A Journey in search of Royal Roots

Harikrishnan | May 01, 2015 | Vol. 7, Issue 3
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Dr. Kocha Varma or Kochanujan Thampuran Rama Varma, a smart septuagenarian, who hails from the Cochin Royal Family in Tripunithura, was a certified Urologist in Chickasha Oklahoma, USA for many years. After retirement, he splits his time between Tripunithura, Thrissur and Seattle, to reconstruct the ‘History of Cochin Royal Family’ through facts and figures.

Why Cochin Royal Family History and Why is it a unique narrative?  A man with a clear answer to all these complex questions is one who has been meticulously researching and preserving the threads of History which remains literally “Untold”.  If you expect a historian to be the driving force behind this exercise then you are sadly mistaken.  The person is a smart septuagenarian, Dr. Kocha Varma or Kochanujan Thampuran Rama Varma who hails from the Cochin Royal Family of Tripunithura (Kerala, India).

After graduated from Maharajas College, Ernakulum, and acquired a medical degree from Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, Varma migrated to the United States where, after becoming a Board Certified Urologist, he lived and worked in Chickasha Oklahoma for many years. After retirement, he splits his time between Tripunithura, Thrissur and Seattle, to reconstruct the ‘History of Cochin Royal Family’ through facts and figures.

His research results include books and manuscripts and three documentaries. He has also been conducting symposiums for more than a decade tabling the various aspects of the royal family and its rich history. The most recent step initiated by Varma is the digitalization of his works - cochinroyalhistory.org , where any one would be able to access the rich treasure of history which Varma  uncovered  through his extensive travelling in search of living evidences.

Dr Varma says, he was lucky enough to meet descendants of historical personalities like Colonel Munroe, Vasco Da Gama and others who had an important link with the eventful past of Kochi. Later he visited the British Library and his findings there sowed the seeds of his dream project, the Cochin Royal Family Historical Society (CRFHS) in 2003.

Varma was born in 1937 as the eldest son of Kunjipillakkutty Thampuran and Thamarappilly Raman Namboothiri and belongs to the Padinjare Kovilakam Thavazhi of the Cochin royal family.  The lineage is traced back to the last King of Kochi, Rama Varma Pareekshith Thampuran, a scholar of Sanskrit.

Varma who opens up his thoughts says “History is a continuous record of important events.” He adds, its a thing of curiosity for us, self-important human beings, to see one's continuity in the future as well as in the past.  For example, I look at my son or my daughter and try to see something of 'me' in them.  As I have grown older, I look at myself in the mirror and try to see something of my parents, my uncles, and I wonder if they did the same.  Whether we like it or not, we live in a continuum.  The past merges with the present and the present soon becomes history. Varma named his second documentary directed by nephew Suraj Varma as 'Nairantharyam' or Continuum which explains this truth.

According to Varma, the Cochin Royal family Thavazhis resulted from one single woman – Chittamma Thampuran's grandmother who was adopted to the Royal Family in 1715, from another Thavazhi 'Chazhiyur'.  Unfortunately, her name remains anonymous. And since then, the lineage has continued through 12 to 13 generations.  

Dr Varma makes us realize that it is our responsibility to preserve history and heritage as much as possible for the succeeding generations. If we want to instill the moral, religious, and cultural underpinnings we have to protect the institutions which gave solace and inspiration to us. Herein is the importance of maintaining our tangible cultural heritage. Today, Dr Varma is undertaking the unique exercise of tracking history so as to narrate the family history, the roots, to himself, to his contemporaries and to the younger generations.  

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