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In Search of Her Roots

Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao is today only a statue overlooking the imposing structure of the State Secretariat, which was built when he was the Dewan of erstwhile Travancore. He continues to serve the people, but only by holding aloft flags of all hues and carrying on his body, posters and bills of any organisation or party.

However, for Maya Cattaneo, a Geneva-born psychologist, Madhava Rao's memory means much more than it means to others, for he is her great grandfather. Ms. Maya's mother Seetha Rao is the daughter of Reghunath Rao, the son of Madhava Rao.

Seetha was married to Alexander from Romania and Ms. Maya is a Swiss citizen. Accompanied by her husband Cattaneo, MS. Maya, who is now on a tour of India, found time to visit the city where her great grandfather spent the prime of his youth in various capacities.

Ms. Maya and Mr. Cattaneo, who visited the Kowdiar Palace yesterday, were accorded a warm reception this evening by the Sri Chithira Tirunal Smaraka Samithy at the National Club. The former MLA, Palode Ravi, presided over the function at which the former Additional Chief Secretary, D. Babu Paul, the former MP, A. Charles, and the neurosurgeon, M. Sambasivan, offered felicitations.

The 111th death anniversary of Madhav Rao falls in April. The Dewan has a contemporary relevance, for, according to historical records, it was he who introduced the concept of `dies non', then known as `Thutti puditham', which was made applicable to the workers of the Government Press here who resorted to a strike in the year 1855.

It was in 1849 that Madhava Rao, aged 20, was brought to Thiruvananthapuram at the behest of the then ruler of Travancore, Uthram Tirunal Marthanda Varma, as an English tutor to his nephews, Ayilyam Tirunal and Visakham Tirunal.

Pleased with the youth from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, the Maharaja appointed him Deputy Peshkar after four years. Madhav Rao was elevated to the post of Dewan Peshkar, an office equivalent to the rank of the District Collector, in 1855. And at the age of 30, he was elevated as Dewan, the number one civil servant of Travancore, and continued to hold the office till 1872.

It has been said of Madhava Rao that he took the initiative in expanding the city of Thiruvananthapuram well beyond the confines of the Fort area. He wrote a book in English on Kerala, which was translated into Malayalam by Kerala Varma Valiyakoyi Thampuran.

Apparently a victim of "palace politics," Madhava Rao quit as Dewan and proceeded to Indore to take up the same office. He also served as the Dewan of Baroda, as well. Madhava Rao was associated with the Indian National Congress and was convener of the reception committee for the AICC meeting of 1887.

Replying to felicitations at the function today, Ms. Maya said she had come here with the mission of discovering the place that her illustrious ancestor had held dear to his heart. She would be back here on a longer vacation, she added.

Ms. Maya was also presented a memento--a laminated photograph of the recently concluded `Lakshadeepam' festival at the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple here.

The Hindu


Feb 2nd 2002

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