Kerala: Archives department to digitise Rajaraja Varma’s diaries

In the more than 100-yr-old diaries, the ex-Travancore Devaswom Commissioner had chronicled events like the Vaikom Satyagraha
A set of 10 diaries written by M Rajaraja Varma
A set of 10 diaries written by M Rajaraja VarmaPhoto | Special Arrangement

KOCHI: The events of the past, especially those that had significantly impacted the socio-cultural and religious fabric of the then society, transforming it into a more progressive one, might have piqued everyone’s interest. But where do we find the authentic recounting of the events? The present generation has to depend upon the jottings of historians or the word of mouth of those who lived in that era. However, presenting a rare opportunity to peek into the most famous incidents in Kerala, is a set of 10 diaries written by M Rajaraja Varma, the then Travancore Devaswom Commissioner, in the 1920s.

“In the more than a 100-year-old diaries, the former commissioner had chronicled events like the Vaikom Satyagraha,” says N S Madhavan, writer and critic. According to him, though he has not gone through the diaries due to their fragile condition, the archivists from the Ernakulam Regional Archives of the archaeology department who came to index the diaries have found that the entries do have historical significance.

Speaking about the diaries, Minister for Ports, Museums, Archaeology and Archives Ramachandran Kadannappalli said, “The archivists who had gone through the entries in the diary found that Rajaraja Varma has made significant entries on the dates corresponding to the Vaikom Satyagraha. But since the entries are in old English and very difficult to decipher, they will be examined by a team of experts at the archaeology department.” However, it should be noted that the diarist played a significant role as the devaswom commissioner, adding the minister.

The minister lauded the efforts of Rajaraja Varma’s grandson in keeping the diaries safe. “Normally, people don’t realise the importance of the jottings made in the old diaries. But his grandson A G Krishna Menon, a well-known architect in Delhi, understood the importance of the diaries and contacted N S Madhavan asking him to take them off his hands,” said Kadannappalli.

A page from the diary
A page from the diaryPhoto | Special Arrangement

According to the officials with the archives department, the diaries will be studied and the pages with dates that coincide with historical events will be chronicled accordingly. “All the diaries will be uploaded in the digital system and made available to researchers,” the minister said. “It is important that such valuable items are not left to rot,” he added. About the diarist, Madhavan said, “Not only was he the devaswom commissioner but he was also related to Travancore. He was married to the eldest daughter of the then Travancore King Visakham Thirunal.”

Rajaraja Varma, who had published a book titled ‘The Stage in Kerala’, had meticulously and continuously kept writing in the diary from 1920 to 1956, said the minister.

To be made available for researchers

The diaries will be studied and the pages with dates that coincide with historical events will be chronicled. Moreover, all the diaries will be uploaded in the digital system and made available for researchers. Rajaraja Varma had meticulously and continuously kept writing in the diary from 1920 to 1956

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