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Uthradom Tirunal becomes a regal memory

Special Correspondent
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Head of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore cremated with State honours

Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma
Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma

Kerala lost one of the last links with its royal past with the passing away of Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma, head of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore, in the early hours of Monday.

Mr. Varma, 91, who was admitted to a private hospital in the State capital following gastro-intestinal bleeding on December 6, died of cardiac arrest at 2.20 a.m., palace sources said. The body was placed at Levee Hall, adjacent to Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, for the public to pay homage. Later, the body was taken in procession to the Kowdiar Palace and was cremated with State honours around 6.30 p.m.

Mr. Varma is survived by two children, Padmanabha Varma and Parvati Devi. His wife, Radhadevi, predeceased him. His nephew, Moolam Tirunal Rama Varma, has been made his successor to head the royal family. Mr. Varma, a witness to the transformation from imperial rule to a democratic polity, was the chief patron of several charitable institutions and religious and cultural organisations. He was a common presence in the social and cultural scene of the city.

He had stood guard over the age-old traditions, rites and rituals of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the abode of the family deity, ever since 1991, when by ritual, he was anointed the trustee and “dasa” of the temple following the death of his elder brother and last sovereign of Travancore, Sree Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma.

In keeping with the practice of his ancestors for the past 300-odd years, Mr. Varma used to worship at the temple daily at 7 a.m., standing in silence and surrendering before the Lord, for a quarter of an hour, till he was hospitalised early this month.

Mr. Varma, born as the younger son of Maharani Sethuparvathi Bayi and Ravi Varma Koyi Thamapuran on March 22, 1922, was educated in the Kowdiar Palace by a group of 14 tutors in various subjects. He graduated from the then Travancore University with Economics, Politics and History as specialisations in 1943. He was the recipient of the Moncombu Aandi Iyer Gold Medal for the best student in Sanskrit.

A person with diverse interests, he had to his credit several trophies won as an amateur horse rider. A keen sportsman, he used to play tennis, hockey, golf, football and polo. An ardent lover of photography, Mr. Varma learned the art in 1934 when his brother presented him with a camera. Mr. Varma’s most favourite hobby was motoring. He had won several medals from the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Though ailing, he flew to Kochi to call on Prince Charles who visited the State in November.

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