Sir Thomas Munro, a dynamic colonial administrator and his link with Mantralaya Mutt, British India

Gov.Thomas Monroe,Madras Presidency (1820-27),

Above image:  Munro, then District Collector of Bellary District (1800), visited Sri Raghavendra Mutt and restored the village and other lands to  the Mutt. He had a miraculous time in the Samadhi (tomb) of Sri Raghavendra...........

Mantralaya village in  the newly carved state of Telengana (formerly Andhra Pradesh) is a place of pilgrimage and thousands of people from different parts of India visit this holy Mutt. It is here where the `Brindavan' of famous 'Dvaita' saint ' Sri. Raghavendra Swami' is located. The reason why this serene place on the banks of  the river Tungabhadra assumes religious significance is, here  saint Sri. Raghavendra Swami, who lived from 1595 to 1671, attained Jeeva samadhi (leaving the mortal body through constant meditation and fasting in a small enclosure with walls on sides simultaneously built and the roof closed finally). The strong belief has been that he continues to live there for 700 plus years and blesses the people who come to this Mutt  for peace of mind and respite from the humdrum of routine life.

Sri Ragavendra Swamiji.(1595–1671 CE)

Above image:  Born in Tamil Nadu near Cuddalore, Venkata Natha was a well-known Madhwa saint with lots of mystic powers. He had Jeeva samadhi at Mantralaya, Telengana state............

Sir Thomas Munro, an enigmatic colonial administrator,  was the Governor of Madras Presidency from 1820 to 1827. He was called  the father of the Ryotwari system in which the agricultural  taxes  were directly collected from the ryots (owners of individual plots of land) as against  the Zamindari system, prevalent in Bengal and other places, in which the Zamindars were given the task of collecting revenues that resulted in the fleecing of the poor cultivators. Apart from it, Munro was instrumental in introducing District Administration empowered with revenue, police and administrative powers. This system is being followed across all Indian states; each state has several districts headed by a District Collector whose jurisdiction is that particular district only. It is an effective administrative system  first introduced by Munro.

Equestrian statue of Thomas Munro in The Island, Chennai

When EIC annexed certain lands from Tipu Sultan of Mysore, Munro was ordered to take up the post of the Collector of Bellary District, A.P in 1800.  He was advised by the EIC to conduct detailed surveys, including the lands owned by the Sri Raghavendra Mutt in  Mantralaya and in the near-by places. The Madras Presidency wanted more revenue from lands and wanted to annex  those lands that did not have proper legal titles. As for lands owned by the Mutt at Mantralaya, the people in the village told him saint Raghavendra Swami alone could throw light on them as countless employees associated with the Mutt could not come up with the right answer. The revenue officials informed Munroe about their predicament with respect to mutt lands that had been under the mutt for more than 100 years.

At that point of time, Sri Raghavendra Swami had been in his Samadhi (tomb) for nearly 130 years. Officer Munro was in a state of shock as to how he could  close the file on mutt lands and get the information from the saint whose mortal remains were in the Samadhi (tomb). Anyway, he was appreciative of the strong belief the people reposed in swamiji and, however,  decided to visit the blessed Mutt to gather any information on the lands under the control of the Mutt (the land was donated to the swamiji by the local Muslim ruler- Nabob).

Moola Vrindavan of Sri Raghavendra Teerthar. uwww.raghavendramutt org.

Being a perfect gentleman that he was, knowing that he was entering a  place of veneration of one of the holiest Hindu saints of India, he removed his hat and shoes and entered the sacred precincts with humility and respect. He sat in front of the Samadhi and prayed. To his utter surprise and awe, he had a sort of apparition;  Sri Raghavendra Swami appeared gracefully before  Munro and patiently explained to him the extent of land that belonged to the Mutt and the village. Sir Munro took notes, thanked the Swami and returned to his office. The Saint was visible and audible only to Munro who, it is believed, received Manthraksha (god's blessing) from the great saint, indeed a rare and deserving honor for an upright English Officer.

Emerging out of the mutt satisfied and with clear mind after his fruitful discussion with the Swamiji, Munro went back and wrote an order in favor of the Mutt and the village. He waived all the taxes on the Mutt.

This notification with respect to the Raghavendra Mutt lands was published in the Madras Government Gazette in Chapter XI, page 213, with the caption "Manchali Adoni Taluka". This order is still preserved in Fort St. George in Chennai, Tamil Nadu  and Mantralayam.

Chennai to Mantralayam,Kurnool dist.

Memorial Sir. Thomas Munro, St. Mary's Church, Madras.
In the Rayalaseema area, where he worked for years as  the District Collector, his name is associated with a number of Hindu temples such as in Kadiri, Mantralayam, and Tirupati. Munro in the 1820s  during his official tours heard a lot about God Venkateswara in Tirumala. He instituted the offering of Pongal each day to the deity in a vessel known as the Munro Gangalam (a huge cauldron)  and endowed a village in Chitoor district to maintain and continue the tradition  at Thirumala. Still, the old tradition is being followed, using the revenue from the village.

A dynamic English administrator, who had neither aristocratic arrogance nor pretenses,  still lives in the hearts of millions of Indian farmers and people from the places where he worked relentlessly long ago like a Kara Yogi, without expecting anything in return for his inspiring  services.  He was an honest man to the core. His glory and fame will remain forever till the firmament lasts.