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Diwan Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row (Life and Times of Statesman, Administrator Extraordinaire)

Diwan Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row (Life and Times of Statesman, Administrator Extraordinaire)
Item Code: NAM229
Author: Urmila Rau Lal
Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
Language: English
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 9788172765262
Pages: 242 (30 Color and 14 B/W Illustration)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
weight of the book: 310 gms
About the Author

The great great granddaughter of Shri T. Madhava Row, Mrs. Urmila Rau Lal is a medical biologist by profession. After her post-graduation in Parasitology and Medical Entomology from Aligarh Muslim University, Ms. Lal worked as a research assistant of the Rockefeller Foundation at the Virus Research Center (Now National Institute of Virology) Pune. Eventually she was appointed as a Senior Scientific Officer, in the Ministry of Defence. She has worked at the Armed Forces Medical Collage, Pune and later was posted as Senior Scientific Officer at the Defence Research Laboratory (Materials) Kanpur. She had pursued advanced studies at the Pasteur Institute, Paris and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK. She was part of a Senior Research Project with World Health Organisation. Mrs. Urmila Lal retired as a Senior Scientific Officer in the Defence Research Institute of Physiology and Allied Science, Delhi. Recipient of numerous prestigious fellowships, Ms Urmila Rau Lal has attended several conferences in her field in Indian and aboard and published extensively . She still has an active interest in her subject in connection with the needs of the Armed Forces. She is currently involved Senior Citizen movement in Pune. She was partly instrumental I the decision of the Election Commission to provide separate queues for Senior Citizens and differently-abled in the polling booths all over the country.



The narration of this biography is dedicated to the memory of my late father, Capt (Retd) Ramchandar Lakshman Rau. He had spent several years in trying to write the biography of his ancestor Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row. He gathered facts and figures and all relevant information on the ancestry of Raja Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row. He had gone to study the roots of the Marathas and the establishment of the Maratha Kingdom in South India - Thanjavur. Gathering information from various sources as to how Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row's family had established their roots in the South. He further worked on his own descendency, from this eminent personality.

Later on, I was also able to gather information on this subject from the writings of my grandmother (my father's mother) Shrimati Kamalabai L Rau. She has brought out this information in a book written by her - "Smruttika". The book highlights on our descendency and how it has tailored down to me as the last living member of my family as the descendant of Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row.

There are many other descendants of Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row, but I have restricted this narration to my family alone. This is depicted in the table of descendency that is attached along with this biography.

Unfortunately, my father passed away on May 20, 1993. Though he had plans of writing this biography himself he could not embark or complete it.

Soon after my father's demise I donated most of his literary works to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at New Delhi. My father was a senior journalist of his times and had written extensively, on politics, history and other contemporary subjects. Based on this collection the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library authorities approached me to write a biography of Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row. This was much later in 2007. They sent a team from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library to take an oral history recording from me and requested me to shape this in the form of a biography of my ancestor. I was much honoured by this approach and thought there could be no better tribute to my late father than by taking up the writing the biography, now titled, "Diwan Rajah Thanjavur Madhava Row Statesman, Administrator", and make the work see the light of the day in the near future.

It has not been an easy task for me to write this biography, as basically I am a student of science and an entomologist by profession, and to delve into the records and annals of history has indeed been a challenge! However, I took it up with a goal in front of me, to carry out my father's wishes.

In order to compile this narration, I visited libraries, archives and historical monuments in the states of Travancore, Indore and Baroda (Vadodara). Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row as we all know was the Diwan of these three states.

My visits to the above institutions were no doubt time consuming, but they reaped results which I was able to incorporate in this biography and helped me towards culmination of writing this book.

The erstwhile princely heads of these states were extremely helpful in providing me and guiding me to obtain information on the history and the administration par excellence of my great great grandfather Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row's tenure in all these states. I thereby got an opportunity to study and learn the historical facts related to my ancestor. This also provided me with an opportunity to go deep into the study of the history of the states. Access to all this material was provided to me by eminent historians and scholars in the related states.

The erstwhile Maharajas, the late Shri Marthanda Varma of Travancore, Shri Shreekant Zamindar of Indore and late Shrimati Mrunalini Devi of Baroda (Vadodara), and Maharaj Sangramsinh Gaekwad were extremely helpful in providing me facilities and introductions to their storehouses of literature and their archives, thereby helping me plan and incorporate the methodology for my book. They encouraged me to write this book and have been very gracious in providing me with letters of appreciations for the opening part of this book. I am extremely honoured and grateful to them for this gesture.



This book by Mrs Urmila Lal traces the life and times of an extraordinary administrator - Sir ‘Thanjavur Madhava Row - who is the great-great grandfather of the author.

The fascinating account of Sir Madhava Row is indeed a labour of love. The author, Mrs Urmila Lal, at the age of eighty-two, has undertaken this task and overcome the numerous physical odds in terms of her delicate health to complete this affectionate memoir of her distinguished ancestor.

Sir T Madhava Row had indeed a many splendoured life. He lived for only sixty two years (1828-1891) and in his lifetime accomplished things which even those with a longer life span could not have achieved. His impact was felt in three Indian states of significant size - Travancore, Indore and Baroda. The last one was the second biggest and most prosperous native state in the British Empire. There was a common thread in all this. In every place, Sir T Madhava Row took up the challenge of bringing order out of chaos. He showed how it was possible to achieve good governance by single handed effort of a visionary and dedicated administrator.

Very early in life he took up challenges, coming as he did with an excellent track record in academic studies, and thus, impressed all those who came in touch with him. At the young age of thirty one years Sir T Madhava Row was appointed Dewan of Travancore. In the next fourteen years he organized the state in such a manner that the state which was in danger of being annexed by the British was able to retain its separate identity and flourish.

As an erudite person and a political administrator with foresight, he succeeded in establishing peace in the land within a short span of a year of taking charge as the Dewan To everyone he meted out justice without fear or favour. He greatly reduced threat, treachery and deceit. The total disarray in the Travancore administration was taken note of by Lord Dalhousie who had resolved to take over the administration of the state on behalf of the British government with a view to annexing the state of Travancore to Madras Presidency. When the Maharaja appointed Madhava Row to the post of the Dewan he successfully pleaded with the British government to give him seven years time to improve the state administration. Thus, by dint of personal efforts and honesty, Madhava Row attained a distinguished and unique position. The highlights of his Dewanship include the high levels of efficiency he brought to the revenue administration of the state.

In 1872, at the age of forty five when Dewan Madhava Row laid down office he had established an orderly government in place of misrule, and thereby ensured security of life and property for the subjects. He touched every aspect of administration from land revenue, agriculture, education, public utility buildings, and extensive progressive measures for the benefit of the State.

The British administration in Madras wanted to utilize the services of an administrator of calibre like Sir T Madhava Row and offered a seat in the Imperial Legislative Council, which he declined. This was followed soon after by, Maharaja Tukoji Rao Holkar of Indore requesting the British government to give him an able Dewan, and thus the Maharaja was able to secure the services of Madhava Row in this capacity. The most important reform during his two year stint in the princely state was the introduction of a well-tuned Indore Penal Code.

About this time Malhar Rao Gaikwad of Baroda had been deposed for the maladministration of the state. The offer as the post of an administrator of the state was offered to Madhava Row in recognition of his record of turning around dysfunctional states. Treachery, murder and rioting were commonplace happenings. There was discord among the people. Life and property were unsafe and a strong man was needed to restore peace and order. Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row took over as Dewan from the late, Dadabhai Naoroji.

Perhaps the greatest contribution which Sir T Madhava Row made in Baroda was the supervising the education, training and grooming the future ruler of Baroda, the great Sayaji Rao Gaekwad. Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III of Baroda (1881-1939) was a legend in his lifetime. The transformation from a cowherd boy into an able ruler was mainly due to the excellent education that he received. The Regency Council looked after this special type of education till he attained majority. Towards the end of the formal training he was initiated in the art of administration by Sir T Madhava Row, his Dewan, who was also a member of the Regency Council. His instructions were in the form of a series of talks on each of the government departments which were later on published as Minor Hints. No wonder he was immediately selected as the future ruler of the second biggest and prosperous state in the Indian Empire.

Character is destiny. Sir T Madhava Row played a key role in shaping the destiny of three states. He displayed extraordinary visionary leadership and skills as an administrator; integrity was the most important aspect of his personality. His loyalty to the rulers he served and his pragmatic relationship with the British are exemplary. His fairness as an administrator is well known. His lectures to the young Sayaji Rao reflect the distinct wisdom of his long experience as the Dewan of three important states.

In a lighter vein it can be stated here that he was a connoisseur of good food. The Brigade Insight, a newsletter which is meant for the Brigade group in Bangalore has this interesting episode to highlight this feature in Dewan Sir T Madhava Row. In his office, Madhava Row would be dictating to his clerk, the cook would serve a crisp steaming hot ghee masala dosa. Even as he takes the first bite he would ask, "What? Have you not got any pakoras?" A few minutes later a plate of hot pakoras would appear. Halfway through their consumption, Yajamanaru (means the respected guest) would sigh, "How many days since I ate ghevar?" Ghevar is a sweet consumed generally in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The hint would be taken instantly, and so it went on. Any cook who failed to meet his culinary expectations and satisfy his palate was dismissed. Well, people attributed his formidable brain power to his powerful eating prowess!

In the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna says practices of great leaders are adopted by others. They are the source of inspiration.

Yadyad acharati srestha tat tat deve itaro janah
Sa yat pramanam kurute loko tat anuvartate

Sir T Madhava Row definitely was one of those great leaders who was the embodiment of personal qualities worth emulating.




  Saraswathi Vandana VII
  Dedication IX
  Letter of Appreciation  
  H.R.H. Marthanda Varma XI
  H.R.H. Shreekant Zamindar and M Madhavi Zarmindar XII
  H.R.H. Sangramsinh Gaekwad XV
  Preface XVII
  Acknowledgements XXI
  Foreword XXIX
1 The Beginning - A Search for the Roots 1
2 Early Years and Diwanship of Travancore 19
3 A Stint in Indore 84
4 Impressive Tenure in Baroda 112
5 The Sunset Years of a Great Administrator 150
6 Appendix 158
7 Bibliography 184
8 Glossary 187
Sample Pages

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