Thursday, December 14, 2006

Veluthampi Dalava

Veluthampi - Chempakaraman Velayudhan

Kerala history is dotted with the heroic deeds of great patriots. A man leaving all comforts and luxuries offered by the top post as commercial minister to the king, revolting against an empire where the sun never set is a rarity. Yes Chempakaraman Velayudhan popularly known as Veluthampi Dalava is a rare version of heroism in the history of Kerala.

Travancore (The southern half of present state of Kerala) was ruled by Sri Balarama Varma of the Travancore dynasty during the fag end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Sri Balarama Varma although good hearted was weak and inexperienced. He depended heavily on Sri Sankaran Nampoothiri who preceded Sri Kesavan Pillay as Divan (Chief of the administrators to the king).

Sri Sankaran Nampoothiri started his misrule with the help of his cronies. All the coffers were drained out and heavy taxes were to be imposed on common people. Resentments against the misrule were cruelly suppressed. All these tarnished the entire image of the Travancore dynasty which was known for its generosity and love for the people. To put it in a nutshell the time was ripe for the emergence of a savior.

The situation in the kingdom worsened to such a level that even the offerings deposited by the devotees in Padmanabha swamy temple had to be taken by the king’s guards to meet the misdeeds of the evil set up. The latest techniques applied rulers were summoning rich people to the palace tie their limbs and beat to extract maximum wealth from them. Thus one day the turn of Veluthambi arrived. At that time Veluthampi was working as supervisor in the palace itself.

As usual the panel of ministers assembled demanded him to pay three thousand rupees to the coffers or face dire consequences. Three thousand rupees at that time was quite a hefty amount. Veluthambi, smart as he was signed an agreement that he will come with the amount within three days and went home.

Veluthabi was an energetic and inspiring personality and had immense sway among the people of his locality. He was successful in organizing a large army of followers within the short time of three days. The large crowd assembled at Eraniel was greatly influenced by the fiery speeches of Veluthampi. They marched to the palace. The king who was weak hearted was frightened seeing the crowd prepared to do anything as commanded by Veluthambi. He succumbed to the demands set by Veluthambi.

As per the agreement Sankaran Nampoothiri was exiled, and his cronies, Mathew Tharkan and Sankara Narayanan Chetty were whipped, their ears were cut and they were dismissed from service. Veluthambi was raised to the status of Minister for Finance and Commerce. This was a historical event for Kerala as so far the misdeeds of the rulers were taken for granted and such sort of a public uprising against the rulers were not heard of.

Sri Thalakkulathu Veluthampi was at his prime of the youth and he was working as a guard at the palace from that post with his efficiency and dedication promoted to the post of supervisor. He was proficient with martial arts and commanded great respect in the locality. After the great revolution that led to the total change to the history of Travancore he assumed power as the Minister for Commerce and Finance.

His period as the minister (1801 to 1809) was a glaring example, how a debt and corruption ridden state can be led to prosperity. Corrupt officials were executed, maimed or exiled. The story of an officer who went to assessing tax is a glaring example for his commitment to justice. The officer deputed to assess property- income visited the house of Veluthapi, knowing that the property belonged to the ruler, the officer showed the property as un yielding and assessed much less than the actual. When Veluthampi came to know about it he was furious and ordered to cut off the thump of the officer as punishment.

As a man who never stooped before anybody, he was heading towards great problem. The East India Company which controlled most part of India by that time was greatly emboldened by the defeat of Tippu Sultan known as the tiger of Mysore. The resident officer of the British Company slowly began to raise its voice and demanded bigger say in the internal affairs of Travancore. They could sense the growing clout of Veluthambi,who did not heed to their demand of raising taxes to pay royalty that has to be paid the East India Company, known as the “Company”.

Direct and indirect clashes between the company soldiers and king’s soldiers took place here and there. Veluthambi who had only a ragtag army found it difficult to go war with the army of Company. He reached in an agreement with Mc.Cauley ignoring the advice of the king. This agreement was later used by the resident officer to create rift between the king and the minister. The company was gearing up for an open confrontation. Veluthampi approached Paliathachan of Kochi and Samoothiri of Calicut. An attempt was made on the life of Mr. Mc.Cauley which was foiled. All these events made an open war inevitable.

Veluthambi camped at Kundara with his army and there he declared open war against the Company. He described the presence of British detrimental to the cultural integrity and self pride of Kerala. This declaration is glaring chapter in the history of Kerala and known as “The Kundara Declaration”. Veluthambi was heading for big trouble. None of his allies were prepared to stay in the rank. His idea of an open war with the empire turned out to be futile. Veluthampi had to seek refuge in a temple at Mannadi. He was left alone but his brother, There inside the temple, surrounded by the British army he asked his brother to execute him as his brother refused Veluthambi had to kill himself.The soldiers of the company did not show any magnanimity to pay due respect to the dead body of a great ruler. They took it to Trivandrum and hanged it in public. The dynasty to which he stood as a pillar did not raise a finger against this big insult.

The great revolution set by Veluthampi (38 years before the first freedom struggle, (described as the sipayi struggle) would have failed as it was ill timed and too early and the conditions were not ripe enough for a struggle. The army was a crude one and ill equipped to fight the mighty empire.

The valor and daredevilry on the part of Veluthambi is some thing extraordinary and rare. The story of Veluthambi is something that can inspire any one with an iota of patriotism. As far as there is the state of Kerala, Veluthambi will stand as great structure that could challenge to the London tower.


Unknown said...

hello Sir,

Its very nice to read this article. I like the great Veluthampi's nature, personality and everything.... If you can do... just give me a Malayalam Article about The Great Great Great Hero Veluthampi on internet thank you.....

Anonymous said...

he was indeed a great son of the soil..the so called great travancore royal family of today thrived on his blood...the irony, as said in this article, is that he stood as a pillar for that dynasty.. in fact all the surviving royal families of our country survived because they were ready to lick the british boots...

Unknown said...

Velu Thampi Dalawa was not a freedom fighter and hero as many of us think. He was an opportunist who usurped the Dalwaship of travancore by the help of British resident Colonel Macaulay. He murdered the successors of Raja Kesavadasan. It was only when his position was threatened , that he turned against the British.

manoj praveen said...

How sad that the children of Kerala are not aware of such glowing history of Kerala! The state syllabus should highlight such pieces in the textbooks so that they feel proud of their state.

NRV said...

did u know who all are along with dalawa at kundara proclamation,i heard that left one panikker and on right one named elenjivelil millakkaran,one of my ancestors.

any one know further pls quote here

Anonymous said...

Veluthampi was an oppressor of Ezhavas