present maharaja of travancore gettinng into his car at the temple



As a matter of course the emblem of the House of Kulasekhra was borrowed from the attributes of Vishnu, who was the household divinity from 1750 onwards. As we know, these emblems were the cakra (wheel), the śankha (conch), the padma (lotus) and the gada (club). From these the śankha sankha was the special emblem of the Sri Padmanabha  incarnation on Vishnu.

Sri Padmanabha; Vishnu, lying on a snake with his consort, Lakshmi.
The lying deity keeps a śankha in his left hand, identifying him as Sri Padmanabha [1]

A Śankha (conch-shell)  is the special symbol of Vishnu. His conch is known as Pañ-chajanya, being made from the body of the demon Pañchajana. It is symbolic of the spoken word, a tradition originating in Vedic India.  It is thought to make a frightening noise that terrifies the enemies of Vishnu. In sculptural representations, the conch appears plain or ornamental. In the latter case, its head is covered with a decorative metal cap, surmounted by a lion-head and having a cloth tied round it. Tassels of pearls may also hang from the sides.
Generally speaking the Śankha is the symbol of religious authority exercised by the word.

However, the first proof of an emblem of the House of Kulasekhra shows a trident which is the attribute of Shiva and a symbol of armed power. We may suppose that this has to do with the longlasting state of war at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century.  The trident is on Travancore coins struck by Rani Parvati Bai (1815-’29). The śankha only appears on coins struck in 1830. From then on the śankha is shown within a garland, together with the royal cypher RV, also within a garland on the reverse. Its definite form was achieved on coins struck in 1877 during the reign of  Rama Varma IV (1860-’80).
This ruler was honoured with an achievement European style for the occasion of the Durbar in Delhi in 1877. It was:

Arms: Argent, on a fesse Azure three reversed conches Or
Crest: On a helmet guardant, lambrequined Argent and Azure a seahorse.
Supporters: Two elephants.
Motto: Dharmo Smat Kuladewatam  (Dharmo is our Household Divinity).
(T. 89 [2])

The term dharma in this motto is an Indian spiritual and religious term, that means one’s righteous duty or any virtuous path in the common sense of the term. In Indian languages it can be equivalent simply to “religion”, depending on the context. The word dharma literally translates as that which upholds or supports, and is generally translated into English as law.

Very shortly after, a new achievement appears, possibly because of the many mistakes the designer, Robert Taylor, has made in the Durbar achievement.
The new achievement shows:

Arms: The Royal Cypher RV, surrounded by a strap with the motto DHARMA IS OUR HOUSEHOLD DIVINITY
Crest: A śankha within a garland
Supporters: Two elephants passant, trunks erect.
Motto: Dharmo Smat Kuladewatam in devanagiri script

From about the same time an emblem is known consisting of a golden śankha on a red sixteen-pointed halo. Below is a motto on a yellow ribbon.  It is on a painting showing a visit of the governor general of  Madras to the maharaja in 1880 .
On this very interesting painting also the royal banner is seen. [3]

Royal seal as on a regulation dated 11th of May 1885: śankha between the royal cypher.

One fanam coin struck 1919-’29,
showing the royal cypher and the national emblem
The next stage in the development of the heraldic emblems of Travancore is the separation of the royal emblem and the emblem of state. Maybe this.was a result of the foundation of the Travnacore Legislative Council in 1888. The royal emblem consisted of the royal cypher within a garland. This emblem was the nucleus of the royal achievement which consisted of the royal cypher crested by the śankha and two elephants passant, trunks erect.

Royal achievement on the letterhead of Rama Varma VI, 1893. [4]

This shows: The royal cypher RV, crowned with the royal crown of Travancore and crested with the śankha. Supported by two elephans rampant, standing on a ribbon with a motto. Below is the jewel of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India of which he was a Grand Commander (1888). Behind the star are two crossed swords, a symbol of the army.

Royal achievement as on publications of the thirties of the 20th century

The arms of state consisted of the śankha, sometimes placed on a circular shield,  within a garland.
For the achievement the version without the shield was supported by two elephants passant, trunks erect and with the motto on a ribbon below.

The description supplied from the government of Travancore is:
“The coat of arms of the Travancore State is represented by a conch, supported by two elephants, one on either side thereof, together with a motto in Sanskrit “Dharmosmatkuladaivatam”, which means “Dharma is our household divinity”. The conch is one of the prominent weapons of Sri Padmanabha (an aspect of Mahavishnu, the sustaining and protecting god of the Hindu Trinity), the family deity of the Maharajas of Travancore. It is believed to be an emblem of purity, auspiciousness, victory and prosperity. The conch is a product of the sea, and Travancore, which has the longest seaboard among the Indian States, is aptly symbolized by it. The elephants form a distinguishing feature of Travancore, being very common in its forests. They, too, are emblematic of auspiciousness and victory. The motto signifies that righteousness is the watchword of the rulers of Travancore.” [5]

This achievement appeared in colour at the end of the 19th century on the national flag which was red, the conch white, the garland green, the elephants turqoise, the compartment green and the ribbon white with black devanagiri script.

Royal cypher of Balai Rama Varma II .

National emblem as on coins struck 1938 -’41.