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Dakshini Maharashtrian Diwans of Travancore


During the 92 years between 1814 and 1906 there were 10 Dakshini Maharashtrian Diwans in Travancore kingdom, an extraordinary number for such a small community. Between them they held the Diwanship 13 times, either as Acting or in permanent capacity. It looks all the more extraordinary that out of a total of 21 Diwan-incumbencies of the kingdom during this period, the community held 13.

The following is the full list.

1. Bappu Rao (Acting) 1814-1815


2. Reddy Rao 1817-1821 (Though he was generally known as Reddy Rao his full name was Janardhana Rao Venkata Rao. He was a Maharashtrian Brahmin and not a Telugu as the name “Reddy” might suggest)

  • Reddy Rao, aka, Janardhana Rao Venkata Rao (Again) 1843-1845


3. “Rai Raya Rai” T. Venkata Rao 1821-1830, also known as Gundopanth Venkata Rao. He was Sir T. Madhava Rao’s father’s and Diwan T. Rama Rao’s mother’s elder brother.

The title “Rai Raya Rai” was conferred on him in 1838 by the British Govt.  


4. Thanjavur Subba Rao 1830-1837 (also known as English Subba Rao). He was appointed as English tutor to Swathi Thirunal & his brother around 1820-25, at the recommendation of the Resident Col. John Munro. His full name is Sheshopanth Subba Rao. In the Travancore Huzoor records his name has also been mentioned as Sheshopanth Siva Subba Rao and also as Soobrow.


5. Ranga Rao (Acting) 1837-1838 (father of Sir. T. Madhava Rao)


6. Srinivasa Rao (Acting) 1845-1846

7. Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao 1858-1872

8. T. Rama Rao 1887-1892 (Sir T. Madhava Rao and he were sons of brother and sister respectively. Also, Sir T. Madhava Rao’s son T. Ananda Rao, who became a Diwan of Mysore married T. Rama Rao’s daughter Sundara Bai)


9. K. Krishnaswamy Rao 1898-1904

10. V.P. Madhava Rao 1904-1906

            (V.P. for Vishvanath Patankar)

On retirement, all the Dakshini Maharashtrian Diwans of Travancore except T. Rama Rao (who was born in Trivandrum) went back to Madras.


What was the reason why so many Diwans of Travancore were Maharashtrians from Tanjore and Kumbakonam?


The scholarly king Serfoji II was forced to hand over the administration of Tanjore to the East India Company in 1787, though he continued as the King till his death in 1832. The writing was on the wall for Tanjore and it was annexed to the British domains under the Doctrine of Lapse in 1855. During the last decades of the Tanjore kingdom new opportunities were opening for the Maharashtrian elite in the not too distant Travancore kingdom.


Col. John Munro, the then Diwan of Travancore (1811-14), was on a mission to modernize the administrative and judicial systems of Travancore. Many English educated Maharashtrian brahmins of Tanjore and Kumbakonam were drawn to this. They were known as Munro’s Protégés.


The contribution of the Dakshini Maharashtrian Diwans to the administration of the kingdom was acknowledged by Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma V, the Maharaja of Travancore in his letter of March 1888 to the Madras Mahratta Association.  An extract of this letter reproduced in Mahratta Education Fund’s Silver Jubilee Souvenir of 1937 says:-


“.….the State of Travancore is much indebted to your intellectual race for some of the best Dewans who have administered its affairs and to none more than to the distinguished politician Sir Madhava Rao, who came into Travancore as a scholar and left it a statesman of renown……….In selecting Rama Rao as my Dewan, I am free to confess that I was not moved so much by the fact of his being a Mahratta, and a relation of Sir Madhava Rao, as by the fact that I felt he was the best fitted to assist me....”


Sir T. Madhava Rao and T. Rama Rao left lasting impacts on the future course of Travancore and even today their names are in the memories of the people of southern Kerala. After the States Reorganisation in 1959 Travancore became the southern part of Kerala.

To know more about Sir T. Madhava Rao and T. Rama Rao click on the links, below:-

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