Thiruvattar Ammaveedu, Kanyakumari dist.,TN - the legacy of Travancore royal family on the decline


Thiruvattar Ammaveedu

When Monarchy was part of a large system of government and the supreme authority was  vested with monarch  in many parts of India, in the state of Travancore the Maharajahs followed a different matrimonial tradition that was unique and acceptable to the royal family members. An interesting and historical fact emerging out from the rulers of South Kerala is how much  respect and regard they had for the royal women of past era. The rulers respected  women in the royal family, treated them with  dignity, and apart, they also gave them financial security for the rest of their lives and a role in the challenging corridors of power and admiration. 

Thiruvattar, Kanyakumari Dist. Tamil Nadu, 

Ammaveedus, as the name implies, were the residences of the consorts of the Maharajahs of Travancore state in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. Commonly called "Ammachis" and held the special title of Panapillai Amma meaning royal consort, they enjoyed privileges commensurate with their  status and talents and owned vast areas of fertile lands and other valuable property, besides "a liberal provision granted from the State funds for their maintenance in comfort and dignity. 

As for the  descendants of the Maharajahs, they were also  members of the Ammaveedus, with a status, but  subordinate only to royalty. Since the end of the 18th century four Ammaveedus had gained recognition. They were:   Arumana, Vadasseri, Thiruvattar and Nagercoil Ammaveedus. 

In the small town of Thiruvattar, Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu, which is famous for Adi Kesava Perumal temple, the legacy of Thiruvattar Ammaveedu is fairly preserved  in a small settlement where the names of many homes  are intertwined with the  history of the Travancore royal family and the state.   The ancestral home of the consort of the king   Thiruvattar is close to the Perumal temple and also to the bus stand. 

Travancore ruler Dhramaraja

Among the four Ammaveedus, the history of Thiruvattar began with with Dharmaraja (Raja Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma 1724–17 February 1798) who chose a consort from a family here. He was a modern maker of Travancore and ruled the kingdom according to Hindu dharma and justice. No doubt, he was held in great esteem by people of different walks of life. He granted  asylum to thousands of Hindus and Christians fleeing Malabar during the  conquest of Malabar by Tipu Sultan of Mysore whose father Hyder Ali seized the Mysore kingdom dishonestly from the royal family of the Wadiyars. Dharmaraja's son  and successor  Avittom Tirunal Balarama Varma, followed suit and married a girl from the same Ammaveedu.

Travancore ruler Swathi

The royal family patronized Adi Kesava Perumal temple which has close connection with Padmanabha swamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram. Here, the main deity Vishnu (perumal) has ''Syana kolam''( reclining posture on the coiled serpent bed -Adisesha) just like the deity in Padmanabha temple. At both temples the deity is worshiped through three doors in the Sree Kovil (sanctum). Apart, both kovils follow similar rituals and temple festivals on the same day.  No doubt Thiruvattar Ammaveedu patronized  Adi Kesava Perumal temple and in the early 1800s made special offerings in connection with the  birthday of ‘Thiruvattattu Ammachi’ (consort of Avittom Thirunal). 

 Swathi Tirunal Rama Varma (b.1813-d.1846), a brilliant music composer  of   over 400 classical compositions in both Carnatic and Hindustani and the one who introduced English education in the state,  had close connection with Thiruvattar Ammaveedu. His two consorts were adopted to the home here.  Apart one of his nephews took consort from  Thiruvattar Ammaveedu.

The shifting of the capital from Padmanabhapuram to Thiruvananthapuram necessitated relocation of  the consorts and providing new royal home. Despite relocation the families never failed to maintain their ancestral homes,  family temples, and vast landed properties in Kanyakumari district.

The ancestral home of the Ammachis, an ettukettu (house with two courtyards, with pond,additional facilities, etc) built in old Kerala architecture with lots of quality wood, is fairly being maintained by the descendants.The house has   ornate gables and finely carved wooden pillars supporting the tiled slanting roof that far extends the front part- raised platform (in Tamil Thinnai). This sort of overhanging eaves will drain out the rain water falling on the roof and keep it  away from the main outer walls.Though aging,   former glory is still visible in the structure. . According Chandrakumaran Thampi (Thampi is a special name bestowed on the male descendants) a member of the family settled in Thiruvattar, the home here was rebuilt during the reign of Swathi. With the passage of time and emerging new generation, partition of a big house plus assets became inevitable. However, they maintain the ancient thekkath (gable) housing the family deity in original form.

Post independence, past glory may be gone, the legacy of the just rulers of Travancore continues with glitter,