Wednesday, April 10, 2019

TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – 127

                          REMEMBERING KILIMANOOR R. MADHAVA WARRIER



Sometime back, my research on an old book on music led me to Kilimanoor palace. There, I met C.R. Kerala Varma (Sanyāsi Thampuran), a revered scholar who introduced me to the musical heritage of Kilimanoor palace and recalled the contributions of his own guru Sri. Kilimanoor R. Madhava Warrier. A few days back, as I went through my collection of old books, I was surprised to find a small book published in 1947, which never caught my attention before. This book, titled ‘Chaitrakshetram’, was a thullal composed by Kilimanoor R. Madhava Warrier! Kilimanoor R. Madhava Warrier (b.1878-d.1960) was a renowned scholar and musician and composer associated with the Kilimanoor royal family. He was the son of Lakshmikutty Warasyar and 'Marumakan Thampuran' of the Kilimanoor royal house. Today, he is mostly remembered as the composer of songs in the movie 'Bhakta Prahalada' (probably for the Malayalam remake).

R. Madhava Warrier
Madhava Warrier was fortunate to have lived in Kilimanoor palace during its golden age, i.e., during the lifetime of the legendary artist Raja Ravi Varma. The artistic tradition of the family was preserved by Raja Raja Varma, court painter to Swathi Thirunal, and his nephews Raja Ravi Varma and C. Raja Raja Varma. Mangala Bayi, the younger sister of Ravi Varma was also an artist of talent. Alongside the artistic tradition, the Kilimanoor royals claimed a rich tradition in music. Madhava Warrier's aptitude towards music was identified by his paternal family members and they arranged R. Samba Bhagavathar, the 'Mullamoodu Bhagavathar' to teach the young lad. Young Warrier found his mentors in Goda Varma (b.1854-d.1904), younger brother of Raja Ravi Varma and his cousin Chatayamnaal Ittammar Ravi Varma Coil Thampuran (d.1850-d.1936), who were both musicians and composers of repute.

After the untimely demise of artist C. Raja Raja Varma, who was an assistant and private secretary to his elder brother, young Madhava Warrier accompanied Raja Ravi Varma on his journeys. The artist who had the habit of picking models from among his family members once asked Warrier to sit as a 'model'. Little did Warrier know that he was being cast as Sree Krishna in the 'Sree Krishna as Envoy' (1906), an important painting ever done by the artist!
'Krishna as Envoy', 1906.

When Raja Ravi Varma passed away in 1906, the members of the royal house, especially the children were inconsolable. For them, the legendary artist was a lovable Valyammavan (patriarch) whose presence in the house always called for a festive mood. To ease the pain of the children, Madhava Warrier penned the following couplet:

Based on an interview with C.R. Kerala Varma, R.K. Varma, and Kilimanoor Chandran.
Sharat Sunder Rajeev
10/04/2019.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – LXXXXIX

REFLECTIONS OF AN OLD STUDENT

Do memories fade away with age? “No,” says eighty-six year old D. Sanal Kumar, who cherishes crystal clear memories of his student days in College of Engineering, Trivandrum. An alumnus of the Civil Engineering Department (1950-54 Batch), Sanal Kumar was fortunate enough to do both B.Sc. (Engg.) and M.Sc. (Engg.) course from this prestigious institution. Though he returned to his alma mater in the role of a lecturer, Sanal Kumar had to leave soon, to occupy the post of Junior Engineer in the Public Works Department. “I knew that I wouldn’t make a good teacher, but I certainly had some fine mentors here at the college,” recalls Sanal Kumar. “Dr. M.V. Kesava Rao, Prof. S. Rajaraman, Prof. M.P. Mathew, Prof. O.A. Mathew, Prof. M.G. Koshy, Prof. K.C. Chacko and Prof. J.C. Alexander are some of the names etched in my memory,” he adds.

Hailing from a middle-class Ezhava family in Oruvathilkotta, Thiruvananthapuram, Sanal Kumar had to overcome adverse conditions to attain his goals. “I am indebted to my father for providing the best education he could afford. When it was natural for boys to discontinue their school for the perusal of jobs, my father understood the value of education and made sure that his children excelled in studies.” After schooling at N.S.S. School, Palkulangara, Sanal Kumar joined for the Intermediate Course at Govt. Arts College, Thycaud, and finally landed in the College of Engineering, Trivandrum. “The college was located in P.M.G., housed in the buildings formerly used for the Office of the Chief Engineer. M.V. Kesava Rao, head of the Electrical Department was the Principal. Among the other teachers, Rajaraman sir taught Solid Geometry and J.C. Alexander sir taught History of Architecture and Graphics. Once, he asked the students to draw pictures of iconic buildings and render it with colour, the submissions were displayed on the walls of the central hall. J.C. Alexander, who took his post-graduation in Architecture from USA, was supposedly associated with the team involved in the design of the famous Empire State Building, New York City,” recalls Sanal Kumar.

In 1955 Sanal Kumar joined P.W.D. as Junior Engineer, but towards the end of 1959, he returned to C.E.T. to do M.Sc. in Hydraulics (1959-61 Batch). Among the teachers, Prof. K.C. Chacko and Prof. O.A. Mathew who handled classes for M.Sc. course left a lasting impression on him. O.A. Mathew had joined the Civil Engineering Department on deputation from the P.W.D. His thorough knowledge and practical approach to the subject made him popular with students; however, he went back to P.W.D. and was involved in the Thanneermukkam Bund Project. Sanal Kumar himself was involved in some of the ground-breaking projects undertaken by the Public Works Department. “While posted in Thiruvananthapuram, I worked with R. Velayudhan Nair, Engineer, P.W.D., who was associated with various prestigious projects like the construction of Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram. We worked together in the construction of T.B. Centre, Pulayanarkotta. At the same time, Velayudhan Nair was in charge of the construction of the main block of Govt. Ayurveda College and the Martyr’s Column in Palayam. All these buildings were inaugurated in 1958 by Dr. Rajendraprasad, the President of India.” The Martyr’s Column in Palayam was designed by J.C. Alexander. “Velayudhan Nair was perhaps the only man in the department who dared to make alterations in J.C. Alexander’s design sheets. But J.C. sir had complete trust in the engineer and said that Nair’s ‘eraser’ won’t touch his sheets unless there was some problem,” says Sanal Kumar. 

Around mid-1960s, Sanal Kumar was working on the Pampa Irrigation Project and later worked on the Kallada Dam Project (1970-71). “The Pampa irrigation project was particularly interesting,” recalls Sanal Kumar. “The engineers met with a challenge, working on a highly undulated landscape, directing the water from the Sabarigiri Hydroelectric Plant through the valleys for irrigation purpose. A detailed study of the geographic features followed and we made several tunnels cutting across the hills to facilitate uninterrupted flow of water to the farmlands.” Around the same period, he was also involved in the construction of the Engineer’s Pilgrim Centre in Sabarimala. One of his last assignments while in active service was the construction of Co-Bank Towers, an iconic building in Palayam, Thiruvananthapuram.

Sanal Kumar retired from P.W.D. in 1987, while holding the post of Chief Engineer and settled in Oruvathilkotta. “I am still connected with my old college mates, but now that age has restricted us, we don’t see each other that often. However, Sanal Kumar cherishes the celebrations organised by CETAA to mark the golden jubilee celebrations of their batch. On that day he and his batch mates made a journey to the old college building in P.M.G., retracing their steps to the past, the days of carefree student life, and the memories of their favourite teachers.

The students of 1950-54 Batch in front of 'Old CET', photographed during the occasion of their Silver Jubilee celebrations hosted by CETAA:


(Write-up based on an interview with D. Sanal Kumar, Chief Engineer, P.W.D. (Retd.), an alumnus of Civil Engineering Department (1950-1954 Batch). All pictures used in the write-up are from the private collection of D. Sanal Kumar.)

TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – LXXXXVIII

                                                     AN ARCHETYPAL SOUTH KERALA HOME

'An archetypal South Kerala home', a write-up on Thekkae kottaram in the Padmanabhapuram palace complex, The Hindu, 26-05-2018.


TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – LXXXXVII

                                                      GATEWAY TO THE PAST

'Gateway to the past', a write-up on Padinjarae Kotta and the stories associated with it, The Hindu,       12-05-2018.


TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – LXXXXVI

                                                           REMAINS OF THE DAY

'Remains of the day', a write-up on Thekkae Putten Veedu, Kalkkurichi, a house constructed by Raja Kesava Das, The Hindu, 28-04-2018.


TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – LXXXXV

A FAMED ABODE OF A FORMER DEWAN

'A famed abode of a former Dewan', a write-up on Kravilakathu Putten Veedu, the ancestral house of Raja Kesava Das, The Hindu, 31-03-2018.


Friday, March 16, 2018

TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – LXXXXIV

A GATEWAY TO STORIES

'A gateway to stories', a write-up on Vettimuricha kotta, the fort gate on the eastern side of the historic Fort, Thiruvananthapuram, The Hindu, 17-03-2018.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – LXXXXIIV

                                                  NIRAMANKARA'S PLACE IN ANNALS

'Niramankara's place in annals', a write-up on the ancient Siva temple at Niramankara, Thiruvananthapuram, The Hindu, 03-03-2018.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – LXXXXIII

                                                A ROYAL TOUR TO TRAVANCORE

'A royal tour to Travancore', a write-up on HRH Prince Albert Victor's visit to Travancore in 1889, The Hindu, 10-02-2018.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

TALES FROM THE CAPITAL CITY – LXXXXII

                                          FROM THE PAGES OF PRESS HISTORY

'From the pages of press history', a write-up on Subodhini Press owned by the famed family of royal oculists, Thiruvananthapuram, The Hindu, 13-01-2018.