About P K S Raja, Zamorin of Calicut (2003 - 2013)
147 th Zamorin of Calicut
For over six centuries, the Zamorins were equivalent to God in their coastal feudal kingdom that comprised a major portion of present-day Kozhikode and Malappuram districts and some parts of Palakkad.
Post-independence, the Zamorin has just been a figure-head of the erstwhile ruling family, with little power. But the exuberance of the public in Kozhikode over the 100th birthday celebrations of the present Zamorin, Puthiya Kovilakath Sreemanavedan Raja (P.K.S. Raja), indicates that the post has lost neither its charisma nor its place in the hearts of people. His 100th birthday was celebrated on Friday.
Born in 1913 in the Puthiyakovilakath Thekkekettu Thavazhi at Thiruvannur here as the son of A.K.T.K.M. Ashtamurthi Namboothiripad of Desamangalam Mana and Kunhithambatty Thamburatti, he lost his mother when he was one-and-a-half years old and was under the foster care of Kunhithambatty of the same family. Having finished his early education at the Srikrishna Vidyalaya of the royal family and the Zamorin's College High School at Tali here, he completed Honours in Mathematics from Loyola College, Chennai (then Madras).
He served in the Central Telegraph Department in many parts of India in various capacities. Married to Bharathy Thambatty of Nilambur Kovilakam, he sired three daughters, Sethulakshmi, Sudha, and Sarala. Raja and his wife had been actively involved with the Malayali associations wherever he worked. A Kathakali Yogam was started in Madras under his patronage.
P.K.S. Raja, who ascended the defunct throne of the Zamorin in 2003, conquered hearts with his simplicity, sincerity, and sterling conduct. He is highly approachable and is the first Zamorin to reach this age.
Residing with his second daughter Sudha Krishnanunni at Chalappuram in the city, the Zamorin is active in social and cultural activities despite his advancing age.
He is the patron of Zamorin's Guruvayurappan College and the Zamorin's Higher Secondary School, besides a number of temples, including the Valayanad Bhagavathi temple and the Tali Mahadeva temple. The Mamankam and the Revathi Pattathanam festivals are now presided over by him. The Zamorin is also known as a great champion of communal harmony.
A simple man
A fan of Sachin Tendulkar and a Kathakali connossieur, an Ancient British History buff, author and an avid reader of The Hindu, Manavedan Raja was a simple man who took time to listen to all, and promoted communal harmony.
Born in 1913 into the Puthiyakovilakath Thekkekettu Thavazhi at Thiruvannur in Kozhikode as the son of A.K.T.K.M. Ashtamurthi Namboothiripad and Kunhithambatty Thamburati, he attended the Zamorin’s High School, established in 1877 and situated overlooking the ancient Tali temple. Then he did his Bachelor’s in Mathematics at Loyola College in Madras (now Chennai).
Cricket at Loyola
In his biography of the Zamorin, titled The King Without A Crown, Dr. E.K. Govinda Varma Raja relates an anecdote of how the young Raja got his “first and last occasion to play cricket” at Loyola.
“Once there was a one-day match in the Loyola cricket ground between postgraduate students and the rest. As an enthusiast he went to witness the match,” runs account. At the last moment, the postgraduates’ team captain realises he is one player short. He scans the crowd and his eyes fall on the demure Raja. The captain walks up to him and asks him to field for his team. Raja agrees and the game starts. A powerful shot follows from the batsman within a few minutes. The ball zooms to Raja’s side, travelling at “chest height.”
The panicky greenhorn raises both his hands to protect his chest, and the ball neatly lands in his palms. When Raja recovers, he is flat on his back on the ground, metres away from where he stood, but the ball safely in his palms. A neat catch!
“He was crazy about cricket, never missed a match. Sachin Tendulkar was his icon. On his 100th birthday, he expressed a wish to meet Sachin. I believe the wish was conveyed to the cricketer,” recounts P.K. Krishnanunni Raja, his son-in-law.
As an officer of the Post and Telegraph Department, Raja travelled widely, and had extended postings in the eastern parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
He loved narrating stories of his “hair-breadth escapes” from death in Chittagong in 1942 during the Second World War. One of them was about a Japanese air raid on the Chittagong aerodrome, where he once again got the chance to lie flat on the ground as fighter planes pounded the ground.
After retirement as a Deputy General Manager with BSNL, he spent his years travelling the world till he ascended the throne in 2003.
Trustee of 40 temples
As Zamorin he had few powers, but he was trustee to 40 temples from Chemanchery to Palakkad. He had a permanent seat on the Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple’s managing committee. His family managed the Zamorin’s Guruvayurappan College, where the P.K.S Raja Centenary Research Centre, built at a cost of Rs. 1.5 crore, was scheduled to be inaugurated this month.
He is survived by daughters, Sudha Krishnanunni, a senior paediatrician at a hospital in Kozhikode; and Sarala Vasu, settled in Chennai.
As Raja’s final journey wound its way through the city on Wednesday, many of the mourners recalled him as one who hardly cared for the trappings of royalty.
For his family, the final journey was symbolic of his favourite line from Lord Byron’s poem ‘Prisoner of Schillon’: “Even I regained my freedom with a sigh.”