No Elephants for the Maharaja: Social and Political Change in the Princely State of Travancore, (1921-1947)

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Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 1994 - History - 318 pages
In commemoration of the old hunting parties of the Maharaja of Travancore used to lead a silent procession adorned by gorgeously caparisoned elephants from the temple in Trivandrum to the sea beach. Blood had been shed in the hunt and the gods must be purified by a bath in the sea. After Independence the former Maharaja still made regular visits to the same temple in his ancient Rolls-Royce. But the pomp and ceremony of the Princely rule were gone and there were no elephants for the Maharaja. This change symbolizes the larger transformations in Travancore documented in this book. In 1921 Travancore was still ruled by an all-powerful Dewan. Local Hindus, Muslims and Christians pressed for greater participation in the state administration by appealing to loyalties of caste and religion. The result was a strong communalism which clever Dewans could make use of as part of a policy of divide-and-rule. Louise Ouwerkerk dwells extensively on these developments which led to the formation of the Travancore State Congress in which she was personally involved. From 1929-1939 Louise Ouwekerk was Professor at the Maharaja's Women's College and Travancore University. Although a Government servant, she threw herself into politics and tried to unite the communal leaders on a common platform for more responsible government. As these attempts brought her into conflict with the Dewan, she was dismissed from service. In the early 1970s she wrote the text for this book, largely based on her own files and recollections, supplemented by interviews. She died in 1989. Dick Kooiman, who found the unpublished manuscript among her personal papers, edited the text for publication and wrote an introduction. In spite of Louise's own active involvement, she has succeeded in keeping that critical distance which makes reading her history both entertaining and rewarding. Her work still stands as a major piece of research by a keen, contemporary eye-witness and makes excellent reading as narrative history, rich in its description of local personalities and developments.

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Chapter II
Chapter III

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About the author (1994)

Dr. Dick Kooiman (1943) read Asian History and Sociology. He did his Ph.D. on the organization of textile labour in Bombay from the University if Leiden. He teaches South Asian History at the Free University of Amsterdam and is General Editor of publications by CASA (Centre of Asian Studies, Amsterdam). His publications include Bombay Textile Labour: Managers, Trade Unionists and Officials 1918-1939 and Conversion and Social Equality in India: The London Missionary Society in South Travancore in the 19th Century (both Manohar and Free University Press, 1989).

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