The Munro years – Travancore

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The stories of Kerala Varma and Ummini Thampi

The events which clouded the placid skyline of 19th century Travancore actually started during the reign of Avittam Tirunal Balarama Varma. It was in 1798 that the 14 year old Balarama Varma succeeded Dharma Raja. A weak ruler, Balarama Varma, so they say, was manipulated by ministers and associates such as the Machiavellian Jayantan Sankaran Namboodiri and his cohorts Sankara Narayana Chetti and Mathu Tharakan. The situation is explained in differing ways by various historians, with one group uplifting the glorious services of Keshava Das and the treachery of the other ministers, while the other group maintain that Balarama Varma was actually anti British from the beginning and did not really want to sign any subsidiary treaties with the English. According to the latter, the king had no choice but to finally send away the British friendly Keshava Das into retirement, who then unfortunately ended up dead, perhaps poisoned. Then, for a while, Jayantan Namboodiri took over as Dewan and wreaked havoc on the hapless citizens of Travancore, with his cohorts Tharakan and Chetti.