Skip to main content

#TeatimeTales #History

From Glasgow to Pattikonda: The journey of Sir Thomas Munro

Sir Thomas Munro, a Glasgow-born Scotsman, who became the Governor of Madras Presidency in the early part of the 19th century, made a deep impact on the people of the Rayalaseema region. I was reading up on the palegar (local chieftains) strife in Rayalaseema region, and read this interesting snippet: In many parts of Ananthapur and Ballari regions, Munro was so respected that the locals named their first-born son after their favourite administrator – Munrolappa (Kannada and Telugu are the local languages).

I haven’t seen it, but there’s a famous statue of Sir Thomas Munro in Madras, near the Gymkhana, according to a piece in The Hindu. (Sriram’s piece in The Hindu.)

What triggered my interest in Sir Thomas Munro was that he was the Collector of Anantapur district. My ancestral village is in the same district, and many of my family members continue to live in the district.

I came across a letter Sir Thomas Munro writes to his mother from ‘Anantpoor’ (dated 20th August, 1804).

An extract from that letter:

“I am endeavouring to convert about an acre of ground into a garden, but find it very difficult to get either seed or plants. All that I have in it are fourteen fig-trees, about ten or twelve inches high, which survived out of a great number of plants brought from a small garden at Cuddapah, above a hundred miles distant...”

The letter is mostly about his disappointment over his garden.

There are other letters to his mother and sister Erskine from both ‘Anantpoor’ and ‘Raydroog’, (today’s Rayadurgam, I guess), where he describes his life in India, and specifically the Ceded Districts (which were ceded to the British by the Nizam, covering Rayalaseema). In one letter to his sister dated 5th August, 1807, he says, “I shall leave India with great regret, for I shall carry with me only a moderate competency, while by remaining four or five years longer, I should double my fortune; this, however, is of little consequence, as I am not expensive. But what I am chiefly anxious about is, what I am to do when I go home. I have no rank in the army there, and could not be employed upon an expedition to the Continent, or any other quarter...but I much fear that I shall soon get tired of an idle life, and be obliged to return to this country for employment. ”

After a furlough, Munro came back to India, and Madras in 1814. He eventually became governor of Madras in 1820. He was known as the father of the ‘ryotwari system’ and came for much praise for his opposition to the Zamindari system. According to the 'ryotwari' system, land revenue was collected directly from the farmer/tiller of the soil. According to an official report (1857/John Stuart Mill) on this system,“Every registered holder of land is recognised as its proprietor...”

In 1827, when Munro went on a tour of the Ceded Districts, he suddenly contracted cholera and passed away on July 6 at 'Patteecondah' (today’s Pattikonda).

The locals in the Ceded Districts treated Munro as the ‘Father of the People’, some even calling him a saint.

Reference: The Life of Sir Thomas Munro, late governor of Madras...’ by George Robert Gleig


Popular posts from this blog


Re-plug of an article I wrote five years back ahead of Independence Day. On Vidurashwatha, which is known as the Jallianwalah Bagh of Karnataka. Vidurashwatha is actually very close to my hometown and the temple there is a much-visited one by my family.

Of lives lost under the peepal FREEDOM STRUGGLE Vidurashwatha is known as the Jallianwala Bagh of the south. At least nine people died in the summer of 1938, when British authorities fired indiscriminately at a fair held there, writes Savitha Karthik
If the giant peepal trees here were to tell a story, what would that be? That of the Mahabharata character Vidura coming here to plant a sapling of ashwatha, or the ficus religiosa, in botanical terminology? That of the holy peepal being worshipped by generations here, along with hundreds of idols of the snake god installed by believers? Or would the peepal trees choose to tell another tale? Of nine brave souls who fell victim to an oppressor’s guns, right under the stoic trunks?

The ficus…

Remember Sadanand Vishwanath?

I write this as I watch the post-lunch session of the first Ashes Test 2017 at the Gabba. Watching it on Sony Six with the Channel 9 line-up of commentators (plenty of flak for that line-up, of course), my mind goes back to the Benson & Hedges series of 1985-86. I was too young to remember much, but certainly remember the Audi car that Ravi Shastri won. That was also the first time that DD telecast the Channel 9 feed -- I know now not then. I only remember the famous animated duck walk past the screen as the batsmen walked back to the pavilion. That series saw the emergence of a young, dashing wicket-keeper who kept the chatter going behind the stumps -- Sadanand Vishwanath. A Google News search told me what's up with him now. Here's a link:

Bihun sup, mee kari, soto...

The hawker centre/food stalls at Masjid India area, KL had boards selling mee kari, which is rice vermicelli cooked with coconut milk, spicy curry soup, sambal, seafood, chicken etc. Bihun sup is vermicelli in beef broth and soto is least that's what some Internet research tells me.