T. Madhava Rao

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Raja Sir Tanjore Madhava Rao, KCSI (20 November 1828[1] – 4 April 1891), also known as Sir Madhava Rao Thanjavurkar or simply as Madhavarao Tanjorkar, was an Indian statesman, civil servant, administrator and politician who served as the Diwan of Travancore from 1857 to 1872, Indore from 1873 to 1875 and Baroda from 1875 to 1882.[2] He was the nephew of the former Diwan of Travancore T. Venkata Rao and the son of another Ranga Rao.[3][4][5]

Rajah, Sir

Tanjore Madhava Rao

Madhava Rao.jpg
Portrait of Sir T. Madhava Rao
Diwan of Baroda
In office
10 May 1875 – 28 September 1882
MonarchMaharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III
Preceded byDadabhai Naoroji
Succeeded byKazi Shahabuddin
Diwan of Indore
In office
MonarchTukojirao Holkar II
Preceded byTukojirao Holkar II
Succeeded byR. Raghunatha Rao
Diwan of Travancore
In office
1857 – May 1872
MonarchUthram Thirunal,
Ayilyam Thirunal
Preceded byKrishna Rao
Succeeded byA. Seshayya Sastri
Personal details
Born20 November 1828[1]
Kumbakonam, Madras Presidency, British India
Died4 April 1891
Mylapore, Madras, British India
Spouse(s)Yamuna Bai
ChildrenT. Ananda Rao
FatherT. Ranga Rao
Alma materMadras University
Occupationpolitician, administrator

Madhava Rao was born in a prominent Deshastha Brahmin family of Kumbakonam in 1828 and had his education in Madras.[6] After serving for two years in the Madras civil service, Madhava Rao was appointed tutor to the princes of Travancore. Impressed with his performance, Madhava Rao was transferred to the Revenue Department in which he rose step by step to become Diwan in 1857.

Madhava Rao served as Diwan of Travancore from 1857 to 1872 bringing about developments in education, legislation, public works, medicine, vaccination and public health and agriculture. He was also responsible for clearing Travancore's public debts. Madhava Rao quit as Diwan of Travancore and returned to Madras in 1872. He served as Diwan of Indore from 1873 to 1875 and as Diwan of Baroda from 1875 to 1882. In his later life, Madhava Rao actively participated in politics and was one of the early pioneers of the Indian National Congress. Madhava Rao died in 1891 in Mylapore, Madras at the age of 63.

Madhava Rao was respected and regarded for his administrative abilities. British Liberal statesman Henry Fawcett called him "the Turgot of India". In 1866, he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India.

Early life and careerEdit

Madhava Rao was born on 20 November 1828 in a prominent Thanjavur Marathi Deshastha Brahmin family.[7] His great-grandfather Gopal Pant and his grandfather, Gundo Pant, held offices of trust and power under the British as also various Indian princes. His paternal uncle Rai Raya Rai Venkatta Rao was a former Dewan of Travancore and later even his father Ranga Rao became the Premier of Travancore, although only for a short while. Madhava Rao had two older brothers.

Madhava Rao spent his early life in Madras city where he studied at the Government High School (later Presidency College, Madras). As a student, Madhava Rao was a diligent and careful and strong in mathematics and science. In 1846, he received his Proficient's Degree with high honours. Soon afterwards, Powell appointed him tutor of Mathematics and Physics at the High School. However, Madhava Rao quit in a short while to take up a job in the office of the Accountant General. In 1848, he was appointed tutor to the princes of Travancore at the recommendation of the English Resident which he accepted. Madhava worked for four years as tutor to the Travancore princes. Impressed with his performance, he was offered a position in the Revenue Department of Travancore. In a short time, Madhava Rao rose to be Diwan Peishkar of the Southern division.

During this time, Travancore was facing a severe financial crisis and the treasury was empty. A large amount of subsidy due to the Madras government remained unpaid. Not long after promulgating his infamous Doctrine of Lapse, Lord Dalhousie was looking forward to annexe Travancore too under this pretext. At this juncture, the Raja of Travancore Uthram Thirunal chose Madhava Rao to negotiate a deal with the British government which he did successfully. As a result, Madhava Rao was appointed next Diwan of Travancore in 1857.

Dewan of TravancoreEdit

Madhava Rao with (from left) the heir-apparent Visakham Thirunal and the Maharaja of Travancore, Ayilyam Thirunal

At that time the entire administration of the state was in a disorganised state, public treasuries were empty and large arrears of payments in way of salaries and otherwise were pending. The Maharajah had already taken a loan from the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple of Trivandrum and adding the subsidy to be paid to the British Government, the state of affairs was bad enough to deter anyone from taking up the post of Dewan. Soon after Madhava Rao's appointment the Shanar agitations took place in Travancore which added to the problems of the state.

In 1860 however, the orthodox Maharajah died and Madhava Rao's own pupil, the late Maharajah's nephew, Ayilyam Thirunal succeeded. Under the new and relatively less orthodox Maharajah, Madhava Rao's administration started its progress. Monopolies, numerous petty taxes and cessations were abolished and land tax was reduced. By 1863 the debts of the Travancore Government were cleared and the Dewan proudly declared that "Travancore has no public debt now". Salaries of public servants were raised by more than 50 percent and its morale and efficiency was improved. Madhava Rao's progressive financial measures were testified by the fact that when he assumed the office of Dewan he had an indebted and empty treasury whereas when he left the state in 1872 the state had a reserve fund of forty lakhs of rupees, a great amount in those days.[8]

While Madhava Rao is described essentially as a financier, he also brought a great deal of development in education, legislation, public works, medicine, vaccination and public health, agriculture etc. In education, he added a study of philosophy and international law, and showed a taste for art and pictures. Despite his devotion to his own traditions, he advocated female education and social reform.[9] Year after year his work was commended by the Madras Government. He also drew up State papers on special subjects such as Boundary disputes, trade reports and so on and started maintaining records of every department. In recognition of his services, by public subscription, a bronze statue of Madhava Rao was erected in Travancore.[10]

However, due to misunderstandings which arose between the Dewan and the Maharajah, Madhava Rao retired in February 1872.[11] The Maharajah, however, respected his work and granted him a pension of Rs. 1000, a princely amount in those days. His initial plan was to retire to Madras but instead there was great demand for his services among the Princes of India, because of his having secured for Travancore the appellation of "Model State of India" by the British Government. Henry Fawcett described, on hearing of his retirement in 1872, Madhava Rao as:

Sir Madhava Rao administered Travancore with so much skill as justly to entitle him to be considered the Turgot of India.. He found Travancore when he went there in 1858 in the lowest state of degradation. He has left it a Model State.[12]

Madhava Rao was instrumental in recognising and employing Chattampi Swamikal at the Trivandrum secretariat.[13]

Indore and BarodaEdit

Group portrait of Madhava Rao and ministers of Baroda (circa 1880)
Tanjore Madhava Rao (C.1880)

In 1872, at the request of Tukojirao Holkar II of Indore, the Government of India persuaded Madhava Rao out of his retirement to take charge as the Diwan of Indore. Madhava Rao served as Diwan from 1873 to 1875, during which he commenced the drafting of the Indian Penal Code and wrote minutes on the opium question and the extension of railways in Indore. Shortly afterwards, the Government of India requested Madhava Rao to take over as Diwan-Regent of Baroda whose ruler Malhar Rao Gaekwad had been deposed for mal-administration.[14]

Madhava Rao reformed the revenue administration of Baroda and curbed the power of revenue officials called Sirdars. The land rights of the Sirdars were cancelled and their lands were annexed by the state. During his tenure as Diwan-Regent, Madhava Rao also effectively re-organized the army, schools, courts of law and libraries. He also introduced a lot of town-planning measures.

Madhava Rao resigned in September 1882 due to disagreements with the new Maharaja Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III. He retired to his home in Mylapore on pension.[15][16][17]

Indian National CongressEdit

Madhava Rao involved himself in politics in the later years of his life. He joined the Indian National Congress in 1887, two years after its formation. He served as the President of the Reception Committee during the 1887 Madras session. In 1888, he was offered a seat in the Imperial Legislative Council by the then Viceroy of India Lord Dufferin but Madhava Rao declined the offer on ground of health.

While delivering the inaugural address during the 1887 session, Madhava Rao described the Indian National Congress as

..the soundest triumph of British administration and a crown of glory to the great British nation.

However, at the same time, he warned that

The great experience of Europe has shown that representative government contains mucnh good and much evil. In introducing it into India, therefore, responsible British statesmen have to exercise great care and caution, that the good is produced and evil is excluded. In these circumstances it might be wrong to introduce that system into India at once, mereley because the Congress asks for it. It is absolutely necessary to take measures gradually, and tentatively

Madhava Rao resigned from the Standing Committee in 1889 due to differences with other members over the resolution passed on reformed legislative councils.[18]

Later lifeEdit

In his later years, Madhava Rao strove to reform the educational system. Even while serving as Diwan of Baroda, Rao was made a fellow of the Madras University. He campaigned in support of women's education and attacked child marriage. He also criticised the literal interpretation of Hindu shastras. However, Madhava Rao was, till the end, a pacifist and was moderate and unreactionary in his views on social reforms.[19][20]

In 1885, at the request of the then Governor of Madras, Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff, Madhava Rao presided over the Malabar Land Tenure Commission. In 1887, he presided over the convocation of the Madras University. In December 1887, Madhava Rao presided over the inaugural session of Indian National Social Conference.[21]

Madhava Rao took a liking for British sociologist and political theorist Herbert Spencer and spent the last days of his life studying his works. He contributed articles to newspapers on a variety of topics ranging from politics and religion to astronomy. Under the pseudonyms "Native Thinker" and "Native Observer", Madhava Rao wrote opinion pieces on the German occupation of Africa and on the dress code to adopted by Hindu women in public. He forwarded his article on the German occupation of Africa to the German chancellor Bismarck who replied with a letter of acknowledgement and appreciation. In 1889, he published a pamphlet titled "Hints on the training of native children by a native Thinker" which was translated into various Indian languages as Gujarati, Marathi and Malayalam. He also composed a few small poems in Tamil.[22]

Towards the end of his life, Madhava Rao was affected by health problems. On 22 December 1890, he suffered a stroke at his Mylapore home. Madhava Rao died three months later, on 4 April 1891 at the age of sixty-three.


T. Madhava Rao married Yamuna Bai. The couple had five children, three son's, T. Ananda Rao, Ranga Rao, Ramchandra Rao; two daughters, Balubai and Ambabai.[23] T. Ananda Rao, the eldest son of Madhava Rao, served as the Diwan of Mysore from 1909 to 1912. Madhava Rao's cousin R. Raghunatha Rao, served as the Diwan of Baroda and was also an early leader of the Indian National Congress.[24] Another cousin of his, T. Rama Rao was the Diwan of Travancore from 1887 to 1892. T. Ananda Rao was married to Rama Rao's daughter Soundara Bai.

Titles and awardsEdit


Books written on T. Madhava Rao and his Administration:

  • Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao: A Brief Sketch and Review of His Eventful Life and Career as the Administrator of the Three Leading Native States in India, Tanvancore, Indore and Baroda, G.S. Maniya & Company, 1915
  • Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao and the Modernization of Travancore Administration, P. Abraham Koshy, University of Kerala, 1977
  • Diwan Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row:Life and Times of Statesman, Administrator Extraordinaire, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 2015, Urmila Rau Lal ISBN 978-8172765262

Books written by T. Madhava Rao:

  • Minor Hints; Lectures Delivered to H. H. the Maharaja Gaekwar, Sayaji Rao III, Hardpress Publishing, 2012, ISBN 978-1290532907


  1. ^ a b Lal 2015, p. 20.
  2. ^ Solomon & Bond 2006, p. 24.
  3. ^ Buckland 1971, p. 28.
  4. ^ Lethbridge 2005, p. 292.
  5. ^ Aiyangar 1995, p. 106.
  6. ^ Hemingway 2002, p. 220.
  7. ^ A National Biography for India, Volume 1 By Jyotis Chandra Das Gupta , Page 64
  8. ^ Indian Magazine and Review, Issues 241-252 By National Indian Association in Aid of Social Progress and Education in India., 1891 - Education , Page 310
  9. ^   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Rao, Sir T. Madhava". Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 897–898.
  10. ^ Educational Development in South India By K. G. Vijayalekshmy,Mittal Publications, 1993,Page-6
  11. ^ Indian Magazine and Review, Issues 241-252 By National Indian Association in Aid of Social Progress and Education in India., 1891 - Education , Page 310
  12. ^ Speeches on Some Current Political Questions By Henry Fawcett , Macmillan Publishers,1893,Page-102
  13. ^ Raman Nair, R and Sulochana Devi, L (2010). Chattampi Swami: An Intellectual Biography. Trivandrum,. Chattampi Swami Archive, Centre for South Indian Studies, Trivandrum
  14. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 898.
  15. ^ Nationalism and Social Reform in [sic] Colonial Situation By Aravind Ganachari, pages 163-170
  16. ^ Princely India and the British: Political Development and the Operation of Empire By Caroline Keen, page 242
  17. ^ The Indian Princes and their States By Barbara N.Ramusack, Cambridge University Press page 185
  18. ^ The Indian Nation Builders, Volume 2 By Mittal Publications,Pages 347-352
  19. ^ Pathways to Nationalism: Social Transformation and Nationalist Consciousness in Colonial Tamil Nadu, 1858–1918 By S. Ganeshram, SOCIAL REFORMS - Movements Against Child Marriage
  20. ^ Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reform By Charles Herman Heimsath, pages 112,163,193
  21. ^ The growth of public opinion in the Madras Presidency, 1858-1909 By D. Sadasivan,University of Madras, page 37
  22. ^ A history of Indian English literature By M. K. Naik , Sahitya Akademi,1982, page 90
  23. ^ "How Bengaluru's Choc-a-bloc Junction is linked to Travancore Royalty". Economic Times. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  24. ^ Raghoonath Rao: A Sketch of His Life and Career By G. A. Natesan, 1918 - 48 pages


External linksEdit

  • Travancore State Manual by V. Nagam Aiya, Vol II, pages 559–568
  • D.Ghai (1999). Social Development and Public Policy. Springer. pp. 66–70.
  • Colonial Modernities: Building, Dwelling and Architecture in British India and Ceylon. British India: Peter Scriver, Vikramaditya Prakash. pp. 143, 266.
  • Govinda Parameswaran Pillai (1897). Representative Indians. Routledge. pp. 101–113.
  • The Indian Nation Builders, Part II. Madras: Ganesh & Co. pp. 332–358.