''the Nairs of the ancient type* were so many Spartan warriors,
so many knights of a court of love...they learnt to despise fatigue,
to be careless of wounds and to show an indomitable courage..
they drew the bow with such skill that their second shaft often split the first.
Their extraordinary agility made them the terror of every combat.On the smallest provocation they devoted themselves to death,and having done so,one would hold his ground against a hundred.''
The history of the Mundanad family can be traced back to the Kayamkulam War in 1734, Travancore being under the rule of Maharaja Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma.
There were four Nair Feudal Lords called Kurups in Kayamkulam when the Kayamkulam forces abducted the Heir Apparent - the Elaya Raja, the younger brother of the Maharajah.The four feudal manors were 'Valiaveedu' (literally The Big-Manor), 'Panayara Veedu', 'Mundanadu' and 'Vellumoola Veedu'.
The extremists in Kayamkulam had the opinion that the Prince should be executed in order to prompt the Venad Chief, Maharaja Marthanda Varma not to create an empire, particularly not to expand his frontiers further towards the North. The liberal Kurups stood up for the Prince demanding that it would be against the Kshathriya/ Aristrocratic Code of Conduct if they did so.With secret help from their liberal Lordships, the Prince arrived safely back to Travancore. This prince was later to become the famed Dharma Raja of Travancore.
Years passed, Maharajah Sree Padmanabhadasa Veera Vanchi Marthanda Varma passed away and Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma attained the Musnud. It was during the 'Murajapam' festival at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple that the new Maharajah caught his eye on a this devout-looking Nair nobleman giving away refreshments (buttermilk etc.) to the Nambudiri Brahmins from the north who had come for the performance of temple service. He could identify him as one of the same Lords who had helped him escape from Kayamkulam.
He invited the Kurup to the palace, offered the equal amount of land and possessions they had in Kayamkulam and invited the Naaluveetil Kurups to reside in Trivandrum. It couldn't have been a better time for the arrival of the martial & knightly barons as the Mysore war soon broke out ,in which Travancore later dilligently won.
The Valiaveetil Kurups settled at Thycaud (who in due course came to be known as Thycauttil Kurups),Panayara Veetil Kurups at Chirayankeezhu Village and the Vellumoola Kurups at Kavalayoor village, while those of Mundanad settled at Valiasala.
Later a member of the Mundanad family,after wedlock built a new manor house and moved out to the Thamarakulam region of Sasthamangalam (which later, with urban expansion came to be known as Kurup's Lane) thereby starting the branch of 'Thekkepevarthala', in late nineteenth century. There is much information about them in their Family Charity Trust website.
The connection of this story to me is that, that my great-grandfather M.R.Ry. Mundanad, Narayana Pillai Avl., Senior Secretary to the Dewan in the Travancore Devaswom (corresponds to Permanent Under-secretary of State) belonged to the Mundanad Family of Valiasala, being the nephew of the last Karanavan of Mundanad, Shri Panapillai Easwara Kurup and cousin to H. H. The Thachudaya Kaimal, Brahmasree Manickyan Keralan Mundanad Bhaskara Kurup .
The un-divided family's residence in Trivandrum was at Melevilla, adjacent to the ancient Mahadevar Temple, regarded to be the site of the great university of yore, Kanthalloor Sala. The abandonment of India by Great Britain after the second-world war brought in democratic changes in many erstwhile Kingdoms, of which Travancore became a victim. Communist rule, land-reforms, land ceiling legislation and so on added to the Government's forceful acquisition of land for their purposes meant that the house had to be razed down. The town house part of it, though a nineteenth-century addition can still be seen, though partially mutilated in the Mundanad Lane.
The dawn of the modern era saw the downfall of the Nayar dominance in the Malabar coast that gradually declined through adaptation, when the Nairs swapped the sword for the guns, then pens and the gamps respectively!
The family, Padmanabha gratia didn't fall into rack and ruin as the fate of many Nair clans,but continued to produce eminent statesmen,educationists,lawyers,artistes and armed forced personnel.
A part two on the Origins and Ancient History of the Family is underway.
*These days,the surname of Nair or Nayar and other titles is widely being besmirched by people who have forgotten to see their positions in society due to intellectual subversion over the years (Many use these hereditary titles( exclude the generic Nair / Nayar) without consulting the heraldic codes which is erroneous.) and by some who have in pedagogic and hortative disguises usurped certain Clan names for themselves in the hope of social advancement!