Marthanda Varma

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Marthanda Varma
King of Travancore
Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma.jpg
A depiction of Marthanda Varma
Reign1729 – 7 July 1758
Predecessor Rama Varma
Successor Rama Varma ("Dharma Raja")
BornAnizham Thirunal
Attingal, Venad
Died7 July 1758 (aged 53)
Padmanabhapuram, Kingdom of Travancore
Regnal name
Sri Padmanabhadasa Vanchipala Maharajah Sri Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma Kulasekhara Perumal
Kulasekhara Dynasty House Of Venad
FatherRaghava Varma Koyil Thampuran of Kilimanoor
MotherKarthika Thirunal Umadevi of Attingal
Religion Hinduism

Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma (Malayalam: അനിഴം തിരുനാൾ മാർത്താണ്ഡവർമ്മ) was the founding monarch of the southern Indian Kingdom of Travancore (previously Venadu) from 1729 until his death in 1758. [1] He was succeeded by Rama Varma ("Dharma Raja") (1758–98). [2]


Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch East India Company forces at the Battle of Colachel in 1741.He also put an end to the ettuveetil pillamars and the ettara yogam council and took the full power as a king. The Yogakars and Pillamars were always against the Royal Family of Venad (Padmabhaswamy Temple Judgement page :16) He then adopted a European mode of discipline for his army and expanded his kingdom northward (to what became the modern state of Travancore). [1] He built a sizeable standing army of about 50,000 nair men, as part of designing an "elaborate and well-organised" war machine, [2] with the role of the travancore army and fortified the northern boundary of his kingdom (Travancore Lines). [2] His alliance in 1757 with the ruler of Kochi (Cochin), against the northern Kingdom of Calicut, enabled the kingdom of Kochi to survive. [1]

Travancore under Marthanda Varma made a deliberate attempt to consolidate its power by the use of Indian Ocean trade. [2] It was the policy of Marthanda Varma to offer assistance to Syrian Christian traders (as a means of limiting European involvement in ocean trade). The principal merchandise was black pepper, but other goods also came to be defined as royal monopoly items (requiring a license for trade) between the 1740s and the 1780s. [3] [2] Eventually, Travancore challenged and broke the Dutch blockade of the Kerala coast. [3]

Trivandrum became a prominent city in Kerala under Marthanda Varma. [4] He undertook many irrigational works, built roads and canals for communication and gave active encouragement to foreign trade. [5] In January, 1750, Marthanda Varma decided to "donate" his kingdom to the last Tiruvadi Sri Padmanabha (Vishnu) and thereafter rule as the deity's "vice-regent" (Sri Padmanabha Dasa). [6] [7] Marthanda Varma's policies were continued in large measure by his successor, Rama Varma ("Dharma Raja").

Early life

Marthanda Varma was born in 1706 to queen Karthika Thirunal Umadevi, the Queen of Attingal, and Raghava Varma of Kilimanoor Palace. [8] Queen Karthika Thirunal Uma Devi - an adoptee from the northern Kolathunadu ruling family - was the senior queen of Attingal at the time. His father Raghava Varma Koil Thampuran died of severe fever when he was one year old.

At the time of Varma's birth, Trippappur Swaroopam (Thiruvithamkoor or Travancore) was a small chiefdom extending from Edava in the north to Aralvaimozhi in the south. [9] The fundamental politico-economic structure of medieval Kerala was going through a crisis.[ clarification needed ]

The power of the king of Venad was very weak and he could not sustain his control over his territory. [10] The old political structure of the medieval Kerala was going through a crisis in the beginning of the 18th century. [9]

An English East India Company factory was established at Vizhinjam in 1644. The Ajengo Fort was established in 1695. The ruler Rama Varma (1721/22 - 1729 [10] ) entered into treaties with the English East India Company (1723) and the Madurai Nayaks with the aim of strengthening his position (in the fight against the nobles and other hostile elements in Tranvancore). The role played by Marthanda Varma in these moves are highlighted by P. Shungoonny Menon, the 19th-century Travancore court historian. [9] The Dutch Company positioned themselves against the emerging Travancore by helping Quilon and Kayamkulam. The English Company became an ally of Travancore against the Dutch. [10]

Rule of Marthanda Varma

Mobilisation of additional resources involved territorial conquests...The territorial conquests of Marthanda Varma were intended not only for settling political differences but also for controlling areas that yielded food crops and commercial products, particularly pepper for the ports of trade in southern and central Kerala...The reorganisation of land relations effected by Marthanda Varma following his conquest of Quilon, Kayamkulam, Tekkenkur and Vadakkenkur was essentially to ensure this control of resources.

K. N. Ganesh, historian, in "The Process of State Formation in Travancore" (1990)

Marthanda Varma ascended the throne when the crisis in Travancore had already deepened. King Rama Varma was forced to invite troops from Tamil Nadu to collect dues and impose order. Even the Padmanabha Swamy Temple affairs were heading towards a crisis due to lack of funds. [10] The Thampi brothers, sons of Rama Varma, immediately revolted against Marthanda Varma (who was the legitimate successor on the basis of the Nair matrilineal system) with the assistance of a Tamil army. [10]

Marthanda Varma's reign was one of constant warfare, against opponents both inside and outside his territory. [11] After reducing the power of the Ettuveetil Pillamar, the Nair aristocracy, and their associates, the Yogakkars, Marthanda Varma turned his attention to central Kerala. [3] [9] He realised that Dutch power in Kerala stemmed from their flourishing spice trade at the port of Kochi. He set out to conquer the major spice-producing areas supplying cargo to Kochi. After declaring a state monopoly on pepper in Travancore in 1743, between then and 1752, the king annexed Quilon, Kayamkulam, Thekkumkur, Vadakkumkur and Purakkad to Travancore (thereby delivering a serious blow to the commerce of the Dutch). [12]

Battle of Colachel (1741)

The chapel at Udayagiri Fort, Kanyakumari. Eustachius de Lannoy's tomb is located in the chapel cemetery. De lannoy Tomb.JPG
The chapel at Udayagiri Fort, Kanyakumari. Eustachius de Lannoy's tomb is located in the chapel cemetery.

Travancore then launched a series of raids on the Dutch forts in the area and captured them all. In retaliation, a Dutch artillery force landed at Colachel from Ceylon and conquered up to Kottar. The Dutch forces then advanced against Kalkulam, Travancore's capital. Marthanda Varma, who was then in the north of his state promptly marched his forces to the south and arrived at Kalkulam just in time to prevent its fall to the Dutch. [9]

In the following battle at Colachel (10 August 1741), the Travancore forces won a resounding victory over the Dutch. More than twenty Dutch were taken as prisoners of war from Colachel. Among them was Eustachius de Lannoy, who attracted the king's special notice. Eustachius de Lannoy, commonly known in Travancore as the 'Valiya Kappittan' (Senior Captain) was entrusted with the organisation and drilling of a special regiment, which he did to the "entire satisfaction of the king". De Lannoy was raised to the rank of general in Travancore army and proved of considerable service to Marthanda Varma in subsequent battles.

Treaty of Mavelikkara (1753)

The ascent of Travancore seems to have been particularly rapid after about 1749. [3] Marthanda Varma had declared a state monopoly on pepper in Travancore in 1743, thereby delivering a serious blow to the commerce of the Dutch. [12] A treaty (the Treaty of Mavelikkara [3] ) was concluded between Marthanda Varma and the Dutch East India Company. It was signed at Mavelikkara on 15 August 1753. Thereafter, the Dutch Company officials report that "considerable spice producing lands came under direct royal control, while those merchants participating in illegal trade in spices stood in danger of being executed". [3]


Culture and religion

Marthanda Varma was born a Samantan Nair [15] Wanting the status of a (Kshatriya), he performed a set of elaborate and expensive Mahadana rituals as which included the Hiranyagarbha . [16] Marthanda Varma started normalising the relationship between the royal family (the ruler) and the Padmanabhaswamy Temple (the administrative body of the temple) as soon as he came to the throne. He undertook the Prayaschittam retribution that was long overdue from the earlier Venadu kings. [10] He reorganized the collection of dues from the temple lands. After the land survey of 1739-40, the allotment of expenses for the temple was fixed. [10]

Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram was re-created as the gigantic structure of today and new state ceremonies such as Murajapam, Bhadra Deepam, and others were introduced by Marthanda Varma. The main Vishnu idol of the shrine, which was mostly destroyed in a fire during his predecessor Rama Varma's time, was also re-constructed. He also created Ottakkal Mandapam as well as the Sheevelippura. Out of the seven floors of the temple gopura, five were finished during his reign. [17]

Thiruvananthapuram became a prominent city in Kerala under Marthanda Varma. [4] As a result of the annexation of neighbouring chiefdoms, the artists and scholars from these places migrated to Trivandrum, turning it into a cultural centre. Marthanda Varma gave patronage to different temple art forms including Koothu, Padhakam, Kathakali, Thullal, and Koodiyattam. Noted artists such as Ramapurathu Warrier and Kunchan Nambiar amongst others served as his court poets. [17]


In 1749–50, Marthanda Varma decided to "donate" his realm to Sri Padmanabha (Vishnu) and thereafter rule as the deity's "vice-regent" (Sri Padmanabha Dasa). [6] [7]

Purpose of Thrippadidanam


Ramayyan Dalava, prime minister and a close friend of Marthanda Varma, died in 1756. Ramayyan's death caused terrible grief to Marthada Varma, and he died two years later in 1758. [18] He was succeeded by his nephew Rama Varma ("Dharma Raja"). [2] [18] Marthanda Varma's policies were continued in large measure by Dharma Raja (1758–98). He also went on to successfully defend Travancore against the aggression of the Kingdom of Mysore. [2] Marthanda Varma's legacy involved a major restructuring of the medieval political and economic relations of southern Kerala. [10]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Travancore</span> Kingdom in southern India from 1729 to 1949

The Kingdom of Travancore (/ˈtrævənkɔːr/), also known as the Kingdom of Thiruvithamkoor, was an Indian kingdom from c. 1729 until 1949. It was ruled by the Travancore Royal Family from Padmanabhapuram, and later Thiruvananthapuram. At its zenith, the kingdom covered most of the south of modern-day Kerala, and the southernmost part of modern-day Tamil Nadu with the Thachudaya Kaimal's enclave of Irinjalakuda Koodalmanikyam temple in the neighbouring Kingdom of Cochin. However Tangasseri area of Kollam city and Anchuthengu near Attingal in Thiruvananthapuram district, were British colonies and were part of the Malabar District until 30 June 1927, and Tirunelveli district from 1 July 1927 onwards. Travancore merged with the erstwhile princely state of Cochin to form Travancore-Cochin in 1950. The five Tamil-majority Taluks of Vilavancode, Kalkulam, Thovalai, Agastheeswaram, and Sengottai were transferred from Travancore-Cochin to Madras State in 1956. The Malayalam-speaking regions of Travancore-Cochin merged with the Malabar District and the Kasaragod taluk of the South Canara district in Madras State to form the modern Malayalam-state of Kerala on 1 November 1956, according to the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 passed by the Government of India.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Venad (historical region)</span> Medieval feudal kingdom in south India

Venad was a medieval kingdom lying between the Western Ghat mountains and the Arabian Sea on the south-western tip of India with its headquarters at the port city of Kollam/Quilon. It was one of the major principalities of Kerala, along with kingdoms of Kannur (Kolathunadu), Kozhikode (Nediyiruppu), and Kochi (Perumpadappu) in medieval and early modern period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Padmanabhaswamy Temple</span> Temple dedicated to Vishnu in Thiruvananthapuram

The Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is a Hindu temple located in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of the state Kerala, India. The name of the city of 'Thiruvananthapuram' in Tamil and Malayalam translates to "The City of Lord Ananta", referring to the main deity of the temple. The temple is built in an intricate fusion of the Chera style and Dravidian style of architecture, featuring high walls, and a 16th-century gopura. While the Ananthapura temple in Kumbla in Kasaragod district in Kerala is considered as the original spiritual seat of the deity ("Moolasthanam"), architecturally to some extent, the temple is a replica of the Adikesava Perumal temple in Thiruvattar in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adikesava Perumal Temple, Kanyakumari</span>

The Adikesava Perumal Temple is a Hindu temple located in Thiruvattar, Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, India and is one of the 108 Divya desams, the holy sites of Hindu Vaishnavism according to existing Tamil hymns from the seventh and eighth centuries C.E. The temple is one of the historic thirteen Divya Deshams of Malai Nadu. The temple is a picturesque setting surrounded on three sides by rivers namely, It was the Rajya Temple and Bharadevatha shrine of Erstwhile Travancore. After state reorganisation, the temple handed over to Tamilnadu H&RCE Dept. The presiding Vishnu in the form of Ananthapadmabhan/Adikeshavaperumal is believed to be older than Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Since Vishnu resides here in a reclining position, and is surrounded by rivers, the temple is called as "The Srirangam of Chera Kingdom".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Colachel</span> 1741 battle of the Travancore-Dutch War

The Battle of Colachel was fought on 10 August 1741 [O.S. 31 July 1741] between the Indian kingdom of Travancore and the Dutch East India Company. During the Travancore-Dutch War, King Marthanda Varma's (1729–1758) forces defeated the Dutch East India Company's forces led by Admiral Eustachius De Lannoy on 10 August 1741. The Dutch never recovered from the defeat and no longer posed a large colonial threat to India.

Odanad was a feudal state in late medieval Kerala. It was established in the 11th century, and disestablished in 1746 when it became part of Travancore after Venad King Marthanda Varma's northern expedition. The last king of Odanad was King Kotha Varma. At the time of its dissolution, it was composed of the present-day taluks of Mavelikkara, Karthikapally, Chenganur in the Alappuzha district and Karunagapally in the Kollam district. In the 15th century, the capital of Odanad was moved from Kandiyoor-Muttom, Mavelikkara to Eruva and Krishnapuram, near Kayamkulam, which led to the state being called Kayamkulam. After this shift, Kayamkulam became the commercial centre of Odanad, while Mavelikkara remained its cultural centre. Odanad was controlled by Nair lords, among whom the ruler of Kayamkulam and Edeserill unnithan was the most prominent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ettuveetil Pillamar</span> Nair aristocrats in Travancore

The Ettuveetil Pillamar were nobles from eight ruling Houses in erstwhile Travancore in present-day Kerala state, South India. They were associated with the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram and the Ettara Yogam. Their power and wealth grew until Marthanda Varma (1706–1758), the last king of Venad and the first king of Travancore, defeated them in the 1730s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kilimanoor Palace</span>

Kilimanoor Palace is a palace located in Kilimanoor, in the Indian state of Kerala. It is the birthplace of painter Raja Ravi Varma and Raghava Varma, the father of king Marthanda Varma.

The history of Thiruvananthapuram dates back to the 18th century AD. In 1795, the city became capital of the princely state of Travancore. Several historic landmarks of the city, including the Kowdiar Palace, University of Kerala, and Napier Museum were built during this period. After independence, Thiruvananthapuram was made the capital of the state of Kerala.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Travancore–Dutch War</span>

The Travancore–Dutch War was a war between the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Indian kingdom of Travancore, culminating in the Battle of Colachel in 1741.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thekkumkur</span>

The Kingdom of Thekkumkur was an independent kingdom in the southern part of Kerala in India from 1103 CE until 1750 CE. It was ruled by the Thekkumkur Royal Family. Thekkumkur lies between the Meenachil River and the Pamba River, from the Western Ghats to the Vembanad Kayal. Thekkumkur emerges as a result of administrative changes in the princely states at the end of the Chera Kulasekhara dynasty of Mahodayapuram. The literal meaning of the title is the southern regent and the attribute southern distinguished them from another kingdom known as Vadakkumkur which bordered it in the northern side. The royal household, Thekkumkur Kovilakam, were at Vennimala and Manikandapuram near Puthuppally, later it shifted to Neerazhi Palace at Puzhavathu of Changanassery and Thalilkotta at Thaliyanthanapuram (Kottayam).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ramayyan Dalawa</span>

Ramayyan was the Dewan of Travancore state, India, during 1737 and 1756 and was responsible for the consolidation and expansion of that kingdom after the defeat of the Dutch at the 1741 Battle of Colachel during the reign of Maharajah Marthanda Varma, the creator of modern Travancore.

The Ettara Yogam or the King and Council of Eight has been the administrative setup of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala, India, for centuries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma</span> Titular Maharajah of Travancore (monarchy abolished)

Sree Padmanabhadasa Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma was the titular Maharaja of Travancore. He was the younger brother of the last ruling monarch of the Kingdom of Travancore, Maharajah Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma.

"Aswathi Thirunal" Umayamma, known as Queen Umayamma or Queen Ashure (Aswathi),, was the regent queen of Venad (Venatu) in southern India from 1677 to 1684 on behalf of her young nephew Ravi Varma. She also served as the Junior Queen of Attingal under Senior Queen Makayiram Thirunal and subsequently as the Senior Queen of Attingal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Travancore royal family</span> Ruling family of travancore

The Travancore royal family was the ruling house of the Kingdom of Travancore. They gave up their ruling rights in 1949 when Travancore merged with India and their political pension privileges were abolished in 1971. The family is descended from the Ay/Venad family and the Chera dynasty.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma</span> Titular Maharajah of Travancore

Sree Padmanabhadasa Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma is the current titular Maharajah of Travancore. He is the youngest of the four children of the former titular Maharani of Travancore, Sree Padmanabhasevini Maharani Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi and her husband, Prince Consort Lt. Col. G. V. Raja of Poonjar Royal House.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amunthirathu Devi Temple</span> Hindu temple in Kerala, India

Amunthirathu Devi Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Sree Bhadra Kali located in Thiruvananthapuram, India. The temple is situated at Mudakkal, around 8 km north of Attingal in the Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala. The temple enshrines a Krishna shila idol of the goddess Amunthirathamma, an incarnation of Bhadra Kali. Devi is in Ardha padmasana, Andarmugha and chathur bahu.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Changanassery</span> Battle in 1749 between Thekkumkur and Travancore, India

The Battle of Changanacherry was a battle between the kingdoms of Thekkumkur and Travancore in September 1749. Defeat in this decisive battle led to Thekkumkur losing its dominance and expanding the Tranvancore empire to the southern border of the river Meenachilar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aditya Varma Manikandan</span> King of Thekkumkur

Aditya Varma Manikandan popularly known as Aditya Varman, was the last ruling Maharaja of the Princely State of Thekkumkur. He was the ruler until September 1749 when the king of Travancore Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma ousted him from Neerazi Palace at the Battle of Changanassery. Thekkumkur kings were known as Manikandan. The goddess was Cheruvally Bhagavathi in the space. The official residence of Sri Aditya Varma was Neerazi Palace.


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Marthanda Varma
Born: 1706 Died: 1758
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Rama Varma
(as King of Venadu)
King of Travancore
Succeeded by