T.K.Velu Pillai
First edition: 1940 , New edition1996


The Travancore State Manual compiled by Sadasyatilaka Sri. T.K. Velu Pillai is a monumental work providing details of history, culture, administration, economy and society of Travancore.  In 1936 Sri Velu Pillai was entrusted with the task of revision of the Travancore State Manual considering his vast experience, knowledge and scholarship.  The original Manual was compiled by Sri V. Nagam Aiya in 1906.  In the course of a painstaking revision of the Nagam Aiya’s Manual, the author had to rewrite many chapters incorporating new changes in the society, economy and administration.  The Manual in 4 volumes was completed in 4 years in 1940.

This volume deals with the general features of Travancore, its physical features, geology, flora, fauna, people, language, religion, caste, tribes, etc.

A biographical note

Sadasyatilaka T.K.Velu Pillai (1882 - 1950)
A biographical sketch

(S.Raimon, Editor-in charge of State Editor)

Sri. T.K. Velu Pillai, popularly known as Sadasyatilaka, was an eminent advocate, an efficient civil servant, a responsible legislator, an erudite scholar, a shrewd researcher, a gifted writer, a renowned orator, a historian and a reputed editor. He was the first elected Deputy President of the Sri Mulam Assembly.The publication of the State Manual of Travancore was his greatest contribution to the history and culture of Kerala.

Sri. Velu Pillai was born on February 28, 1882 at thiruvananthapuram as the son of Pullayikonath veetil Sri. Velu Pillai and Smt. Lekshmi Pillai. Sri. Velu Pillai Was Educated in a native school at Thiruvananthapuram. Sri. Kochappi Pillai, the Local Teacher taught him the elementary lessons of the Three R's. He passed the matriculation examination at the age of sixteen in1898 and the F.A.examination in 1902. He took B.A. Degree in 1904 From the Maharaja's College, Thiruvananthapuram.

Sri Velu Pillai began his career as a teacher in the English School, Chalai, Thiruvananthapuram. He studied law as a part-time student in the Law College, Thiruvananthapuram. He resigned his teaching profession to taka up appointment as Excise Inspector. But in 1913, he resigned this post also on Personal grounds. On getting the B.L. Degree Sri. Velu Pillai enrolled as an Advocate in 1914.

In the meanwhile Sri. Velu Pillai was elected as a member of the Travancore Legislative Council. He served as a member of the ninth (1914 - 1917) and the tenth (1917 - 1920) Travancore Legislative Councils. He also served as a member of the Reformed Travancore Legislative Council from 1922-25 representing Thiruvananthapuram cum Nedumangad General Rural Constituency. In 1933, Sri Velu Pillai was elected as a member of the Ist Sri Mulam Assembly (1933-37) representing the Thiruvananthapuram Urban Constituency. In recognition of his remarkable experience as a legislator, he was elected as the first elected Deputy President of The Sri Mulam Assembly on 31st July 1933 and continued to serve in that position till 27th February 1937. He served the Sri Mulam Assembly for a second term representing Thiruvananthapuram city From 1937 - 1944

It was at this time that the Travancore Government decided to revise the State Manual written by Sri. V. Nagam Aiya,the former Dewan of Travancore. The responsible job of the revision of the Travancore State Manual was entrusted to Sri T.K. Velu Pilllai. He was relieved of his duty as Law Lecturer in H.H. The Maharajas' Law College, Thiruvananthapuram to take up the assignment of the Special Officer For the Revision of the State Manual.

The stipulated time for the revision of the state manual was only seven months. But it took 4 years and one month to complete the painstaking revision compilation of the State Manual. In the revision of State Manual Sri. Velu Pillai was assisted by a team of dedicated scholars and officers, the prominent among them being Padma Sree Late Sri. Suranad P.N.Kunjan Pillai. The revised State Manual in 4 volumes running to more than 4000 pages is his greatest contribution to the history, art and culture of Kerala.

Sri. Velu Pillai was a prolific writer. He found time to write books of different aspects, in the midst of multifarious activities. He wrote Hemalatha, Sahityadarsam, Sree Ramayanam, Krishi Sasthram (Agricultural Science), Moonnu Maharajakkanmar (Three Emperors), Nammude Maharajakkanmar (Our Emperors), Velu Thampi Dalawa, Tyaga Charithangal, Sahithya Kaumudi, and Vritanta Manjari in Malayalam and 'History of Travancore' and "occasional Speeches and Writings" in English. Some of the books published by Sri. Velu Pillai were prescribed for study in Schools.

Sri. Velu Pillai won many laurels. He was the recipient of the King Emperor's Silver Jubilee Medal. The title of "Sadasyatilaka" was conferred upon him by the Maharaja of Travancore in recognition of his public services. He served as member of many important committees constituted by Government including the Standing Finance Committee and Temple Entry Committee. He also served as a member of the Senate of the University of Travancore and the University of Madras.
Sri. T.K.Velu Pillai died on 20th September 1950 at the age of sixty-eight.


)Thirty-two years have elapsed since the Travancore Government published a State Manual. The late Dewan Bahadur V. Nagam Aiya, the author of the book, was then the senior-most officer in the service' one whose deep knowledge and long experience of the country had often been requisitioned in the preparation of minutes and reports among which may be mentioned the Census Reports of 1881 and 1891. He had acted as Dewan several times. It took Nagam Aiya many years to collect the materials for the Manual. For the majr portion of that period he was doing the work along with his official duties as Dewan Peishkar. Towards the close he was placed on special duty as full time State Manual Officer. The learned author spoke of the work as being 'of an encyclopedic nature spread over a space of more than 1820 pages of letter-press --to say nothing of the continued strain, the anxious and unremitting attention of the huge preliminary studies it cost'. The present book covers more than 4000 pages in four volumes.

When I was appointed special Officer the idea of Government was merely to have the Manual "revised". But a more ambitious plan was soon adopted. The literature on the various subjects is now much more extensive than it was in 1906. Points of view have greatly changed. Several epochs in the history of South India in general, and that of Travancore and Malabar in particular, have been brought within the sphere of profitable research. New facts which establish the greatness of travancore in the distant past and the continuity of its political development in thorough independence have been revealed. Theories which commanded approval have been discredited. In the course of my preliminary studies I found that a mere revision would not meet present-day requirements. In addressing the Government on the subject I pointed out: - "In view of the fact that more than thirty years have elapsed after the compilation of the State Manual the very framework requires change. The large number of new laws passed and new institutions brought into working order, the radical changes in administrative system effected during the last thirty years, the growth of social and other organisations, and the change in the points of view which have resulted from contemporary appreciation of new values, all these demand an adequate treatment". The real facts of the history of Travancore and the unique position of the State had also to be carefully ascertained and narrated in sufficient detail. The bulk of the book, I said, would therefore have to be rewritten.

Seeing that a careful study of the old records in the archives of government would throw light on some of the unexplored regions of the History of Travancore, I requested permission to use the old documents in H.H. the Maharaja's Palace, the Huzur Central Vernacular Records, the Sri. Padmanabhaswamy temple and the repositories of old cadjans and papers. On inspection of the record rooms it appeared to me that a methodical search would disclose a large volume of relevant materials, which have long remained unused. In my letter dated 29th January 1937, addressed to the Government, I suggested the desirability of appointing a staff to classify the records, prepare an index, and make out copies of such documents as I might use with advantage. The Dewan Sachivothama Sri. C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, paid a visit to the Huzur Central Vernacular Records Office and Sri. Padmanabhaswamy temple to make a personal inspection. My proposal was sanctioned. In the Chief Secretary's letter on the subject addressed to the Financial Secretary, copy of which was forwarded to me, he said that 'the Special Officer for the revision of the State Manual has brought to the notice of Government that if the large collection of valuable records preserved in the Mathilakam, the Palace, and the Central Vernacular Records are carefully sorted, listed and indexed it would facilitate a comparative study of those records which would be of immense advantage in the revision of the State Manual besides being of permanent benefit to the State in many other ways'. A staff of clerks and scribes, thirty-five in all, was appointed to do the work under the direction of Mr. P.N. Kunjan Pillai, a young officer of high academic distinction and recognized proficiency in Malayalam, Sanskrit and Tamil in addition to English. He was, at the time of appointment, working under me as a full time Assistant. I paid frequent visits to the Mathilakam and the Central Vernacular Records office to keep myself in touch with what was being done.  Though the main work of the staff was in matters other than the collection of materials for the State Manual they were able to discover numerous ancient documents of great historical value.

Some of the record, it may be observed, had been used by Dewan T. Madhava Row, Shungoony Menon and Nagam Aiya in the preparation of their accounts of the history of Travancore. Many were published by R. Mahadeva Aiyar, the compiler of the Travancore Land Revenue Manual. But a large number of documents still remained to be unearthed. Their discovery opened new vistas. It became imperative that I should reexamine many of the conclusions arrived at by older writers. The examination disclosed that the warp and woof of the fabric had to be changed. Fairness required that I should rest the new views on materials newly discovered, taken along with those which had been available hitherto. Elaborate argument was found necessary in several cases. This was rendered all the more necessary because the facts narrated in certain books published by authority in Travancore are being treated as admissions against interest on the strength of which writers seek to advance theories of the political subordination of Travncore to the ancient Cholas and the Pandyas, and after them to the Perumals of Mahodayapattanam and the Kings of Vijayanagar and the Nayaks of Madura in the later periods. The assistance rendered by Travancore to the English East India Company to bring about peace in south India has not been given the prominence, which it deserves.

Nor was the necessity of rewriting confined to the chapters on History, Legislation, Administration, and such like. The chapter on Geology in Nagam Aiya's State Manual was written before the organization of a Geological Department in Travancore and was based solely on the observations of Dr. W. King and Dr. Bruce-Foote. The extended use of the microscope has led to great advance in deciphering the structure, composition, and characteristics of the different rocks. The Travancore State Geologists have, now for many years been engaged in exploring the subject. The incorporation of new details demanded a change in the scheme of the chapter, which it was impossible to effect without a complete re-writing. The chapters on Flora and Fauna also called for considerable alteration, extension and amplification. In the present book 245 pages are allotted to these two chapters as against 87 in the previous Manual.

Nor was the necessity of rewriting confined to the chapters on History, Legislation, Administration, and such like. The chapter on Geology in Nagam Aiya's State Manual was written before the organization of a Geological Department in Travancore and was based solely on the observations of Dr. W. King and Dr. Bruce-Foote. The extended use of the microscope has led to great advance in deciphering the structure, composition, and characteristics of the different rocks. The Travancore State Geologists have, now for many years been engaged in exploring the subject. The incorporation of new details demanded a change in the scheme of the chapter, which it was impossible to effect without a complete re-writing. The chapters on Flora and Fauna also called for considerable alteration, extension and amplification. In the present book 245 pages are allotted to these two chapters as against 87 in the previous Manual.

The chapters of Language and Literature also demanded rewriting as the corresponding portion in the former Manual was not comprehensive. It had failed to narrate in sufficient detail the various forces, which led to the development of the language and literature to their modern form. In the present account care has been taken to present the fundamental ideas and trace the different stages in their growth with considerable fullness. In that scheme more prominence has been given to types of composition than to individual writers. The scope of the chapter on Hinduism has to be extended in view of the great Temple entry Proclamation. The place of temples in the scheme of Hinduism as practiced by the large majority of the people and the intimate connection that exists between the Devasoms and the government had to explained at length.

The chapter on Christianity in Nagam Aiya's Manual was written by Mr. G. T. Mackenzie, a former British resident in Travancore and Cochin. On a careful study of the subject it appeared to me that a fuller and more comprehensive account should be prepared. The early history of the Malabar church can alone explain the origin of the difference between the various sects. The starting point is the visit of St. Thomas to Malabar in 52 A.D. but as the older writers discredited the tradition it became necessary to examine the subject carefully. Repeated discussion with people of different persuasions and a close study of authoritative books and documents were essential preliminaries to the compilation of a proper account. The section on Islam had also to be re-written.

The scope of the chapter on caste had to be changed. In the preface to the previous State Manual the author said that 'the chapter on castes on castes touched only the outer fringe' and that 'a whole volume ought to be devoted to castes alone'. The progress of ideas in Travancore and the breaking up of the barriers of caste during the last three decades obliged me to take a different view. We have reached a time in which the very mention of castes as depressed and inferior would create offense. It would even be illegal in view of the pronouncements made by the Government on the subject. I had therefore to rewrite the chapter to suit modern requirements, incorporating facts which are absolutely essential and eschewing those not strictly necessary, notwithstanding that they maynot be without use to the student of ethnology and anthropology.

The economic conditions of the present day and the course of action followed by Government in encouraging agriculture, industry and trade are fundamentally different from what they were in 1906. a number of new departments have come into being since then, each charged with its own share in nation-building activities. The conditions of agriculture have changed. New industries are being brought into existence. Labour organisations have taken the place of custom in the regulation of wages. The steam engine is playing a prominent part in providing energy, and the Government is devoting great attention to the supply of electric power with a view to foster cottage industries as well as to assist large scale production in factories. Joint stock companies and co-operative societies have altered the very basis of credit. All the chapters dealing with economic subjects had therefore to be written afresh.

The chapters dealing with Administration, Legislation, Local Government, Education, Public Health, had also to be written anew; for, the association of the representatives of the representatives of the people in the work of Government and the rights and privileges granted to the Legislative assemblies, Municipal councils, Panchayat courts and Departmental committees have been so great that it was found absolutely impossible to retain the chapters of the older book. During the last several years, the members of the Legislative have been taken into confidence of the Government in shaping policies and fixing the details of legislation and administration. Naturally the State Manual would be considered as a source manual of authentic information. In writing the former Manual the author's aim was 'to present to an utter stranger to Travancore such a picture of the land and its people, its natural peculiarities, its origin, history and administration, its forests and animals, its conveniences for residence and travel, its agricultural, commercial, industrial, educational and economic activities, its ethnological, social and religious features as he may not himself be able to form by a thirty years study or research in it.' Probably the times did not require a different scope. But today there is no subject in Travancore; scientific, political, social, economic or religious which does not draw forth the attention of the whole population. The quest for precise scientific knowledge of the various subjects is gaining strength. Therefore a closer study and a more detailed narration were indispensable.

The very much larger volume of work which resulted from the change in the scheme of the Manual from what it was contemplated at the time of my appointment as Special Officer made it imperative that the time allowed for its preparation should be extended. The period of seven months originally sanctioned was extended to twenty nine months in the aggregate. The experience of Mysore is relevant to the subject. The first Mysore Gazetteer compiled by Mr. Lewis Rice was published in 1887. The same officer revised it in 1897. in the preface to the second edition he said:- 'Mysore in the interval (twenty years) has undergone such great and radical changes and so much has been added to our knowledge of its past by recent discoveries, that what appeared in the prospect a comparatively easy task has proved to be in reality one of considerable difficulty, and involving for its completion a longer period than was anticipated'. The work of compiling the latest Mysore Gazetteer was started in 1914. the director of Archaeological researches and the Director of statistics and Superintendent of Census operations were successively in charge of it till 1924 when Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao who completed it began his work. The first volume was published in 1927 and the last in 1930.

In Travancore this is the first time a non-official has been entrusted with the compilation of a book of this character. My long association with the public life of the state in various capacities as member of various Committees, President of social, literary and political organisations, member of Municipal Councils, the Travancore Legislative Council and the old Sri Mulam Popular assembly, the Standing Finance Committee, and Deputy President of the Sri Mulam assembly enabled me to start the work with certain initial advantages. During the whole of the period I had to work at high pressure. The Government considered it necessary to relieve me of my duties as a member of the teaching staff of His Highness the Maharaja's Law College that I might devote my whole time to the state Manual. As the work advanced I was also obliged to suspend my practice at the Bar. Vol.I went to press in June 1938.

Government was pleased to give me two full-time Assistants and five part-time Assistants besides a clerical staff. But on the expiry of four months one of the full- time assistants, had to be relieved from duty on his appointment as Superintendent of the Huzur Central Vernacular Records. Mr. G.R. Pillai, the other full-time officer deputed to assist me in compiling the chapters on the 'economic ' subjects worked in my office for five months. The part-time Assistants were not able to render me any substantial help. Perhaps they could find little leisure from their usual work in the Departments to which they are attached. One of them, however, Mr. K.Sivaramakrishna Sastri, of the department of Archaeology was of help in the interpretation of some of the Tamil Inscriptions.