An Avid Shutterbug, Driving Enthusiast, Sanskrit Scholar
Other than being the head of the Travancore Royal Family and a ‘Padha Dasamanab’, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma was a multifaceted personality - an ardent lover of photography, a driving enthusiastic, a Sanskrit scholar and a voracious reader.
Marthanda Varma had a passion for photography from a tender age and it was his brother, the last ruler of Travancore, Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, who presented him his first camera. With the Rolleiflex camera presented to him in 1934 he learned the basics of photography and then there was no looking back.
His passion for photography took him to take a air sortie on the VTAYK aircraft that the Travancore Royal Family owned in 1939, all over the erstwhile Travancore region.
His prized possession of photographs includes aerial view of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Sabarimala Temple and Kanyakumari Temple. Marthanda Varma had a collection of more than 5,000 negatives, including a chapter entirely dedicated to royals from different parts of the world he had photographed. His photo memories include Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma on foot along the forest path to Sabarimala in 1939 and a picture taken in auto click mode of the royal family - Chithira Thirunal, Uthradom Thirunal, Karthika Thirunal Lakshmi Bayi, and Col Goda Varma - at Peermade in the same year.
He also used to gift photographs he clicked to visitors and used to keep his knowledge up-to-date about the changing photographic technologies. One of his favourite photographs in his personal collection was that of his wife Radhadevi in consort, which he had clicked at ‘Ramapriya’, the Bangalore residence, in 1955.
During his Bangalore days he was a motor enthusiastic who clocked 40 lakh miles in his Mercedes Benz 180 D. During those days Mercedes used to honour drivers who crossed one-lakh miles and it had presented him with 10 medals.
His favourite car, the copper blue 180D Mercedes Benz, was in his possession till he breathed his last. A person with varied interests, he had to his credit several trophies won as an amateur horse rider at various places in the country. A keen sportsman, he had interest in tennis, hockey, golf, football and polo.
Another of his favourite hobby was to collect newspaper cuttings.
The treasured possession of paper cuttings of Marthanda Varma were handed over to Avittom Thirunal Grandhasala here two years ago.
A wide range of topics under four major titles - religion, education, medicine, cooking and his areas of interest - were well arranged in separate files.