Monday, 30 March 2009



Yesterday (29-03-2009) V. George Mathew (para-psychologist), Uma Maheshwari (freelance journalist), Anil Bhaskar (photographer- Rashtra Deepika) and I had the opportunity to visit an old palatial house belonging to a family claiming Rajput ancestry. At the house, we met Krishna Singh, the elderly patriarch. Krishna Singh, a resident of Thiruvananthapuram, claims to have Rajput ancestry, and interestingly he had an interesting story to share - a tragic story of a Rajput princess who came to Travancore.

Krishna Singh’s house is located in Manacaud, near the famed Manacaud Shasta temple. Earlier George sir had told us that Krishna Singh was a very old man, who was about 90 years old. However, later we found out that Krishna Singh was a man in his late seventies. There was a large wall, resembling a fortress, dotted with shops and small rooms surrounding the house. The huge wooden gates, painted in sky blue opened to reveal a large two-storied building, about 70 years old.

Krishna Singh - Photograph taken by the author.
According to Krishna Singh history and hearsay mentions the arrival of Rajpoots in Travancore during the reign of Rama Varma, the predecessor of Marthanda Varma. And their history is linked with the mysterious lady of Travancore, ‘Abhirami’, wife of Rama Varma. According to Krishna Singh, Abhirami’s real name is not known, it is believed (within the family circles) that her name was ‘Sandhya’- derived from ‘Syndhya’, the title of a sect of Rajput royals. He said that this girl (let us call her Sandhya) was a princess, born in Ayodhya. It is said that the child had some problems with her horoscope and the royal pundit told her father to send her for 14 years pilgrimage. It is said that one of her brothers (for her protection), some of her close relatives and attendants accompanied her.

Sandhya reached Suchindram. During that period, Thiruvithamkodu was the capital of Travancore. The king, Rama Varma on a routine visit to the temple heard Sandhya singing a bhajan and fell in love with her. He married her and promised that her sons will be the next rulers. The relatives and attendants who came with her settled in ‘Madhava layam’, near Nagercoil. ‘Layam’ means stable- Rajputs were master horse riders, they had horses with them, and so the place got that name. He said that before that also there were Rajput settlements in Travancore, so the people had no problem in finding new partners here (of their own caste).

The conflict between Marthanda Varma and Thampi’s is famous, I am not going to it, but according to Ramayyan’s plans, Marthanda Varma imprisoned Sandhya and her daughter Ummini Thanka in a palace. Sandhya died and daughter had to guard her dead body for five days. It is said that unknowingly at the same time Marthanda Varma came there with all preparations to marry Ummini Thanka. On seeing the ‘thalam’ she lost her control and kicked it, she then committed suicide, pulling out her tongue. She also cursed that Travancore family will always be short of women. According to Krishna Singh that is the reason why there are so many adoptions in the family. After conducting pujas, both mother and daughter were installed in a temple. It is said that the plot to marry Ummini Thanka was Marthanda Varma’s idea to calm down her brothers, Pappu (Padmanabhan) Thampi and Raman Thampi.

The relatives of Sandhya did not revolt against Marthanda Varma, so they were spared and brought to Trivandrum when the capital was shifted. For many years, the members of the family served as ‘Palliyara kaval’, and some in Travancore cavalry force.

Krishna Singh said that an old document of his ancestral property at Alappuzha mentions that his ancestors came from Ayodhya. He demands that his family has descended from the royal Rajput clan, and still they have customs and rituals similar to their North Indian ancestors.

Sharat Sunder Rajeev