Posted on: 5 January 2013

Digital Rare Book:
A Brief Sketch of Travancore, the Model State of India: The Country, Its People and Its Progress under the Maharajah
By S.Ramanath Aiyer
Published by Western Star Press, Trevandrum - 1903

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Meenmooty River, Travancore - 1900

Photograph taken about 1900 by the Government photographer, Zacharias D'Cruz of a view of the Minmutti cataract, in South Travancore. It is one of 76 prints in an album entitled 'Album of South Indian Views' of the Curzon Collection. George Nathaniel Curzon was Under Secretary of State at the Foreign Office between 1895-98 and Viceroy of India between 1898-1905.The Kallada river is the third largest river in Travancore. It is a union of five large streams issusing from the mountainous valleys of the Ghauts flowing through the Taluqs of Pattanapuram, Kunnattur, Kottarakara and Quilon. The main branch rises in the most southerly of these valleys and is formed by numerous straems that rise on the elevated plateau stretching from the Alvarkurichi peak to Chemmunji. Flowing west it is joined by several small streams and after leaving the Kulattupuzha valley proper and running 5 miles passes the Kulattupuzha village stutated on its left bank. Here the river is about 80 yards wide. Three miles lower down its is precipitated over the Minmutti cataract, the water rushing with immense velocity.

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Not such a ' brief sketch' at 275 pages in length ! – but a fascinating historical resource nevertheless, crammed with a wide diversity of information. The Maharaja's of Travancore were, by all accounts, held in very high esteem by the British authorities during the colonial period for the high-minded, far-sighted and genuinely progressive character of their rule - hence the accolade of "model state". Their zeal for reform certainly seems to be supported by the contents of this book. For example, the section on ' Female Education ' (p.212-214) makes for interesting reading in light of the sad recent events in Delhi. Contrary to the impression that has been created in post-Independence India of the 'incorporated' (i.e. abolished) Princely states having been run by a bunch of decadent play-boys hell bent on bankrupting the treasuries of their respective districts in ever increasing bouts of debauchery (although one can find examples of such individuals !)... many, if not most, were very competent, utterly scrupulous and entirely humane administrators and benefactors. By the 1930s, living standards were found to be considerably higher in the Princely states than those to be found in the British run provinces of India.

Modern day State of Kerala was the first ever anywhere in the world that had an "elected" communist government. Rulers contribute as much to "progressivism" as the ruled!