An illuminating symbol of heritage

The lamp, made of bronze with three lights atop resembling a glass globe, was established during the reign of Sreemoolam Thirunal in memory of Ramarayar, the Diwan of the king.
Rama Rao Lamp at LMS Junction
Rama Rao Lamp at LMS Junction Photo | B P Deepu

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the heart of Thiruvananthapuram, at the intersection of Palayam and the museum, stands the illuminating ‘Rama Rao Lamp’ also known as Ramarayar Vilakku. This light is rich with history and serves as a reminder of an erstwhile kingdom.

The lamp, made of bronze with three lights atop resembling a glass globe, was established during the reign of Sreemoolam Thirunal in memory of Ramarayar, the Diwan of the king. It was his son, Padmanabha Rao — known for his generosity and referred to as Udara Shiromani — who installed the monument.

“Rama Rao was more famous in the Kottayam district, as he served as Deputy Peishkar of the Kottayam division,” says historian Vellanad Ramachandran.

“His contributions in developing Kottayam into a civilised town are commendable. After his death, his son Padmanabha Rao requested a monument from Chithira Thirunal to honour his father’s services to Travancore. Thus, the lamp was installed at LMS junction,” he explains.

When road development initiatives threatened the existence of the lamp, many city residents and historians intervened to preserve it. “Though born in Thiruvananthapuram, it says that Rama Rao’s ancestors are from another state,” Ramachandran adds. But he connected with T Madhava Rao, an influential Indian statesman and Diwan of Travancore, whose statue stands near the Secretariat.

Initially, the lamp was lit with oil but was later renovated to function with electricity. “It’s said that parts of the lamp were imported from abroad, possibly the Netherlands, giving it a foreign look. However, there are no documents to substantiate this,” elaborates Ramachandran.

People say that many such lamps once illuminated the path from Palayam to Kowdiar, leading to the Travancore palace. But most have succumbed to the ravages of time. Yet, some stand as silent witnesses to a bygone era. It’s believed that these street lamps were installed to guide those who came to enjoy the evening music performed by the palace troops.

Ramachandran says there is something special about the lamp’s location. “The first cement road in India, stretching from Thiruvananthapuram to Kanyakumari, was constructed during the time of C P Ramaswami Aiyer. It begins at the location where the lamp is situated.”

The lamp stands near the LMS compound, in front of the church and also shows Rama Rao’s close relationship with missionaries. “Though extensive research has been conducted by different people, there is a lack of concrete documentation and much of the lamp’s history is passed down orally,” he concludes.

There & Then

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