Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Torchlight Robbery

For our youngsters, terms like, candlelight dinner will be very familiar. But how many of them know of the words like “Theevetti Kolla” (Torchlight Robbery)?
I heard the Malayalam word “Theevetti Kolla” (Torchlight Robbery) for the first time as a little boy from my Cheriya Muthassi (Younger sister of my maternal grandma who was also another grandma). We used to call her Chitta, taking after our mother. Chitta was a scholarly lady who was born in AD 1912 on the same day as the last Maharaja of Travancore, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma. She was adept in Sanskrit and was exceptionally intelligent and well exposed in matters of general knowledge.

"Theevetti Kolla" is a macabre incident in which some prosperous households were looted and burgled by robbers. The intruders came at night with torches and plundered the assets, often taking an escape route through the waterways. Threats to life and honour to womenfolk were not unusual, though not common. In the 19th century, in Travancore many such instances had been reported. Of course, the culprits, once caught , had to undergo severe punishments including death penalty.
Chitta used to tell us of an incident which happened at “Thekkedath Kovilakom”, an ancient family of Kshathriyas which was related to us. It was about the torchlight robbery which happened in AD 1873 and the frightening details were too much to bear for the chicken hearted children like us who included my elder brother, Vijay and sisters, Rema and Maya. The nightmares of my boyhood were partly due to such stories too.

Brief details of the above could be read from the book Patthompathaam Noottaandile Keralam – Kerala of the 19th century-by D.Bhaskaran Unni”. It is interesting to note that the culprits were sentenced for imprisonments of 14 years.

My father-in-law is a member of this ancestral Tharavadu, for the construction of which the then Maharaja of Travancore , Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma, popularly known as Dharma Raja, had allotted 2000 Kalian Panam in AD 1793. (Ref: Patthompathaam Noottaandile Keralam by D.Bhaskaran Unni)

Gold Kaliyan Fanam

Thank, God! Our present day youngsters, including my daughter Lavanya, can enjoy a candle light dinner without worrying about a torchlight robbery which some of their grandmas had experienced to their horror!

Dubai, 13th February 2008.


Abraham Tharakan said...

This is fascinating stuff. In my childhood I have heard stories about 'theevetti kolla' but this is the first time I'm coming across a document relating to real life incident.

When I was young silver fanams (four chakram value) were common. For 'Vishu kaineettam' these were used. There were counting boards at home for coins. But never seen a gold fanam.

What is 'varahan'/'poovarahan'? Perhaps you would consider doing a post on all these.

Murali RamaVarma said...

Thank you. I am happy that you liked the post.

The counting board (Chuckram board) is a rare thing now. Should you have one at home, please preserve it. These gold fanams also were common till a century back.

I do have many nostalgic thoughts about "Vishu Kaineettam".

I shall definitely do a post on Varahan/Poovarahan and on those interesting coinage.

kindest regards,

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