Saturday, 18 April 2020

Parukutty Nethyar Amma - Freedom fighter from the Cochin Royal family, Kerala

Daughter of Kurur Narayanan Namoddripad and Chinammu Amma Vadakke Kuruppath and wife of HH Maharajah Rama Varma Kunjikkidavu Thampuran, Cochin (1914 - 1932),  queen Parukutty Nethyar Amma played no smaller role in the struggle for India's freedom from the oppressive British rule.  The impressive part of her life is she daringly played a stellar role in the freedom movement in a subtle manner by being a prominent royal member of the Cochin ruling class. In India there were hundreds of  ''princely states'' across the land, and with rare exceptions, most of them became subordinate to the British  Crown  and be content with  an yearly dole and fancy and funny title from the British government. Parukutty Amma never fell a prey to such a ploy employed  by the Raj. 
queen  Parukutty Nethyar navrangindia.blogspot.com 

Prior to Independence in 1947,  there were 584 Princely States across the land  and they were not fully and formally part of British India.  They had not been conquered or annexed by the British but under indirect rule, a sort of check and balance  subject to  subsidiary alliances. The states had, no doubt, an  internal autonomy, but  by virtue of the treaty the British Crown had suzerainty and was responsible for the states' external affairs, thus exerting considerable influence on the potentates / rulers who were referred to by various titles  such as Maharajah, Raja, Nizam, Nawab, etc.  

Peculiar circumstances forced  Maharajah Rama Varma (popularly known as Madrassil Theepetta Thampuran), to  ascend the throne and ironically, later unsavory political situation  left him with no choice except to step down as a ruler.   His consort  Parukutty Nethyar Amma, a young and strong-willed woman,  assisted him from 1914 to 1932.  She married the ruler, then heir apparent to the throne when she was pretty young, barely 14 years of age.  On her fraternal  side her family  had the rare traditional honor of anointing the kings of Palakkad.  Blessed by the deity Devi at the Chottanikkara Temple, the Nathyar Amma had the guts and wisdom to uphold the name of the ruling class putting behind the sad incidence of the abdication of the ruler's predecessor. 
Rama Varma XV- His Abdicated Highness. en.wikipedia.org
As per customs of the royal family, the seat of Queen of Kochi (Penvazhithampuran) was seen as Royal capital, as Kochi royal family had matrilineal traditions. It meant that the queen was regarded as sovereign  head of the state under whose authority the King ruled. Since 1755, the Queen and her retinue had lived in Tripunithura, thereby making the city as  the
Kochi state zum.de/whkmla
official capital.  
 Upon taking over the administration, queen Parukkty Amma  gave much attention to the  finances of the state that  were at the lowest ebb.  She improved the efficiency of her workers by way of increasing their salaries and developed better interaction with them. She trimmed the state's  unwanted expenses by  scrapping certain useless projects and departments. This way she vastly improved the state revenue.   
Cochin kingdom, en.wikipedia.org
At one point of her  reign, she realized that the British who were known more known for their dishonesty and crafty nature than integrity and honesty  when dealing  affairs of  princely states  would one day savor her land and garb the vast revenue  using some pretext.  No greater instance, perhaps of her sagacity and administrative acumen  could be furnished than her unerring choice of joining hands with the Indian nationalists who were demanding freedom from the foreign rule. It was a bold diplomatic move made by the Nathyar Amma that had put her on a strong pedestal.  If there were a threat from the British Bobs to seize the state, the nationalists from across India would be right behind her defending her land and the people.  It would have been  a picky situation for the British had they made a wrong move. 

Her visibility as a popular public figure,  her close rapport with great leaders like Gandhiji, et al and her keen interest in Khadi cloth instead of English-made clothes, etc.,  were all being watched by the British  and recorded in the intelligence Reports ( available at the National Archives of India). Now, they became more irksome than ever before. Her Royal Hill  Palace of Kochi became the hub of  nationalist activity  and weaving of Khadi. 
Statue of Rama Varma XV at Subhash Park Ernakulam,en.wikipedia.org

The abdication of the ruler by the British  government   with a falsified certificate by a London doctor  to prove him insane an senile due to old age   was looked upon as an attempt to intimidate Parukutty Amma  or the "Consort" as she was referred to by the British and her closer association with freedom fighters.  Slowly. she became a force to reckon with in nationalist circles.    

The Nethyar Amma encouraged her son to join the freedom movement  and she  personally  deputed  him to accompany  Gandhiji wherever he  was on tour in the Cochin state. Besides, her influential relations enthusiastically entertained in their house whenever great national leaders visited  Cochin.   Her visible and open tirade against  the British government  proved to be a big road block for British interests in India. 
Upon  the death of the Maharajah in 1932, the Nethyar Amma  took a break from  politics  and lived in a  palace she had constructed for herself in her home town Trichur  close her ancestral house, Padinjare Shrambhi.  After her tour abroad  with her grandson, she returned to India and divided her time between  Trichur and Coonoor. Here at Coonoor, a hill station (now in Tamil Nadu) she had  two tea estates and a tea factory.  Being  a visionary and able administrator backed by compassion, the Nethyar Amma stands apart among the  women  from royal members of India. She has made a permanent niche in the political history of Cochin kingdom  as well as  India's freedom struggle.  
everydaypower.com/

Her state had  a 17-gun salute  protocol and Parukutty Nethyar Amma was  bestowed with the Kaiser-i-Hind medal by King George V in 1919 for her tireless public work.
https://www.geni.com/people/Parukutty-Nethyar-Amma-Vadakke-Kurupath/6000000005617117141
https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2015/04/parukutty-nethyar-amma-maveric-consort.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Cochin
http://www.geni.com/people/Parukutty-Nethyar-Amma-Vadakke-Kurupat