Sir Thomas Munro and Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple
  • ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: Chithra Madhavan

    Dear All,

    In case you do not know this ........... do read








    Hinduism, also called Sanathana Dharma, is universal in application and does
    not make any difference between one religion and the other. All the devotees
    who believe and follow the tenets of Hinduism are respected and rewarded
    alike. The foregoing is a classic example of an Englishman by name Sir
    Thomas Munro [1761-1827] who was the Governor of Madras and his devotional
    attachment to Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Trivandrum [then called

    When India was ruled by the British, there were so many princely states like
    Mysore, Rajasthan, Travancore etc which were directly ruled by the
    respective Maharajas who owed allegiance to the British throne. The
    erstwhile Maharajas of Travancore ruled the State in the belief that it was
    their ‘Divine Right to Rule’. They were simultaneously aware of the fact
    that the Right to Rule entirely depended on their ability to rule ‘rightly’
    in keeping with the tenets of Hindu Dharma or Raja Dharma as it is called in
    Sanskrit. They also knew that it was Divinity that gave them the power to

    In 1750, King Martanda Varma, the most powerful of the Travancore rulers,
    pledged that he and his descendents would serve the kingdom as servants of
    Lord Padmanabha [Padmanabha Dasa], the Lord being the King. The British had
    observed the tradition and honoured the Lord with a 21-gun salute****

    When the Indian states were merged, Independent India appointed the
    Travancore royal head as the Raj Pramukh; but he preferred to be known as
    Padmanabha Dasa, and not as Raja Pramukh. The government had continued to
    honour the tradition of 21 gun-salutes to the Lord till 1970 when, along
    with the abolition of princely titles, the honour of the Lord was withdrawn!

    Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple, as seen today, was built by Maharaja Martanda
    Varma in 1773. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Temple has an 18 feet long idol
    and a seven-tier Gopuram. ****

    Sometime in the early 19th century, the State was ruled by Maharaja Martanda
    Varma. When he passed away in 1813 he had no male heir to succeed him to the
    throne. So, the British Government approved of a provisional arrangement to
    rule the State by making his wife Rani Lakshmibai as a Regent. This was an
    immediate and temporary arrangement till a final decision was taken about
    the successor. At that time Thomas Munro who was stationed at Travancore
    was representing the British Government as Dewan.of Travancore. After
    sometime, the Governor General of India asked Munro to intimate the name of
    a suitable successor. Munro could not give an immediate reply as he knew
    that at that time Rani Lakshmibai was carrying and the delivery was expected
    soon. If the Rani failed to deliver a male child, the Travancore State, as
    per the Doctrine of Succession, would lapse to the British throne. ****

    When a final reminder came from the Governor General for an immediate reply
    and the decision could not brook any delay, Munro was in a real fix. The
    Queen had not yet delivered. However, as Munro had great respect to Hinduism
    and believed in the Divinity of Lord Padmanabha and as he was also keen on
    continuing the lineage of the Maharaja, he prayed to Lord Padmanabha and
    sent a letter to the Governor General saying that the Queen had delivered a
    male child, even though no delivery had taken place. He took a great risk
    of uttering a lie, guided by an inner voice that divine intervention would
    prove him true. ****

    Munro spent sleepless nights after sending the letter. One fine morning he
    went on horse back to the East Fort at Travancore and facing the Lord
    murmured “O Lord! I believe you are omnipotent. I adore you. Please grant
    me a boon. Let Her Highness deliver a male child. There should not be a gap
    in your Slave Kings. Bless Her Highness with a male child for the throne”.
    He further added “if it is true that you are there, grant me my boon. If it
    is not granted, I cannot say what I will do”. After his prayer, Munro
    returned to the Residency, his official residence. Within a few minutes, he
    heard the news that Her Highness had delivered a male child. The joy of the
    Resident knew no bounds. He cried in ecstasy “O Lord Padmanabha! You are a
    reality. You are very much there in flesh and blood” ****

    The male child that was born to Rani Lakshmibai in 1813 was none other than
    the most famous ruler of the State who later ascended the throne of
    Travancore as Swathi Tirunal Maharaja—one of the greatest composers of
    Carnatic music. Besides music, His Highness was highly learned in Sanskrit,
    poetry and other fine arts. Though His Highness died at the young age of 34
    years, he ruled the State for nearly 18 years and was a master of 13
    languages. Apart from music compositions, he has written a book on “The
    Theory of Music” in his own handwriting which is preserved even today in the
    Department of Oriental Studies, Trivandrum. ****

    Munro became an ardent devotee of Lord Padmanabha and personally undertook
    the work of temple administration. The code he evolved in Temple
    Administration is even now followed in several temples of that region. ****

    As a digression, it may be noted that when Munro first came to India and
    took service under the British Government in 1801, he was for some time
    looking after the administration of some of the districts in the South,
    ceded by the Nizam of Hyderabad. In this capacity, he was once entrusted
    with the job of bringing the land on which the famous Sri Raghavendra Swamy
    Math is situated in Mantralaya under the control and jurisdiction of the
    East India Company under the Permanent Settlement Act. When this order came
    to the notice of the local citizens, many natives and devotees of the Math
    vehemently opposed the move as they thought it would be a religious
    sacrilege for a foreign government to encroach upon the holy premises of the
    Math. They approached Munro with their grievance. Munro decided to visit
    Mantralaya personally and check about the religious sanctity of the Math. It
    is said that when he reached the Math premises, removed his shoes and was
    about to enter the Math, Sri Raghavendra Swamy himself appeared before him
    in a vision and it is further said that both became involved in a
    conversation. However, no one knew about this till the fact was made known
    by Munro himself. A subsequent issue of the Madras Government Gazette,
    however, bears witness to this strange incident. It is also learnt that soon
    after this incident, Munro was promoted as the Governor of Madras Presidency
    in which capacity he got cancelled the earlier decision of the British
    Government to annex Mantralaya. When the Math sent some consecrated coloured
    rice [Mantrakshatha] to Munro as God’s Blessings on the occasion of his
    elevation to the post of Governor, he received it with all humility and
    reverence. ****

    Sir Thomas Munro, Scottish by birth and Hindu at heart, died of Cholera in
    India in 1827 when he was on tour of the Northern Districts.






    *If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. Abraham
    Maslow *

    Thanks for sharing !!

  • Can you tell me about the inscriptions in this temple?
  • We discussed Munro some time ago; I remember some people were of the opinion
    that his statue should be removed from Mount Road...

    He's another interesting character: the very epitome of a White Mughal as
    Dalrymple calls them; Brits and other Europeans who adopted India as their
    homeland to various degrees. Some converted to Hinduism like Munro and
    "Hindoo" Stuart, or Islam, like James Kirkpatrick (the subject of
    Dalrymple's book)...

    I'm sure that given a few more decades of isolation from Britain, they would
    have just assimilated into India and become indistinguishable from the rest
    of us, except a different accent and a few slightly different facial

    India was quite cosmopolitan at various times in history!


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