Head of Travancore royal family passes away

Sree Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma (91), head of the Travancore royal family, on Monday passed away at a private hospital here.

Marthanda Varma had been undergoing treatment for age-related complications at the hospital since December 6 this year. He passed away following a cardiac arrest at 2:20 am.

Born as the son of Maharani Sethuparvathi Bai and Ravi Varma Koyithampuran on March 22, 1922, Marthanda Varma took over as the royal family head in 1991 following the demise of his elder brother, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma.

He was also custodian of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, a responsibility that attracted global attention following the revelation of the temple’s immense wealth in 2011. Even as a public debate commenced on the extent of the temple’s reported riches, Varma had maintained that the wealth belonged to “The Lord”.

Marthanda Varma is considered to be one of the royals who enjoyed immense popularity in independent India. Known for his humility and simple ways, markedly different from the staples of royal living, Varma was a keen photographer and motoring enthusiast.

Long-time residents of Thiruvananthapuram are familiar with his morning car trips from the Pattom Palace – where he lived – to the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.

It was a regular sight to see people lining up on the streets of the temple neighbourhood to greet him in the mornings.  Varma had met Britain’s Prince Charles, who came to Kerala, in November this year.

London-educated Varma lived in Bangalore for years before taking over as the royal family head. He was also employed with the Plymouth company in Bangalore in the 1950s. Varma is survived by his son Padmanabha Varma and daughter Parvati Devi. Radhadevi, his wife, died in 2005.

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