Hidden Histories History & Culture

Kravilakathu Putten Veedu, a famed abode of a former Dewan

The arch gateway leading to the thai veedu.   | Photo Credit: Sharat Sundar Rajeev

Nestled in a scenic rural agrarian setting is Kunnathoor Kravilakathu Putten Veedu, the ancient abode of a family that made a lasting impression in the history of Travancore. It is the ancestral home of Raja Kesava Das (1745-1799), probably the most revered ‘Valiya Dewanji’ of the erstwhile Travancore princely state. Today, the house, located near Puthukada, Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, is frequented by history buffs and researchers who strive to retrace the footsteps of the illustrious Dewan (Prime Minister).

Raja Kesava Das was born Raman Pillai Kesava Pillai, son of Kaliyamma Pillai of Kravilakathu Veedu. Raman Pillai’s early association with the merchant Pokku Moosa Maraykkar and the turn of events that introduced him to Karthika Tirunal Rama Varma, the then king of Travancore, is still fondly recalled by history enthusiasts. Further, the celebrated author C.V. Raman Pillai has immortalised the Dewan through his epic works. However, it is unfortunate that the distinguished Dewan became a victim to a deceitful conspiracy and met with a tragic end.

Kravilakathu Putten Veedu is a silent witness to the events that shaped the early life of Kesava Pillai, his step by step rise to the position of Dewan and his eventual decline. The early history of Kravilakathu Veedu is lost in time; however, it is known that the present structure was constructed under royal command when Kesava Pillai was appointed the ‘Samprati’ in the royal court. When the old house was rebuilt, Kesava Pillai himself renamed it as Kravilakathu Putten Veedu and gave it to his mother and the youngest stepsister. The house is still occupied by the descendants of the Dewan.

Kravilakathu Putten Veedu was a house with all the necessary ingredients of a typical aristocratic homestead with an agrarian background. The thai veedu (core residential wing) consisted of an ettukettu (double courtyard house), with an elaborate arappura to store the harvest from the paddy fields. The elevated position enjoyed by the patriarchs of the family in the traditional social hierarchy of yore is highlighted by the fact that the house has a separate padippura, where important visitors were entertained. The āyudhappura, a small chamber in the poomukham (front verandah) of the house has not been opened since ages. The weapons used by Raja Kesava Das and other precious family assets were once stored in this room. Another interesting feature seen here is a subterranean connection right from inside the house to the private pond on the eastern side. Today, the opening to the tunnel can still be seen, but the pond at the other end had been filled since long.

The true majesty of Kravilakathu Veedu can be observed in the skill employed in crafting each detail. The carving on the pillars, the ceiling, the charupadi and the udambara in the front verandah is of the finest quality, only seen in royal and aristocratic households. The residential complex is secured within a high stone wall with a Gothic arch entrance, an addition made in the 1930s. Neduvani Veedu, a residence constructed by the Dewan for his personal use, once stood to the east of Kravilakam. It is said that after the demise of the Dewan, this house was razed and a pond dug in its place.

Kravilakathu Putten Veedu has a thekkath (place of worship) housing Rakthachamundi, the family deity. In front of the house is another small shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesha, said to have been consecrated by the Dewan himself.

The author is a conservation architect and history buff.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 1:08:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/kravilakathu-putten-veedu-an-abode-of-a-former-dewan-of-travancore/article23391066.ece

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