Maharaja of Travancore
The Travancore Royal family is from the Hindu Nair lineage and they ruled the princely Indian state of Tranvancore until independence. The family are descendants of the Chera kings and are Samantha Kshatriya. The last Maharaja to rule Travancore was Chithira Thirunal Nalarama Varma and the last Maharani was Sethu Lakhshmi Bayi. The present titular Maharaja of Tranvancore is Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma.
Origin and History
It is said that the royal family of Travancore are from Kerela. Another belief has it that the first Maharaja of Travancore was crowned by Lord Parashurama himself, hence their lineage can be dated back to 820 C.E. The succession law of the Nairs was matrilineal and hence, the line of kings continued through the females. There were instances in which there was no female to provide successors to the throne and this is when princesses from the Kolathira family were adopted to carry forth the tradition. Amongst the most prominent rulers of Travancore were Umayamma Rani who ruled during the 17th century. Marthanda Varma and Dharma Raja were two very strong Maharajas who developed Travancore. Swathi Thirunal ruled in the 19th century when Travancore received the status of being an Indian princely state under the British rule. Sethu Lakshmi Bayi was another powerful ruler who brought about new reforms which were further strengthened by Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma.
The Travancore royal family call themselves as Padmanabha Dasas or the servants of Lord Padmanabha, who is the patron deity of the royal family. When Marthanda Varma became the Maharaja of Tranvancore, he vowed that he would rule the state on behalf of Lord Padmanabha. Hence, all the Maharajas of Travancore have the name ‘Padmanabha Dasa’ prefixed to their names, whilst the females have the name ‘Padmanabha Sevini’.
The main residence of the Maharajas of Travancore was the Padmanabhapuram Palace. However, the royal family later moved to the Sree Padam Palace in Trivandrum. Currently, some of the members of the royal family reside at the Kowdiar Palace in Trivandrum while the other members are settled in various countries abroad.
The Travancore royal family, particularly the Maharajas did not lead a very lavish lifestyle as they vowed to rule on behalf of their deity Lord Padmanabha for the welfare of their people. No royal family has been as giving and philanthropic as that of Travancore with their contributions towards developing infrastructure which is unparalleled. Unlike other royalty in India, the kings of Travancore spent a very small amount of the state’s resources for their own personal usage. The kings used to dress in the regal finery which was very simple when compared to the Maharajas of the North, while the queens and princesses used to dress in their typical simple white mundu sarees along with delicate and refined jewelry. They were largely adored by their subject as they spent a large portion of the revenue for the benefit of the general public.
The state was also religiously and socially tolerant with very few instances of caste-based violence and riots that were prevalent elsewhere. Despite being devout Hindus, the Travancore Maharajas were very liberal as they donated money and land for the erection of mosques and churches, which brought about harmony amongst all the religions.
This simplicity and humility was purely reflected through their dressing and styling sense as well, where they optimized on the minimalistic approach in the best way possible. The Mundu sarees, which are today the intrinsic Kerela sarees have grown to immense popularity since the reign of the Maharaja of Travancore. The sarees are basically white or cream in colour, with subtle gold detailing on the border which is known as ‘kara.
- The Maharajas of Travancore stashed away massive treasures in the hidden vaults of the Padmanabha Swami temple in Trivandrum, Kerela. Recently, upon the opening of some of the vaults, the estimate of the treasures found is over one lakh crore rupees, which perhaps makes it the richest religious shrine in the world.
- The lineage of the kings of Travancore has been through the matriarchal system.
- The Mundu sarees worn by the women of the court bear a striking resemblance to the Kerela Kasavu saree as well