History & Culture

May 72018
The famous Aranmula snake boat regatta in Kerala will not be a competitive race in the Pampa river waters at this year's Onam festival, and will instead return to its roots as a spectacle of color
In the mid-1700s, a relatively unknown prince made the audacious plan to become the ruler of all of south Kerala.  His name was Marthanda Varma.  At the time of Marthanda Varma, south Kerala was a collection of warring clans controlled by the strong and powerful Nair community. Nairs were the Kshatriyas and supplied soldiers to their “Kings”. The Kings were only in name. The real power was vested with the Nairs (the names “Ettu Veettil Pillamaar” and the likes comes to mind).
The 300+ years old Kilimanoor Palace complex is spread across an area of around 18 acres. Though the area is not as vast today when compared to its heyday, the Kilimanoor Palace complex is still quite imposing.  The estate of Kilimanoor Palace estate comprising several villages was handed over to the family of the father of the King who had come south from Parappanad in Malabar around 1718.
Raja Ravi Varma was mostly a self-taught artist. But he did receive instruction from Arumugham Pillai at the court of Maharaja Ayilyam Thirunal. In 1868, Theodore Jensen, a Dutch artist came to the Travancore Palace. Raja Ravi Varma picked up the rudiments of European style of painting and Oil Painting through his power of observation, from Jensen. Eventually, he mastered the subtle technique of mixing colours through a process of trial and error. 
In 1904, Raja Ravi Varma's brother Raja Raja Varma passed away suddenly. Raja Ravi Varma and Raja Raja Varma were known as the Rama-Lakshman duo of Indian Painting.  Raja Raja Varma's death was a major blow to Raja Ravi Varma. Ravi Varma considered his brother more like a son due to the age difference between them (around 12 years).  After the death of Raja Raja Varma, Ravi Varma's health began deteriorating. 
At around the time when Raja Ravi Varma won some of the world painting competitions, Sir T. Madhvarao, who had earlier been the Dewan of Travancore took up office as the British Regent of the State of Baroda.  Sir T. Madhvarao was a great admirer and also familiar with the Raja Ravi Varma's works and informed the Gaekwad of Baroda about him. The Gaekwad of Baroda, Sayajirao III, decided to invite Ravi Varma to have him paint his ceremonial portrait. 
Swami Vivekananda, the great Indian Philosopher who adopted a foreign language and mesmerised the world stage at Chicago with his famous "Sisters and Brothers of America" speech. Raja Ravi Varma, the great Indian Painter who adopted a foreign art style and mesmerised the world through his paintings and depictions of Indian philosophy. Both were contemporaries and lived during the same period. Both were geniuses in their own fields and preached the same concepts through different media.
In 1705, the son and two daughters of Ittammar Raja of Beypore Thattarikovilakam, a Kolathunadu royal house, were adopted into the Royal house of Venad.  Ittammar Raja's sister and her sons, Rama Varma and Raghava Varma, settled in Kilimanoor and married the now adopted sisters.  Marthanda Varma, the founder of the Kingdom of Travancore, was the son of Raghava Varma.  The nephew of Raghava Varma, Ravi Varma Koil Thampuran, married the sister of Marthanda Varma. Their son became known as Dharma Raja Kartika Thirunnal Rama Varma.
Kilimanoor Palace has always stood as a center for learning and education. The palace set up the first school in the region and it still continues to fund an upper primary school called the "Special UP School" within the palace complex. This school is completely free to this day. Most of the previous generations of royals, including the present custodian and overseer, Ramavarma Kilimanoor Thampuran did their primary education at this school alongside children from the surrounding areas.  During the time of Raja Ravi Varma, it was the center of art, culture, and music. 
Velayudhan Chempakaraman Thampi (1765–1809) was the Dalawa or Prime Minister of the Indian kingdom of Travancore between 1802 and 1809 during the reign of His Highness Maharajah Bala Rama Varma Kulasekhara Perumal. He is best known for being one of the earliest individuals to rebel against the British East India Company's supremacy in India.