancore (Venadu) from 1729 until his death in 1758. He introduced European style military reforms and an annual budget system. He led successful campaigns against neighbouring kingdoms like Attingal Desam, Ilayidam Swaroopam, Ambalappuzha, Thekkumkoor, and Vadakkumkoor, conquering them to expand his kingdom. Most notably, in August 1741 his army defeated the Dutch East India Company at the Battle of Kulachal; considered to be the earliest example of an organised power from Asia overcoming European military technology and tactics.
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja
Known as Kerala Simham, Pazhassi Raja was the de facto head of the kingdom of Kottayam (Cotiote), in Malabar between 1774 and 1805. He fought a war of resistance against the Mysorean army from 1774 to 1793 when the Kingdom of Mysore occupied Malabar and allied with the British East India Company (EIC) in the Anglo-Mysore war. He later disagreed with the EIC on taxation and led a rebellion against them. His war against the EIC is known as the Cotiote War (Kottayathu War) and spanned across 13 years – from 1793 to 1806, and is the longest anti-British resistance put up by an Indian leader. He was also the only person to defeat Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington; the man who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo.
Rama Varma Kunhjippilla Thampuran or Rama Varma IX was the ruler of the Kingdom of Cochin from 1790 to 1805. His strict governance and unyielding nature gained him the nickname Sakthan Thampuran. The city of Thrissur owes a lot to Sakthan Thampuran as the city rose to prominence when he transferred his capital from Thrippunithura to Thrissur. The Thrissur Pooram is believed to be his brainchild too.
Dharma Raja Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma was the Maharajah of Travancore from 1758 until his death in 1798. He was called Dharma Raja on account of his strict adherence to Dharma Sastra, the principles of justice, by providing asylum to thousands of Hindus and Christians fleeing Malabar during the religious and military onslaught of Tipu Sultan. He even received a letter from Pope Clement XIV wherein he thanked the Maharajah for the kindness to the members of his church in Travancore and officially placed all the Christians in Travancore under the protection of the sovereign. He was also known for his support for the intellectuals and artists. Famous poets like Kunchan Nambiar and Unnayi Variyar were the members of Karthika Thirunal’s durbar.
Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma
Sree Padmanabhadasa Sree Sir Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, popularly known as Sree Chithira Thirunal, was the last ruling Maharaja of the Princely State of Travancore. He reigned as Maharaja from 1924 until 1949 and later the Titular Maharajah of Travancore until 1991. He enacted the Temple Entry Proclamation in 1936, established the University of Travancore (now the University of Kerala) in 1937. The Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, Travancore Public Transport Department (renamed Kerala State Road Transport Corporation), Pallivasal Hydro-electric Project, and Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) were established by him. He is given credit for the industrialization of Travancore.
And that’s our list of 5 famous Kings from Kerala. Are there others who should be added to this list? Let us know in the comments section.