Ettuveetil Pillamar - Modern Views

Modern Views

Later historians, with many more records at their hand, have however disputed the story given by the earlier historians which were based on legend and folklore. While there is no doubt about the existence of anti royal nobles before Marthanda Varma, as also frequent conflicts between the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple managers and the king, many of the events of the past were found to be entirely false.

The temple lands were managed by a group of nobles known as Madathil Pillamar, often mistaken for the Ettuveetil Pillamar. Earlier historians stated that the King had no authority over the temple and the Ettara Yogam and Pillamar were outside his control. However temple documents show that it was the king who appointed the highest dignitary of the temple, known as the Swamiyar. In fact, the authority of the king is considered to have been greatly valued for the records show the Yogam applying to the king for permission in trivial matters such as appointment of Temple sweepers. Another contradiction found is in the fact that the Pillamar influenced the tenants of the temple lands. However the temple lands all lay to the south of Trivandrum where there were other influential nobles, whereas the bulk of the Pillamar lived to the north. Records show clashes between Temple managers and the king's men but in none of these are the Pillamar mentioned. Another contradiction lies in the statement that since the 16th century the kings were mere puppets of the Yogam and Pillamar. It was during this period that the Travancore kings won victories over the mighty Vijayanagar Empire and the Thirumala Nayaks, which, it is asserted could not have been possible under a puppet king.

A major disagreement is registered regarding the aim of the Pillamar to extirpate the royal family. Even if they succeeded in killing the Royal family at Trivandrum, there were the other collateral branches at Nedumangad, Kottarakara and Quilon, places where the Pillamar had no following. It may be noted that all these branches participated in the meetings and management of the Temple and hence were active in Trivandrum also. In the document of 1730 regarding the execution of the Pillamar the name used for the conspirators is Ettuveetil Madampimar and not Pillamar. Besides, of the eight Pillais, only Kazhakoothathu Pillai and Kulathur Pillai are mentioned, the remainder being totally different individuals. The remaining six families are not mentioned at all, and it is improbable that the King who personally made investigations would let any of them go free.

Further important revelations made the by documents of the Temple are with regard to Aditya Varma and Umayamma Rani. The Temple records which refer to minor events such as appointment of sweepers in the temple have not stated anything on the palace of Aditya Varma being burnt down. Also the story that Aditya Varma was poisoned to death is positively disproved for the temple records clearly state that Aditya Varma died at Padmanabhapuram in the Darpakulangara Palace and was cremated at Thiruvattar. The King had died a natural death. Another significant fact that has come to light is that Umayamma Rani had no children at all and hence the story of the murder of her five children is disproved. The Royal family consisted only of Umayamma Rani, a Senior Rani and Ravi Varma, the son of the Senior Rani. In fact, Umayamma had two adopted sons from 1677 who were however not in line of succession. However the stories of the assassination attempt of Marthanda Varma's sister in 1728 etc. are true, having occurred, at the instigation of, not the Pillamar, but the Rajah of Kayamkulam, the traditional enemy of Travancore.

Thus many of the crimes for which the Pillamar are said to be have been punished were positively disproved. It is clear that there did exist refractory nobles of immense power and that Marthanda Varma did put an end to their authority and make that of the king supreme, but most of the stories about the Pillamar were found to be false.

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