Time travel with Sharat Sundar Rajeev

December 25, 2018
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Sunshine was slowly touching the ground.  A fresh breeze filled the atmosphere as we sat at the pavement of Napier Museum for a conversation to share  the stories of the  lost kingdom ,The Travancore  . The morning walk chit chats and the fluttering wings  of pigeons set the tone for the discourse ,a unique time travel to the  depth of Travancore history .

Travancore the abode of Sree Padmanabha Swamy  is  an unexplored  cultural city  having phenomenal historical significance. Trivandrum connect is making an attempt to re discover the history and legacy of our Thiruvananthapuram.

This is a series of historic exploration , starting  with an interview with    Mr. Sharat Sunder Rajeev. A college lecturer by profession and a conservatist and historian by instinct   ,he is contributing  a pivotal  role in uncovering and preserving the  our history by digging deep into the untold stories  of Travancore history . His area of interest is focused on the fort areas of Thiruvananthapuram. Travelling across the length and breadth of Kerala he is  on a relentless historic exploration ,indeed guided by an inner   quest to enlighten the world about the forgotten pages of our history.

The popular belief about starting anything new is focused on Lord Ganesha  .  Our conversation began on   the oldest Ganesha temple during the old times . When we normally think about the Ganesha shrines in Trivandrum the first imagery which comes to our mind is of Pazhavangadi Ganapati temple . The old capital city Padmanabhapuram  was shifted to Thiruvananthapuram.

A very small shrine of Lord Ganesha is given daily Arti and pooja  at Padmanabhapuram palace .  This shrine is  the Kottaram Pillayar shrine . Probably this Ganesh idol  would have been worshipped by Nair pattalam [army]. During 18th century King Marthandavarma and Nair Pattalam installed   the Pazhavangadi Ganesha temple . Prominent rulers and ministers also erected Ganesha shrines in Travancore . Now the Indian Army is taking care of Pazhavangadi Ganesha temple .

Our conversation then focused on the popular oral history on Kunnandan shrine .  Interestingly  on the western part of Sreevaraaham there is  a  Kunnandan Ganapathy temple , which can be considered as one of the ancient structure  yet the   historical significance of Kunnandan Ganapathi shrine  is known to some . Kunandan Ganapathy shrine may have been associated with the ancient Madom.

The oral history says that the Pandya ruler installed a Ganesha idol in the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple region  which got permanently fixed even after efforts were made by the Pandya king to take it back with him . Soon Astrologers conducted   Devaprashnam according to which the idol was installed there itself as Ganesha liked the spot . Another version of the story is ,the Pandya king installed the Ganesha shrine inside Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple  which was later taken away and re installed to Sreevaraham area and worshipped  as the present day   Kunnandan Ganapathi  . Kunnandan Ganapathi Madom was one of the  Madoms  that looked after the day to day functions of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple. It  can also be considered as an administrative office which is located at the present day Sreevaraham area .  Another madom mooted by King Marthanda Varma was known as Palpaayasam madom!

The historical records associated with Padmanabha Swamy temple gives insights into the Pandyan Travancore conflicts . Pandyan invasion happened prior to 15th century much before the rule of king  Marthanda Varma. In fact Travancore was established in the 18th century by King  Marthanda Varma.  According to the Mathilakam records the Pandyas did not attack the temple but there was indeed  conflict associated with the boundaries of Pandyas domain and that of Venad.

Offerings and agricultural produce cultivated from large agricultural plots [which was part of Pandaravaka] is offered  to the Sree Padmanabha Swamy as a tribute.  Inside the Sree Padmanabha Swamy  temple there is a relief carving of an Agrashala Ganapathy . This may have been installed by King Marthandavarma during temple expansion and renovation . Agrashala means kitchen and here  lord Ganesha is workshipped as the caretaker of  the large temple kitchen . These three Ganesha temples are still existing as the heritage centresof the Travancore history .

Padana veedu , which is located at Manacaud  is originally known as Padanayar veedu who were  the  warriors  of  the Travancore Army . When the capital of the kingdom was shifted to Thiruvananthapuram  some families of the Nair pattalam [army] migrated and settled at Manacaud . Some  prominent  members  of Nair pattalam settled  near to Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple .

The feudal chiefs recruited warriors to King Marthanda Varma . He got help from another indigenous community known as the  Nadars who had their own kalari[training centre]. Apart from Nair and Nadar  communities  Maharaja got help from the  Marava community of Tamil Nadu to  secure the kingdom from armed threats .

Dharma Raja who was the right hand and nephew  of King Marthanda Varma  was affectionately called Kunju  by Marthanda Varma .  Hence the army controlled by Kunju  was known as Kunjukootam . Even today we can find old  family homes named as Kunju veedu at Sreevaraham  Manacaud , Kaithamukku, Palkulangara ,Perunthani   areas .

 Velu Thambi Dalava  revolted against the British . This  questioned the sovereignty of Travancore Kingdom   on her own army  .  A treaty was signed among the Travancore and British,  giving  the colonisers  an  upper hand in Travancore military administration .

The second part of this interview series we will be dealing with  the  history and  evolution of Pangode Military camp as we see it today . The discussion on haunted places from Travancore rule  will be part of  the second part of this interview series. Stay connected with Trivandrum connect and be with us on the journey to find the hidden treasures of our glorious past.