TRAVANCORE-HIS HIGHNESS THE MAHARAJAH OF TRAVANCORE RECIEVING A LETTER FROM EMPEROR QUEEN VICTORIA from the British Resident , Major General W. Cullen. The reception took place on 27th November 1851.-



Flight with history: The protagonists of the accession drama, the Travancore raja and Sardar Patel, aboard a Devon in 1950.


The Maharaja of Travancore and his younger brother welcoming Richard Temple-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Governor-General of Madras (1875-80), on his official visit to Trivandrum in 1880

Sale 15335 - Islamic and Indian Art, 25 Oct 2007
New Bond Street


Lot No: 500
Raja Ravi Varma (India, 1848-1906)
The Maharaja of Travancore and his younger brother welcoming Richard Temple-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Governor-General of Madras (1875-80), on his official visit to Trivandrum in 1880
oil on canvas, inscribed on the reverse in a contemporary handRavi Vurma Coil Tampooran, January 1881, framed
106 x 146 cm.

Sold for £602,400 inclusive of Buyer's Premium

Richard Temple-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (1823-1889).
Baroness Kinloss, the Duke's daughter (who owned part of the Stowe estate in 1894).
Perhaps given to a local solicitor and town clerk by Baroness Kinloss; otherwise given to Buckinghamshire County Council directly.
Castle House, Buckingham, the offices of Buckinghamshire County Council, from the 1920s until 1974.
Private UK collection from 1974 when Castle House was bought by the present owner of the picture.

The subject:

The painting depicts the welcoming party at Trivandrum, capital of Travancore (a princely state in southern India) for the 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Richard Temple-Grenville, who was Governor-General of Madras from 1875 to 1880. Accompanied by his aide-de-camp and British army officers, he is received here by Visakham Tirunal, the younger brother of the Maharaja of Travancore, who was to succeed his brother in May 1880. Governors normally toured during the cold weather, visiting the Indian princes, and hence the event can be dated to the months before May 1880. The Maharaja, Ayilayam Tirunal (reg. 1860-1880), stands behind him. The building behind them bears the conch shell, the symbol of the state of Travancore, as well as a welcoming message for the Duke.

There is no known contemporary reference to this particular work, since the diary kept meticulously by the artist's brother, C. Raja Raja Varma, had begun to be kept only from 1895. There is however another contemporary account, which puts us at a moment soon after that depicted in the painting:

1880 [...] Visit of the Governor of Madras (The Duke of Buckingham) to Travancore. The governor's eagerness to meet RV caused jealousy in the king. When the Duke met Ravi Varma in the presence of the king, he asked him to sit with them, which, according to the custom of the land was unthinkable. RV declined to sit in the presence of the king and the three, the governor, the king, and the painter, remained standing while talking. RV knew that he was now out of favour with the king and left Trivandrum never to come back during the lifetime of the king. (quoted in Neumayer and Schelberger, p. 300).

The artist:

Ravi Varma was born into an aristocratic family in Kerala and in his day was undoubtedly the most famous native Indian artist, a society figure and one of the 'great and good', almost in the manner of the great Victorian painters like Leighton and Alma-Tadema, with whom (as Partha Mitter notes) he can be compared in his professionalism and entrepreneurial spirit. In his later career his work became hugely popular via lithographs of his images of Hindu deities, but earlier - at around the time of this painting - he was already being feted not only by Indian rulers like the Maharaja of Travancore and of Baroda, but by the English including Buckingham. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy from 1898 to 1905, called his works 'a happy blend of Western technique and Indian subject and free from Oriental stiffness', and on his visit to India in 1875-76 the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, took 'great pleasure in [his] works'. The Maharaja of Travancore presented him with two of them. As the most sought-after academic painter of colonial India who was an aristocrat himself, Ravi Varma was often invited to state occasions by British high officials and the Indian nobility, often recording their activities on his canvases, notably the investiture ceremony of the Gaekwad of Baroda in 1881, and the elephant kheda operation in Mysore on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1906, the year of Ravi Varma's death.

Ravi Varma, despite his aristocratic background, had gone his own way, in which he was aided by the Maharaja, Ayilayam Tirunal, who was cultured and less hidebound than his predecessors, who tended to regard artists as little more than craftsmen. Varma's early work came to the attention of R. Chisholm of the Madras Art School, who encouraged the Maharaja to put the works forward for the Madras Fine Arts Exhibition in 1873. Varma was awarded the Governor's Gold Medal for Nair Lady at her Toilet (one of the paintings later presented to Edward VII). With such a reputation it is natural that Varma would have come to the attention of Buckingham when he took over as Governor, and the Duke is known to have remarked on Varma's great facility in portraiture, noting that a European painter for whom he had posed required eighteen sittings, while Varma produced immeasurably better work after far fewer. Buckingham bought Varma's painting, Shakuntala Patralikhan (Shakuntala's Love Epistle to Dushyanta, inspired by Kalidasa's epic poem), which was entered at the Madras Fine Arts Exhibition in 1876, and sat for his official portrait by Varma in 1878, a portrait commissioned by the British administration for Government House in Madras, and known only from an inventory in the diary of Raja Raja Varma dated Friday 15th February 1901.

Ravi Varma's later paintings, including portraits, were executed with the collaboration of his younger brother, studio partner and amanuensis, Raja Raja Varma. We know that Ravi Varma always painted the face, figure and the attire while Raja Varma did other details and the background, including the landscape. This scene of the reception of the Duke of Buckingham in Travancore would probably have been completed by the brothers after Varma left there, and presented by the artist to the Duke as a token of his appreciation, which would explain the later date of 1881 on the back of the painting.

The brush-strokes in the background suggest Raja Varma, who was a competent landscape painter, while the delicacy of the faces and the likenesses must be the work of the senior partner in this enterprise. A figure in white looks out at the spectator from amongst the group of noblemen framed by the window to the left of the Maharaja. It seems likely that this is Ravi Varma himself, alluding to the practice of painters from the Renaissance onwards of inserting themselves into the action. It was also customary for Ravi Varma to sign his name on the work even when the background was completed by his brother, so highly was he regarded by contemporaries. The signature on the back of the canvas in the present lot is in a hand which bears some resemblance to the artist's signature as seen in other works. Their works show two dominant styles: the first represents a relatively flat treatment and darker colours that hark back to the court oil painters of Travancore whom Ravi Varma knew at first hand; the second style shows deeply modelled painting with the rich colour harmonies of his Baroda period. This painting shows the predominance of the first style.

Since the end of the last war, if not before, it has perhaps been orthodox to deride Varma's work as rather kitsch and unaccomplished, both as a result of nationalist, anti-colonial feeling, and the opinions of modernists such as Amrita Sher-Gil and others, whose style and artistic intentions were naturally very different. But as in the case of British Victorian painters the subject matter and its handling can often blind us to their enormous technical facility.

The Duke of Buckingham and the painting:

Richard Temple-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (1823-1889), inherited the Stowe estate in Buckinghamshire from his father, the 2nd Duke, who had died bankrupt. The 3rd Duke, who had the longest running non-repetitive surname in the Guinness Book of Records (Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville), attempted to restore the Buckingham name and fortunes. He was determined in his efforts to return Stowe to its former glory and came back from Italy in 1865 with paintings, porcelain and other works of art. Queen Victoria was so impressed that she remarked to Disraeli that no one 'more truly deserves re-institution in the ancient family seat than the Duke'. He was briefly Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1867-68. When Disraeli returned to office in 1874, the Duke was appointed Governor-General of Madras and arrived in India in 1875 with his three daughters, following his first wife's death the previous year. Madras at the time was gripped by famine, which lasted until 1877, but its effects were greatly lessened by his much-valued administrative skills. When he and his daughters returned to England in 1880 they travelled with quantities of mementoes insured at £12,685.

After the Duke's death the painting passed to his eldest daughter Baroness Kinloss. In the sale of the estate from 5th-28th July 1921 two paintings by Ravi Varma appear in the catalogue: Shakuntala Patralikhan (described in the catalogue as "'Sa Koolala' writing a Love Letter" by 'Ravivurla Coittumburan'); 'Hindoo Woman', described as 'a companion picture' to the above; and there is a third unattributed painting 'The Maharajah of Travencore'. The present painting does not seem to appear in the catalogue, presumably because it had passed to Baroness Kinloss at an earlier date.

We would like to thank Professor Partha Mitter for his assistance in cataloguing 8.this lot.

Partha Mitter, Art and Nationalism in Colonial India, 1850-1922, Cambridge 1994, 179-21





Thevalli [Quilon]--Photographer: D'Cruz, Zachariah Medium: Photographic print Date: 1900

Cevalli [Quilon]
photograph taken about 1900 by the Government photographer, Zacharias D'Cruz of a general view of the substantial residence of the Maharaja of Travancore at Thevalli in Quilon town. 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 palace shown here was built in the European style with a square tower.


Rama Varma (AD 1758-1795), successor of Martanda Varma signed a treaty of perpetual friendship with the British in 1795. Karthika Thirunal Dharma Rajah

This costly treaty was also perhaps partly responsible for the numerous taxes on the poorer segments of the society. The  administration of Rama Varma’s successor namely Balarama Varma led to a people’s rebellion led by Velu Thampi who eventually became the Diwan and was partly responsible for the
 ‘subsidiary treaty’.
 This draconian treaty (1805) not only committed to an annual payment of Rs 8 Lakhs mandatory but also permitted the British to interfere in the internal affairs / decisions of the administration.

 For example, when Balarama Varma passed away in 1810, the British Resident  overlooked the claim of Ilaya Raja Kerala Varma, who had been groomed to succeed Balarama Varma all
along, and who was a confirmed anti-British, for the throne. The British not only banished him from Travancore but also kept him as a prisoner. In his place Rani Laxmi Bai was appointed as the queen; and the resident(english man) assumed the office of the Diwan as well! Further she was succeeded by Rani Parvati Bai at the age of 13. Thus the period after 1795 was indeed a period of turmoil for Travancore.


The palace and guesthouse complexes consist of 56.6 acres in the heart of Courtallam town. This was the property of the Maharajas of Travancore when Shencotta and Courtallam were under their kingdom. In 1957, both the complexes were handed over to the Kerala government and the PWD was given the management. The PWD division office at Punalur is in direct charge of both.
In addition to the palace, the complex comprises a traditional quadrangle (nalukettu) bungalow, two cottages and a quarter’s line. The structures stand within a sprawling 26-acre land. The nearby guesthouse complex comprises Scorpion Hall, five cottages and the secretary’s cottage.
The official rent for the whole palace is just Rs.1,500 a day. The rent for each room of the nalukettu is Rs.150 a day. 



The state of Travancore was a treasure house of palaces that includes  the palaces at Kadinamkulam,

Ulloor, Thiruvallam, Kazhakkoottam, Vellayambalam,(CONVERTED TO KELTRON )

Many of these are now  ruined  and the other few are still craving for the sympathy of people.

The Ananthavilasom Palace constructed by Visakham Thirunal Maharaja  and Krishna vilasam and Lekshmi vilasam constructed by Sree Moolam Thirunal Maharaja are other important palaces in the Fort Complex.

The Vadakke Kottaram in the fort area was built during the reign of Aayillyam Thirunal Maharaja reusing the materials of Vijayapuram palace of Thiruvalla. it is currently being used as Govt. Office . The royal family used the Sankumukham palace built in 1880 by Visakham Thirunal Maharaja  as an evening retreat centre.

Eraniel Palace at Marthandom (near Padmanabhapuram) adjoining the state of Kerala, which has witnessed many a decisive change in the history of Travancore, is dying.
Some of these palaces do not exist in their complete form today.
Yet any concerted effort is not proposed either from the prophets of Heritage or from the Architectural guilds of the state to document and collect historic evidence and positively channelise the developmental activities in and around these historic edifices before the remaining ones also are ruined or deformed.
There are about thirty palaces in Thiruvananthapuram which were constructed after the 18th century.

Most of the palaces constructed before the 18th century have now disappeared. The existing Palaces are Attingal Palace, Mamom Palace, Kilimanoor Palace, Nedumangad Palace, Mudavanmukal Palace (2), Vellayani Palace, Poojappura Palace, Pothenkode Palace, Kanakakkunnu Palace, Vellayambalam Palace, Bell Heavan Palace, Sankumukham Palace (2), Kawadiar Palace, Kovalam Palace and ten palaces inside
the East Fort — Sreepadam Palace, Krishnavilasam Palace, Ananthavilasam Palace, Valiya Kottaram etc.


cheena kottaram(china palace)at quilon station,is a rest 

house made for king sri moolam thirunal in 1904

The Cheena Kottaram is, in fact, a rest house that was built for Sri Mulam Tirunal Rama Varma, the then king of Travancore.
REGAL TOUCH: Cheena Kottaram.
Near the Kollam railway station is a sombre red-brick building that looks like a miniature palace. Local people call it the `Cheena Kottaram,' because it has a fleeting resemblance to pictures of traditional Chinese buildings.
The Cheena Kottaram is, in fact, a rest house that was built for Sri Mulam Tirunal Rama Varma, the then king of Travancore, when he wanted to travel to Madras by the Kollam/Punalur metre gauge line, which was constructed in 1904.
Although the rest house looks like a one-storied structure, it has only a ground floor, which is probably why it is described in the Railways souvenir `Milestones and Memories,' as resembling a houseboat.
Eugene Pandalam, award-winning architect, says that the architecture is Indo-Saracenic, which is a blend of Moorish (N.W. Africa), Islamic, European, and Indian architecture.
The layout
The rest house has seven rooms, with verandas in the front and to the rear of the building. The porch, which is on the southern side, - long since sealed off, faces the Kollam traffic overbridge.
On the northern side, now the sole entrance and exit, was a little platform, which can still be seen, from which the Maharaja would board his saloon car, which would be linked to the passenger train.
The central edifice has elegant Gothic arches, with stained glass panes in leaden frames, on all sides. Beautiful glass murals, Venetian floor tiles, wood carving that is vintage Kerala, and unique dragon-like wooden supports for the roofs, are the arresting features of the building. The emblem of Travancore, the conch, in granite, figures on the walls on all sides.




Nedumkotta or Travancore lines was a wall built as a protection against
consistent invasion and threats from northern kingdoms mainly Zamorins ofKozhikode. It was built by the Dharma Raja Karthika Thirunal, King ofTravancore with the support and permission of the Kingdom of Kochi.

The Zamorin of Kozhikode had long standing enmity with the kingdom of Kochi. The Zamorin had usurped Kochi's native Village. This led to dispute and then wars. With the stature and strength of Zamorin, he became a threat not only to Kochi but for Travancore too. Hence it was decided to construct a defence fortification jointly with the help of British. This led to the building of the wall across the kingdom from the sea to the Western Ghats. It was completed before 1766. Later the Zamorin was defeated and kingdom came under Hyder Ali, the army commander of Mysore. The Nedumkotta stood as a barrier between the invading forces of Tipu Sultan to run over both Southern Kingdoms.The fort was designed by the Army Commander De Lennoy under the supervision of Ayyappan Marthandan Pillai, Dalawa of Travancore and Komiachan, Minister of the Kochi Kingdom.

The structure
The wall was 56 km (36 miles) long. It started from Pallipuram Kotta near the sea, touches kottamukku, krishnankotta and extended till the Foot hills of the Anamalai in the Western Ghats. The Chalakudy river and lagoon which falls on the alignment was left alone as they themselves were a barrier. A trench 20 feet (6.1 m) deep and 16 feet (4.9 m) wide was built along the northern side of the wall for the full length. At some places the wall reached 50 ft (15 m) in height. Hollows were made inside where about 100 soldiers could hide and make an ambush. A company of soldiers was stationed about every kilometer with ammunition store house at strategic points. There were also caves in the nearby wells to hide in the possibility of an unannounced attack.
The places where fortification once stood is in the present Mukundapuram Taluk in Thrissur District, Kerala.

Attack of Tipu Sultan and its Destruction
24 years after his father, Hyder Ali had attacked KochiTipu Sultan started on a conquest to conquer Kochi and Travancore. On December 28,1789 Tipu attacked the fort and gained entry but was ambushed by the Travancore army and had to retreat. Later in April he came back with reinforcements and this time was able to break in to the territory after making the way through the Nedumkotta. He destroyed the wall at Konoor kotaa or kottamuri and advanced further. He filled trenches for a few kilometers so that his army could advance. By this time he received information that the British army was planning an attack on Srirangapatnam and had to return back.
The most portions of the wall was destroyed during war, later eroded away due to heavy rains and trenches were filled up. The most of the ruins whatever left have also been lost due ignorance about the historical structure among the locals.