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English Subba Rao

Over a hundred years ago, when Education was not so widespread as now, a knowledge of English was a great accomplishment and a sure passport to positions of power and prestige. This accounts for the phenomenally rapid rise of Subba Rao, who went to Travancore in the train of Col. Munro as tutor to the Royal Princes in 1819. After remaining as tutor for five years, he served in various capacities until he rose to the post of Dewan Peishkar  and was ultimately appointed Dewan in 1830.

His Dewanship is remarkable for various events. First, the Madras Governor paid a visit to the State (that was the first gubernatorial visit to Travancore). His Excellency was pleased with all that he saw and formed a very favourable view of the administration of the State and of the capacity for work of the New Dewan.

Subba Rao re-organised the Military Department and asked the Commanding Officer to train sepoys after the model of British troops. He also got down fresh horses and improved the dress of mounted troopers. The State forces were re-designated “the Nayar Brigade” – a name which is still in use to-day.

For the guidance of the Judicial Department, he drew up (along with Cunden Menon) a Code of Regulations, both civil and criminal, modeled on British enactments. This was the first code of Regulations (1836) and, though considerably modified later on, is the ground work of the present judicial administration.

The same year, a detailed census of the whole State was taken – the first of its kind – and it may be of interest for us to note that the population then was 12, 80,668.

Meanwhile in 1834 an English School was opened at Trivandrum under one J. Roberts and as this was popular a few District Schools were started as feeders for the central institution.

The Observatory and the Charity Hospital at Trivandrum also came into being in the course of 1836.

All these reforms, the Dewan was able to push through, because he enjoyed the full confidence of the Maharaja (His Highness Rama Varma, Swati Tirunal), and the Resident, Gneral Fraser.

The next year, his popularity waned and so he sent in his resignation which was reluctantly accepted by the Maharaja (Feb. 1837).

But two years later, (April 1839) he was reappointed Dewan, and his powers were further strengthened. During the second Dewanship of Subba Rao, the Puthanmalika and Rangavilasam palaces were constructed.

In September 1840, General Cullen was appointed Resident and he had his own protégé to back up. So, the position of the Dewan became uncomfortable, in spite of the fact that the Maharaja reposed the greatest trust in him. The result was that in June 1842, Subba Rao resigned his post and retired on a pension of Rs. 500 a month. He spent his last days in Tanjore. In his old age he was a loved and respected figure wherever he went.

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