Diwan T. Rama Rao CIE
T. Rama Rao’s forefathers had migrated to Travancore kingdom from Kumbakonam during the early decades of the 19th century. He was born in Trivandrum in the year 1831 to Sakharam Row, a former District and Sessions judge. His mother Sonamma Bai was sister of Rai Raya Rai Venkata Rao who was a former Diwan of Travancore. Diwan Sir T. Madhava Rao was his cousin ie mother’s another brother Ranga Rao’s son.
1831 - 1895, 5th June
Rama Rao served as Diwan of Travancore from 1887 to 1892. He made two significant and permanent contributions to Travancore (part of present day Kerala). The first was the setting up of a Legislative Council in 1888, which grew into the present State Assembly of Kerala. This Legislative Council was the first such in any Native Kingdom of India. For more information on this please see
Government of Kerala web portal (pre-independence period)- https://kerala.gov.in/legislature
and that of Kerala Assembly:- http://keralaassembly.org/history/begining.html
The second significant contribution to the State was setting up Kottayam as the head-quarters of Northern District of Travancore. This is particularly significant because though his brief was to set up Cherthala as the Dist HQ, he decided on his own to develop Kottayam as the HQ. His foresight is evident in the way Kottayam developed as a major city in Kerala whereas Cherthala was not so fortunate. Even today, all the important landmarks and establishments in Kottayam owe their origin to T. Rama Rao. He is hailed as the true founder of modern Kottayam.
For more information on T. Rama Rao, please see pages 623 to 628 in The Travancore State Manual (1906):- https://archive.org/stream/travancorestate00aiyagoog#page/n780
Rama Rao’s contribution to Travancore was not restricted to administrative matters alone. He made major contributions in the field of culture and health, both in official and personal capacities. A few of such initiatives were:-
1. It was he who first organized in a systematic manner the famous snake-boat races of Kerala. This was in 1887 when he was the Diwan Peshkar of the Northern District. The boats were classified under different categories and the first races were conducted in Kottayam in 1887. These classifications continue to this day. The first races served as a model for all other snake-boat races of Kerala over the last 130 years. For more details on this please see
2. The prestigious Sri Mulam Club in Trivandrum was started by him and the first meeting took place in his private residence “Hill-View”. For more information see the official website of the club https://www.srimulamclub.in/about/history.html
3. He built a hospital from his own private sources to serve the poor and most depressed class of the population of the rural community at Nedungolam near present day Kollam on 4th Dec 1894 and requested the London Mission Society (LMS) to manage it. Lands to the extent of 112 acres were also handed over along with the hospital to ensure adequate revenue. The legendary Everest mountaineer, surgeon, painter and medical missionary Dr. Howard Somervell OBE, FRCS working then for LMS has this to say about his visit to this hospital "The first...hospital we visit is Nedungolam, the hospital which was entirely built by one family, the Rama Rao Brahmin family whose present head, Rao Sahib Padmanabha Rao, lends me a small house at Nedungolam whilst I am working at this hospital. The way in which (his) family have built this hospital and take an interest in it is a very exceptional and worthy thing — I wish it were more usual. A few years ago a nice little operating-room was put up at Nedungolam so now we can do anything there which doesn't require very special or prolonged treatment".Over the last 120 years and more this hospital has grown into a major establishment and is presently run by the Health and Family Welfare Dept of the Govt of Kerala who have re-named it as "Rama Rao Memorial Taluk Hospital"
Silver Plate presented to Rama Rao (Diwan Peshkar) at a civic function in 1887 by the citizens of Kottayam on his being elevated as Diwan
Rama Rao Lamp, a landmark in Trivandrum
In 1891 Rama Rao was created a Companion of the Indian Empire by Victoria, Queen of England and Empress of India and the citation reads "Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of Faith, Empress of India and Sovereign of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, To. T. Rama Row, Diwan of the Travancore State, Greeting; Whereas We have thought fit to nominate and appoint you to be a companion of Our said Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire, We do by these Presents grant unto you the dignity of a Companion of Our said Order and hereby authorise you to have , hold and enjoy the said dignity and rank as a Companion of Our aforesaid Order, together with all the singular privileges thereunto belonging or appertaining ......Given at Our Court at Osborne under Our Sign Manual and the seal of Our said Order , this first day of January 1891 in the fifty-fourth year of Our reign. By Sovereign's command."
On the occasion of presentation of T. Rama Rao Award to
Mr. Alphonse Kannamthanam (in kurta/dhoti)
Though over 120 years have passed since this gentle soul passed away, the people of Travancore have not forgotten him and his memories are still fresh with them. The Law Makers of the State are reminded every day of him through his portrait in the State Assembly. The “Rama Rao Lamp” in a most prominent traffic-island of Trivandrum is a famous landmark known to every resident of that city.
In August 2008 a special function was organized by The Kottayam Public Library (which was founded by Rama Rao in 1882) to present the "T. Rama Rao Award" to Mr. Alphonse Kannamthanam I A S (Retd) who is at present Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Electronics and Information Technology, Culture, and Tourism, New Delhi. Justice Cyriac Joseph, Judge of the Supreme Court of India was the Chief Guest of this function.
No better examples are need to show the continued respect with which this Dakshini Maharashtrian is held by the people he served more than 120 years back. Memory does not fade where people are served with goodness of heart.
A parting gift to the people of Trivandrum was given by T. Rama Rao in the persona of his son, Rao Saheb Udarasiromani Padmanabha Rao.