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.