Who is Martanda Verma? Most Indians have no idea who he is. But you will be surprised to find that he was actually a great person who has achieved great things and deserves more credit for his achievements.
Martanda Verma was a great king of a small kingdom called Travancore (present day Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala). As all kings do, he was simply trying to expand his kingdom by waging war against Kayamkulam (in Odanad). Coincidentally, Kayamkulam happened to be the largest source of pepper for the Dutch. The Dutch East India Company, when hearing of this, was afraid that they wouldn’t have monopoly over trade anymore. They wrote to Martanda Verma ordering him to end the aggression with Kayamkulam. Martanda Verma bravely wrote back, asking the Dutch not to interfere in matters not concerning them. He went on to annex Odanad. This made the Dutch furious. They asked him to restore the kingdom to the previous king and threatened to invade Travancore. But Martanda Verma refused.
This eventually led to the Travancore-Dutch War of 1741. On August 10, 1741 the armies met in battle which Travancore decisively won. 24 soldiers, including the commander-in-chief of the Dutch army, Captain de Lannoy, were taken prisoner (de Lannoy’s surrender can be seen in the cover image).
Unfortunately, despite having defeated the Dutch, Travancore was annexed by the British. After India gained its independence, Travancore joined the state of Kerala and was renamed Thiruvananthapuram.
The world’s strongest and most powerful navy had been defeated by the courage of a king and his soldiers, and, of course, their superior military tactics. If the Dutch hadn’t been defeated by Martanda Verma, we would probably now be under Dutch rule. It’s sad that this vital piece of history has been forgotten by us. The story of Martanda Verma is sure to give any proud Indian goosebumps!
Author : Kavitha Kannan | Teacher @ BVM International School