History & Geography
King Marthanda Varma (1729–1758) founded the modern Kingdom of Travancore by militarily expanding the Kingdom of Venad. He hailed from the Kingdom of Thrippappur, one of the branches of the Venad royal family,who trace their origin back to the Ay kingdom and the Later Chera kingdom.
In 1741, Travancore won the Battle of Colachel against the Dutch East India Company, resulting in the complete eclipse of Dutch power in the region. In this battle, the admiral of the Dutch, Eustachius De Lannoy, was captured; later he was utilized to modernize the Travancore army by introducing better firearms and artillery.
The Travancore-Dutch War (1739–1753) is the earliest example of an Asian state overcoming a European power in war. Travancore became the most powerful state in the Kerala region by defeating the Zamorin of Calicut in a battle at Purakkad. Ramayyan Dalawa, the Prime Minister (1737–1756) of Marthanda Varma, also played an important role in this consolidation and expansion. Travancore often allied with the English East India Company in military conflicts.
During the reign of Dharma Raja, Marthanda Varma’s successor, Tipu Sultan, the de facto ruler of Kingdom of Mysore and the son of Hyder Ali attacked Travancore as a part of the Mysorean invasion of Kerala; this led to the famous Third Anglo-Mysore War, as Travancore had already allied with the British to seek protection from the potent assault from Tippu. In 1808 Travancore witnessed an armed rebellion against the British under the leadership of Velu Thampi Dalawa, the Prime Minister of Travancore, but was successfully quelled with the help of the British.
Chithira Thirunal, the last king of Travancore, made the Temple Entry Proclamation in 1936 abolishing the ban on low-caste people from entering Hindu Temples. At the same time, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, Chithira Thirunal’s Prime Minister, is remembered for the ruthless suppression of a local struggle organised by the Communists, known as the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising.
When United Kingdom accepted demands for a partition and announced its intention to quit India, the king of Travancore, Chithira Thirunal, issued a declaration of independence on June 18, 1947. The declaration was unacceptable to the Government of India; many rounds of negotiation were conducted among the diwan, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, and the Indian representatives.
In July 23, 1947 they decided in favour of the accession to the Indian Union, pending approval by the king. An assassination attempt on the diwan by the Communists on the July 25, 1947 caused to hasten the accession of Travancore state to the Indian Union. Travancore and the princely state of Cochin merged on 1 July 1949 to form the Indian state of Travancore-Cochin. Later Travancore-Cochin joined with the Malabar district of the Madras State (modern day Tamil Nadu), on 1 November 1956, to form the Indian state of Kerala.
Travancore (and Venad) was located at the extreme southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. Geographically, Travancore was divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands (rugged and cool mountainous terrain), the central midlands (rolling hills), and the western lowlands (coastal plains).
Kuttanad, the ‘Rice Bowl of Kerala’, lies at the very heart of the backwaters in Alappuzha district. Its wealth of paddy crops is what got it this unique nickname. Based in the inner regions of the district, it is a huge area of reclaimed land, separated by dikes from water which is higher than it appears. The view of the countryside is what enchants all who pass through this area while travelling via houseboats. It has been speculated that it is perhaps the only place in the world where farming is done up to 2 meters below sea level. The area is serviced by 4 major rivers: Pampa, Meenachil, Achankovil and Manimala.
The Alappuzha – Changanassery Road that passes through the heart of Kuttanad is famous for itsscenic view of this locale. One gets to view a slice of the traditional country lifestyle. Visits to these villages can be a life changing experience. Especially during the harvest season, one finds farmers working in the fields most of the day. The early hours of the day brings to us the sight of women carrying sickles to the fields while men are busy sowing seeds and getting rid of weeds. Fields with rice stalks have legions of parrots hovering around them. One may also see darter birds flying around as they are known to be around the area surrounding the backwaters.
The canals that crisscross Kuttanad are home to tall coconut trees that sway with the breeze. One sees ducks quacking around as youths dive into the water to hunt for shells. Some of the tastiest cuisine can be found at the shacks nearby and if you feel like it, do ask for toddy. It is a native alcoholic beverage that is extremely popular in the area.
You can always experience Kuttanad via a boat or a houseboat. The view, the breeze, and the diligent habits of locals will never leave your mind.
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