Pudukkottai, one of the last princely states in Tamil Nadu to become part of the Indian Union in 1948, owes much to Dewan Sir A Seshayya Sastri (18281904) and administrators like BG Holdsworth (1931-34), Alexander Tottenham (1934-46), P Kalifulla (1946-48) during whose times the princely state witnessed all-round development.
When Pudukkottai merged with the Indian Union, it was well poised for further development and expansion due to its time-tested administrative skills, whereby it became the state of financial surplus among the 576 princely states.
“Pudukkottai Samasthanam had highly effective financial skills under the guidance of the dewans and the administrators, who were directly monitored by the British rulers, although it enjoyed internal autonomy,” said historian Dr J Raja Mohammed.
The Raja of Pudukkottai was the paramount head of the state and no Bill became a law without his assent. He was assisted by a Prime Minister, designated as Sirkel till July 1, 1885 and Diwan from July 1,1885, till November 17, 1931. He was re-designated as Administrator from November 17, 1931 till 1948.
The Diwan was assisted by a Councillor and the Diwan acting with the assistance of the Councillor was known as the Diwan-in-Council. Though the princely state had a local coin, amman kaasu for the local transaction, the overall control was under the British in the latter part of the 19th century.
The princely state is famed for its architecture. The biggest architectural contribution is the New Palace in Pudukottai town. It took nearly 16 years for a team of British architects to build the palace, with granite sourced from the region. The unique feature of the palace is the grand doors with carved images of tiger, elephants and peacocks.
The doors had ivory artefacts affixed on them, most of which are missing now. Italian tiles were used for the floors of the spacious rooms. And now, it houses the district Collectorate. Raja Sri Brahdamba Dasa Raja Sri Rajagopala Tondaiman Bahadur (Rajgopala Thondaiman) the last Maharaja of the state chose to remain a bachelor.
However, he adopted his nephew Sri Brahdamba Dasa Raja Rajagopala Tondaiman Bahadur, popularly known as R Rajagopala Tondaiman, to the throne. The King, Rajagopala Thondaiman, had two brothers – Radhakrishna Thondaiman and Vijaya Ragunathakrishna Thondaiman. The legal heir, R Rajagopala Thondaiman was the son of the Raja’s immediate younger brother, Radhakrishna Thondaiman.
Soon after handing over all the princely properties to the government, King Rajagopala Thondaiman settled in the palace at Tiruchy, along with his foster son R Rajagopala Thondaiman.
“The Raja led a simple life. He shared the properties that were returned by the government with his family members. He kept in touch with his subjects by visiting them regularly and was renowned for his philanthropic activities,” said Raja Mohammed, who was part of the friends’ circle of the Maharaja.
As with every economically sound family that has property disputes, the royal family of Pudukkottai state had its share of problems after the demise of the Raja on January 16, 1997. The families of the younger brothers had a series of disputes in the sharing of properties.
“However, they were settled amicably later and now, the family members are keen to visit each other on occasions, especially, the anniversary of the late king,” Raja Mohammed said.
According to reliable sources, the Royal family has properties in Kodaikanal, Tiruchy, Pudukkottai, Thanjavur and Chennai. Each family member has received a share in the property. A few minor disputes are on the verge of settlement, added the historian.