Travancore State rose in eighteenth century Malabar
dominated by Dutch and English trade powers. Marthanda Varma, who ruled 1729
-1758, is considered as its founder. He expanded the territory of the Kingdom from Kanyakumari in the South to
Kodungallur in the North. He signed a treaty with the British East India
company and with their help destroyed the power of the eight feudal land
lords. From then on the kingdom slowly came within the orbit of the British
East India Company. On January 3, 1750
A.D., he dedicated his Kingdom to his tutelary deity Sri Padmanabha (Lord
Vishnu) of Trivandrum (the Trippadidaanam) and from then on the rulers of
Travancore ruled the Kingdom as the servants of Sri Padmanabha
the ruler of Mysore attacked Travancore in A.D.1791 mainly because Dharma
Raja (1758-1798) rejected his
overtures and was moving for alliance with the English East India Company.
The Travancore forces withstood the Sultan for less than 6 months and then
the Maharajah appealed to the British East India Company for aid, starting a
precedent which later led to the installation of a British resident in the
country and a military alliance with the English East India Company. In 1795
the British resident, Colonel Macaulay, managed to engage the ruler in
treaties which effectively made the state a protectorate of the East India
Company and ended its autonomy. The protectorate was continued by the British
Raj and ended on 1 July 1949 when the state of Travancore-Cochin was
Rulers of Travancore
From 1721 until 1949 Travancore has been ruled by princes from the House of Kulasekhara of which there have been thirteen maharaja’s. A landmark was reached when in 1888 a Legislative Council was founded, the very first of an Indian Princely State. The last maharaja, Chithira Thirunal Bala Rama Varma II (1924/’31-1949), was appointed the first rajapramukh of Travancore-Cochin State but was deposed when Kerala State came into existence on 1 November 1956. He was stripped of all his ranks and titles as a result of the 26th amendment of the Indian Constitution act of 31 July 1971
As a matter of course the emblem of the House of
Kulasekhra was borrowed from the attributes of Vishnu, who was the household
divinity from 1750 onwards. As we know, these emblems were the cakra (wheel),
the śankha (conch), the padma (lotus) and the gada
(club). From these the śankha sankha was the special
emblem of the Sri Padmanabha
incarnation on Vishnu.
Padmanabha; Vishnu, lying on a snake with his consort, Lakshmi.
lying deity keeps a śankha in his left hand, identifying him as Sri Padmanabha 
A Śankha (conch-shell)
is the special symbol of Vishnu. His conch is known as Pañ-chajanya,
being made from the body of the demon Pañchajana. It is symbolic of the
spoken word, a tradition originating in Vedic India. It is thought to make a frightening noise
that terrifies the enemies of Vishnu. In sculptural representations, the
conch appears plain or ornamental. In the latter case, its head is covered
with a decorative metal cap, surmounted by a lion-head and having a cloth tied
round it. Tassels of pearls may also hang from the sides.
Generally speaking the Śankha is the symbol of religious authority exercised by the word.
However, the first proof of an emblem of the House
of Kulasekhra shows a trident which is the attribute of Shiva and a
symbol of armed power. We may suppose that this has to do with the
longlasting state of war at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th
century. The trident is on Travancore
coins struck by Rani Parvati Bai (1815-’29). The śankha only
appears on coins struck in 1830. From then on the śankha is shown
within a garland, together with the royal cypher RV, also within a garland on
the reverse. Its definite form was achieved on coins struck in 1877 during
the reign of Rama Varma IV
This ruler was honoured with an achievement European
style for the occasion of the Durbar in Delhi in 1877. It was:
Arms: Argent, on a fesse
Azure three reversed conches Or
Crest: On a helmet guardant, lambrequined
Argent and Azure a seahorse.
Motto: Dharmo Smat
Kuladewatam (Dharmo is our Household Divinity).
The term dharma in this motto is an
Indian spiritual and religious term, that means one’s righteous duty or any
virtuous path in the common sense of the term. In Indian languages it can be
equivalent simply to “religion”, depending on the context. The word dharma
literally translates as that which upholds or supports, and is
generally translated into English as law.
shortly after, a new achievement appears, possibly because of the many
mistakes the designer, Robert Taylor, has made in the Durbar achievement.
The new achievement shows:
Arms: The Royal Cypher RV, surrounded by a strap with the
IS OUR HOUSEHOLD DIVINITY
Crest: A śankha within a garland
Supporters: Two elephants passant, trunks erect.
Motto: Dharmo Smat Kuladewatam in devanagiri script
From about the same time an emblem is known
consisting of a golden śankha on a red sixteen-pointed halo.
Below is a motto on a yellow ribbon.
It is on a painting showing a visit of the governor general of Madras to the maharaja in 1880 .
On this very interesting painting also the royal
banner is seen. 
Royal seal as on a regulation
dated 11th of May 1885: śankha between the royal cypher.
One fanam coin struck
showing the royal cypher and the national emblem
next stage in the development of the heraldic emblems of Travancore is the
separation of the royal emblem and the emblem of state. Maybe this.was a
result of the foundation of the Travnacore Legislative Council in 1888. The
royal emblem consisted of the royal cypher within a garland. This emblem was
the nucleus of the royal achievement which consisted of the royal cypher crested
by the śankha and two elephants passant, trunks erect.
Royal achievement on the
letterhead of Rama Varma VI, 1893. 
This shows: The royal cypher RV, crowned with the royal crown of Travancore and crested with the śankha. Supported by two elephans rampant, standing on a ribbon with a motto. Below is the jewel of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India of which he was a Grand Commander (1888). Behind the star are two crossed swords, a symbol of the army.
Royal achievement as on
publications of the thirties of the 20th century
arms of state consisted of the śankha, sometimes placed on a
circular shield, within a garland.
the achievement the version without the shield was supported by two elephants
passant, trunks erect and with the motto on a ribbon below.
description supplied from the government of Travancore is:
coat of arms of the Travancore State is represented by a conch, supported by two
elephants, one on either side thereof, together with a motto in Sanskrit “Dharmosmatkuladaivatam”,
which means “Dharma is our household divinity”. The conch is one of the
prominent weapons of Sri Padmanabha (an aspect of Mahavishnu, the sustaining
and protecting god of the Hindu Trinity), the family deity of the Maharajas
of Travancore. It is believed to be an emblem of purity, auspiciousness,
victory and prosperity. The conch is a product of the sea, and Travancore,
which has the longest seaboard among the Indian States, is aptly symbolized
by it. The elephants form a distinguishing feature of Travancore, being very
common in its forests. They, too, are emblematic of auspiciousness and
victory. The motto signifies that righteousness is the watchword of the
rulers of Travancore.” 
achievement appeared in colour at the end of the 19th century on the national flag which was
red, the conch white, the garland green, the elephants turqoise, the
compartment green and the ribbon white with black devanagiri script.
Royal cypher of Balai Rama
Varma II .
National emblem as on
coins struck 1938 -’41.
© Hubert de Vries 2009-10-26
British Library collection with the annotation: This image comes from a set
of 35 printed and coloured illustrations of the Hindu epic stories, the Mahabharata
and the Ramayana. They were made in Calcutta during the 19th century by artists
including the famous engraver, Madhav Chandra Das, who produced this picture.
Each illustration has the artist’s name in Bengali incorporated into its bottom
border. (full resolution)
) Taylor, Robert M.A. Cantab Bengal Civil Service.The Princely Armory. Being a display of the arms of the ruling chiefs of India prepared for the Imperial Assembly held at Delhi on the 1st day of January 1877. Printed for the Government of India at the Government Central Printing Office, 8 Hastings Street, Calcutta 1902.
) Pine, L.G.: International Heraldry. David and Charles Newton Abbot. 1970. Pp. 208-210