37. Kerala History Twist

@Padmanabhapuram, Tamil Nadu, India.

Padmanabhapuram was the old capital of the princely state of Travancore, the kingdom which defeated the powerful armies of the Dutch as well as that of Tipu’s Mysore which was so many times bigger than Travancore. The famous Travancore King, Rama Varma, who was popularly known as Dharma Raja, was the one who shifted the capital in 1795 from Padmanabhapuram to Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum. But the fact remains that Padmanabhapuram is no longer a part of Travancore, or Trivandrum; not in Kerala or even on the border; it is located near Thuckalay in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu along with Udayagiri Fort which has a ruined chapel with the tombs of the Dutch Admiral Eustachius De Lannoy. This is where the history of the most powerful state of Kerala lies from when it was a rising power. It is not in it’s parent state where the later capital exists, but it is still not that bad a thing as it is well maintained even outside Kerala. It looks as good as it could be, as it doesn’t have any unnecessary scratches or writings which those third rate people give to the historical monuments; those worthless scums of the Earth who doesn’t value history even as they are soon going to be part of it while being kissed by worms.

It will be more appropriate to start with the Fort and so, Udayagiri Fort is located at a distance of fourteen kilometres from Nagercoil. The fort is situated on the Thiruvananthapuram-Nagercoil National highway, quite close to the Padmanabhapuram palace and can be visited as a part of the palace visit. Even as it was originally built in the seventeenth century, and then rebuilt later by the most powerful ruler Kerala ever witnessed, Marthanda Varma of Travancore in the eighteenth century, under the supervision of Eustachius De Lannoy, a Flemish naval commander of the Dutch East India Company, who later served as the commander of the Travancore Army; the tombs of this Dutch commander, his wife and son can also be found inside a ruined chapel in the fort if one can afford to walk some distance from the gate. This fort was once used to keep the prisoners captured during the aggression of Tippu Sultan against Travancore; the British East India Company’s troops were also stationed here till the middle of the nineteenth century. Now this fort is almost like a park, with trees and other small attractions added to it, and children do come here in groups.

The most important thing about the fort would be the tomb for sure, even as it is not in a good shape. Eustachius Benedictus De Lannoy a.k.a Captain De Lannoy, a Flemish naval commander of the Dutch East India Company, who was sent in order to establish a trading post at Colachel. The attempt to capture Travancore and get rid of it’s king resulted in failure as the technologically advanced and better equipped Dutch army was defeated at the Battle of Colachel by the Travancore army under Marthanda Varma and his trusted Minister and Commander of the army, Ramayyan Dalawa in 1741, and later became the commander of the same foreign army that had defeated him. This lead to the decline of Dutch power in India and they were reduced to a trading company and couldn’t think about capturing any part of India again, but the British would give it a try and be successful from another angle. This was actually the first and the only comprehensive defeat and complete retreat of a European army in front of any independent kingdom in the Indian subcontinent. De Lannoy’s story didn’t end there as his role as military commander of the Travancore army was of heavy significance in the later military successes, conquests and exploits of the kingdom under Marthanda Varma. He kind of modernized the Travancore Army and it’s boundaries remained unaffected by it’s neighbours since then. He erected many forts around the kingdom thus strengthening it’s defence.

The Dutch never recovered from the defeat in the hands of Travancore and no longer had in them the power to pose a large enough colonial threat to India. Thanks to De Lannoy, Travancore would be a kingdom to be feared. But all these have been less known and not many people actually cared about the History of Kerala, which has lead to the not too good state of this tomb of De Lannoy and the chapel which was around it. It is more of a sad thing that there are monuments to people who lead battles for their own selfishness, thirst for blood and their own regionalism, but not for someone, a foreigner to India who tried his best to improve a nation which he was not even part of, and died in the same nation. When people don’t know their own kings, social reformers and scholars, there is no wonder about the fact that the best people will go forgotten. When people keep studying science and commerce only, for those material benefits which are promised, history will slowly get buried further deep, but the fact will remain that if they ignore history, they will also be wiped out from the universe; literature might live on a side, but it is more far-fetched and without history and the efforts to protect it and it’s monuments, there will be no past, and without it, there will be no good enough present and a future which will be worth living for, or even dying for.

As we remember the man who was more loyal to a king who was not even his own master than all those people who betrayed their own home country, it is the Padmanabhapuram palace which comes back into the scene; the then capital of Travancore, where Marthanda Varma, the maker of the kingdom ruled with grace, forming the Kingdom of Travancore from Venad Swaroopam. After the Travancore-Dutch War, which presented the earliest example of an Asian power overcoming advanced European military technology and superior tactics, he also defeated the Zamorin of Calicut, all these tactics originating from this one palace. These conquests would only be matched by the defence of Travancore against the invasion by Mysore’s Tippu Sultan, which was even a bigger attack considering it was a hundred percent land attack and more brutal and violent than that of the Dutch. The palace, although surrounded entirely by the State of Tamil Nadu is still part of Kerala and the land and Palace belongs to the Government of Kerala just like it’s architecture which itself reminds us of Kerala. This palace is completely maintained by the Government of Kerala Archaeology Department even as the visitors are from different parts of India, especially South India.

As it is easily accessible from Thrivananthapuram, Nagercoil and Kanyakumari, it has to be considered a sure place to be visited. The palace was constructed around 1601 by Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal who ruled Travancore at that time. It starts from the clock tower in the palace complex hving a very old clock, which still seems to work well. The structure is simple and still complicated at the same time, thanks to it’s wooden carvings and the lamps and pillars which maintains a style of their own, mostly related to the old Kerala style of architecture. Even the furniture remains no exception as they too remain loyal to the traditional Kerala style. A secret passage also existed, now blocked, through which the king and his men could escape to another palace through tunnels, the end located several kilometers away, in the event of any foreign attacks which would reach the inside. There is also the bathing pond which looked a little neglected. There are also ancient jars, paintings, weapons and sculptures. Overall, it is a great structure and instead of going to visit those palaces and monuments which are the symbols of unnecessary splendour and using people’s money for personal gain, one should visit this place which belonged to the popular kings who lived for the people. As an end note, this place is not to be confused with the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, as some people I know already did; it is surprising to look at the change the worldly wealth makes even in the case of spirituality and God.

Diving out —>



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