Thursday 22 January 2015


The Amazing Life of a Thiyya Woman

She shared three males,among them a British Resident and a British Doctor.The Resident's British son became a renowned Lepidopterist,collector of butterflies,and the grand daughter of the Thiyya woman, a globally acclaimed Botanist.This happened in 19th century Kerala.The Resident was none other than John Child Hannyngton(1835-1895) who signed the famous Mullapperiyar dam agreement for 999 years,with Kerala and the Doctor,Lt Colonel WG King(1851-1935),in whose name,the famous King's Institute of Preventive Medicine,was established in Madras.

JC Hannyngton
The woman will be never known:she was Kunhi Kurumbi of Kuruvayi house, Thalassery in Kannur district of Kerala,in Southern India.She was born in 1845,was at first partner of  Hannyngton,then King,finally a Nair,and mothered,Kalyani,Martha Fewkes,Devi Krishnan,Kuruvayi Govindan King,Krishnan King.Martha and Devi were Hannyngton's children and the two Kings,belonged to King.Dewan Bahadur E K Krishnan ,first Malayali Deputy Collector of Malabar,married Devi and,Dr E K Janaki Ammal,Botanist,Geneticist and global Plant Geographer,whom India honored with Padmasri in 1957,was,their daughter.

I knew there was a Thiyya Kingdom in Kannur,till 1905,the males of which married the excommunicated higher caste women in Kerala.Seeing two names,Govindan King and Krishnan King,I wondered whether they were kings from the family,and further research led me to Hannyngton and King!

Hannyngton comes to Malabar

Hannyngton was born in Barrackpore,West Bengal,on 23 September 1835,as the son of Major General John Caulfield Hannyngton and Harriet.John Caulfield(1807-1885) was a celebrated General,with pious habits.He entered Indian Army Service in 1825 as a cadet in the 24th Regiment of Native Army.He got a political appointment as in charge of the Manbhoom Division,on Southern Frontier and was made Judicial Commissioner in 1842.He went back to regimental duty when he was promoted as Lt Colonel,in 1856,and posted to 63 BNI.He was in Berhampore at the time of the 1857 Mutiny,and 63rd didn't mutiny,but was disarmed.

He retired as Military Auditor General in 1861.He was appointed Asst Secretary of Finance in the India Office,remained in the position,till his death.His interests were Astronomy and navigation,one of the first officers to use,Thomson's Arithmometer.He devised the Table of Haversines,to compute distances for Nautical Almanac.He was associated with the Bengal Military and Orphan Funds,tirelessly working for widows and orphans.

John Arthur
J C Hannyngton married Laura Elisabeth and had seven children,Major General John Arthur Hannyngton,Patrick,William Onslaw,Frank and Agnes Bernice among them.Frank Hannyngton was the Lepidopterist.
Hannyngton Butterfly

Lt Col JC Hannyngton's career in India was,during 1857-1892.He began as a Writer,and was sent as Assistant to Collector/Magistrate,Trichy in 1859,and from there,moved to Malabar in 1861.He was in Malabar for 10 years.After becoming a Judge,John Hannyngton was Resident of Travancore and Cochin four times:20 February1878-March 1879,1 April1881-May 1883,15 August1884-July 1887 and 7 October1888-July 1890.When he was Acting Resident,on behalf of Ayilyam Thirunal,Dewan Nanu Pillai wrote to him,on 13 November 1878,that the King was willing to sent a Nair Brigade to help the British in the second Anglo-Afghan war,of which,Hannyngton Senior was a Commander.J C Hannyngton was very much involved in the palace intrigues between Ayilyam Thirunal Rama Varma and his brother,Visakham Thirunal Rama Varma,and he with Dewan A Seshaih Sastri,had plotted to oust,Dewan Peishcar,P Sankunni Menon,who wrote,History of Travancore from The Earliest Times.

WG King

Hannyngton was arbitrator in five territorial cases between Travancore and Cochin.His verdict favored Travancore,only in one-it was the Thachudaya Kaimal case of Irinjalakuda.Thachudaya Kaimal was a representative of the Travancore to the Koodalmanikkam Temple there,in whom vested all the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Temple.Since the temple stood in Cochin territory,Cochin questioned the right of Travancore,in nominating the Kaimal,when the then Kaimal died,in 1850.Cochin contented that Travancore can nominate him,only if a repair is needed to the temple building.On March 19,1881,Hannyngton held Cochin's contention,untenable.Among the other four cases,three were Devaswom cases,pertaining to,Elankunnapuzha,Annamanada and Peruvanam,and the fourth one,related to,Idiyaramed.

Sir Grant Duff,Governor, finds Hannyngton in Kerala

Sir Mountstuart E Grant Duff,who was Governor of Madras,mentions Resident Hannyngton 
in his book,Notes From a Diary,Kept Chiefly in Southern India,1881-1886.They went to Courtallam,on 12 September 1882,on a picnic.While in the Travancore Residency,Mrs Davies,wife of Colonel Davies,showed the Governor,an ornament made of the claws of a tigress,which her husband had shot in Coimbatore,after it had killed 130 people."Mr Hannington saw the same Colonel Davies shoot a tiger which had sprung on the back of a young elephant and was trying to kill it",the Governor records.Grant Duff extensively toured Kerala then.

King and his English wife in Burma(1904)

Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff(1829-1906)was son of the British Historian,James Grant Duff(1789-1858),who was Resident of Satara,in British India,at the salary of Rs 3500(2000+1500 as allowance),in 1818.He named his son,Mountstuart Elphinstone,in honor of the Resident of Poona by that name,who helped him to rise in service.Sir Grant Duff was sent as Under Secretary of the State of India,(1868-1874),after he became a British MP.

Sir Grant Duff
He was Under Secretary of Colonies(1880-'81)before becoming Governor of Madras(1881-1886).He records the visit of Travancore King,Visakham Thirunal,and a return visit,in his book.Both the Kings of Travancore and Cochin were present when he took over, as Governor. Grant Duff built the Marina,in Chennai beach.As Under Secretary,the massacre of 5o rebelled Kukas sparked off an outrage in Parliament,and Grant Duff was compelled to own responsibility. Kukas are Namdhari Sikhs,and they attacked Malerkotla,princely State in Sangrur,Punjab,on 15 January,1872.As Governor,he was criticized for mishandling Chengalpet Ryots case(1881-'83 )and Salem Hindu/Muslim riots(1882). The Ryots in Chengalpet filed a case against the Tahsildar for extortion,the Court punished him,but Governor Grant Duff,Acquitted him.His son,Adrian,Colonel of Black Watch was killed in the first battle of Aisne in 1914,and another son,Neill,was shot down over France in 1940,whilst with RAF.

Grant Duff had a liking for Hannyngton, and during Visakham Thirunal,Hannyngton was made,Secretary of Madras State.On 29 October 1886, a lease indenture for 999 years, on Mullapperiyar was made between Visakham Thirunal and British Secretary of State for India,and the agreement was signed by Dewan V Rama Iyengar of Travancore and Hannyngton.From a letter written by Travancore King,Sri Moolam Thirunal,dated 4 January 1893,to his Commercial Agent,John Rohde,we under stand that,Hannyngton and his wife were staying at Bolghatty Palace at that time,to settle a border dispute between Travancore and Cochin.At the installation speech in 1888,King Rama Varma of Cochin(1888-1895),the king who died in Chingam,had mentioned Hannyngton,as a friend.Hannyngton died in March 1895,at Lewisham, London.

He was a King in Tropical Medicine

Devi Krishnan
Walter Gawen King(1851-1935) was the son of John Henry King and Laura of Greenwich.He did his Medicine from Aberdeen and joined India Medical Service as a Surgeon in 1874.He arrived in India on 31 October, and was in the service for 36 years,and was Surgeon of the Duke of Buckingham,William Marret for a short period from 1876.He built the first Public Health department in the Indian Empire.His proposals for the re organization sanitary and vaccination departments of Madras Presidency were made in connection with the resolution of the first Indian Medical Congress held at Kolkata in 1894.Madras Registration of Births and Deaths Act 1899 was passed according to his proposals.  He was made a full Colonel in 1905 and he retired in 1910.He was Professor of Physics in Presidency College,Madras and Professor of Hygiene in Madras Medical College.He was Special Sanitary Officer,Madras City,Superintendent of Mandalay Central Jail and Lunatic Asylum before appointed as Sanitary Commissioner,Madras.On promotion to administrative rank,he became Inspector General of Civil Hospitals and then Sanitary Commissioner in Burma.He was honored for the tremendous work he did during the Madras famine of 1876-'77,and 20 years later,during the famine as Sanitary Commissioner.He rejoined service during First World War as ADMS,Western Command,later, Consultant,Tropical Diseases Clinic at the Ministry of Pensions,and finally,Lecturer in Hygiene at Kings College,London.The King's Institute of Preventive Medicine at Guindy,Chennai,was started as a depot to treat small pox on 7 November 1899.King died at Hendon,in 1935.His books include,The Cultivation of Animal Vaccine(1891)and The Plague Inspector's Manual(1902).

King was a pioneer of tropical medicine in India.In the Presidential address to the Science Congress Association in 1915, W B Bannerman said:
Only one man in India had issued a warning to all Government officers within his jurisdiction,to be prepared for the introduction of Plague from China,where it had broken out in epidemic form in 1894.This man was Colonel W G King, at that time Sanitary Commissioner of Madras, after whom the King's Institute of Preventive Medicine at Guindy has been named by a grateful Government.

The King's Institute,Guindy

A report from Times of India,1 November,1897:
Surgeon-Lieutenant Colonel W G King has requested certain officers in Vizagapatnam, Bellary and Saidapet to report upon the possibilities of cultivating the "Soy Bean" with a quantity of which he furnished them. The "Soy bean" is,he states, probably the most nutritious form readily assimilable pulse at present known, and should it prove possible to introduce it widely in the Madras Presidency,it would prove of great advantage in jail,and also to the poor classes generally.

Correspondence of King in Burma shows Mrs King had painted 800 pictures of plants and fruits from Malabar Coast, Burma and Madras.Plants for this were imported to Burma from Malabar and Madras. Her name is not mentioned in any of his biographical sketches.

The Mystery meeting of Hannyngton and Kurumbi

EK Krishnan
Hannyngton  met Kunhi Kurumbi,while he was Assistant and Magistrate at Thalassery.He was leading a double life,like most British civil servants.He was sent from Trichy to Malabar as, Officiating Head assistant,  Justice of Peace,in 1861.Next year ,he was invested with full powers of Magistrate.He was Special Assistant to Collector and Magistrate,and Acting Head Assistant,Malabar. In 1867, he became Acting Judge, Court of Small Cases, Thalassery,and Acting Civil and Sessions Judge,Thalassery, and afterwards,Kozhikode,in 1868.He went to London on leave for two years,in 1869, to return to Thalassery as, Judge,Court of Small Cases.Then he became acting Collector and Magistrate, Malabar, before moving to Guntur,Vellore and Salem.He took leave for two years in 1876, and on return,became Resident.Every British Trading Factory had a Surgeon attached to it,and King would have begun his career at Thalassery Factory, because,after joining the Indian Medical Service in 1874, he was in the Military for two years, meaning he reached Malabar, three years after Hannyngton left.Both Hannyngton and King, were geniuses, King 16 years younger,and it is not clear who handed over whom,and whether the Nair partner of Kurumbi had any role in the entire affair,or whether Hannyngton' s son Frank met Kurumbi when he was Assistant Collector in Malabar. But, it is certain that her life was much more robust than that of her partners! The family still has a couple of letters from Hannyngton.Patrick,Hannyngton's son,who became Commissioner of Police in Madras(1913)was born at Thalassery on 14 October 1871.

John Caulfield
Edavalath Kakkat Krishnan married,Kurumbi's daughter, Devi Krishnan(1864-1941),after becoming a Judge at 42,and she was 23 years younger to him.He had a first wife Kalyani and from both,he had 19 children,including Rao Bahadur E K Govindan,from Kalyani.Govindan became Agent Governor General of India,and Dewan of Pudukottai,later.Krishnan(1841-1907),after studies in the Provincial School,Kozhikode,entered Government service as English Writer of Civil Court,Thalassery in 1861.He became Malayalam Translator in Madras High Court in 1864, and passed BL next year.He was appointed Sub Judge in 1883,retiring in 1896.He was re appointed as Deputy Collector of Malabar in 1899,retired in 1901,to become Chairman of the Thalassery Municipality.

If Frank was a Lepidopterist,Krishnan wrote,Birds of Malabar and Birds of Thalassery,apart from,Life of Churia Cannan.He was very close to the first Malayalam Novelist,O Chandu Menon,and it was Krishnan who planted the century old Rain tree in the Thalassery cricket stadium,where the famous EK brothers of Edathil played some of their historic matches. 

Kuruvayi House of Kurumbi/Courtesy: Premnath T Murkoth

Matha becomes Martha and marries Fewkes

According to Prabha Stoneham,great grand daughter of E K Krishnan, and daughter of Cricketer Ambalavattath Haridas, former Chief Engineer, Kerala PWD, Martha, second child of Kurumbi from Hannyngton,younger sister of Devi, was adopted by James Austin Sausman and wife Elizabeth of Madras, around 1865, as a baby. Sausman was Superintendent of Monegar Choultry in Madras,"which offered shelter, food and raiment to the poor, lame, halt and blind of Madras,without reference to caste".  Matha, at that time,was a popular Thiyya name of Malabar.In all probability, it was christened to Martha, during baptism. Martha married Josiah Fewkes,a bank clerk of Madras in 1886, at the Baptist Chapel in Madras. Martha was 21 and Fewkes, 26. Their son, Harold Arthur Fewkes was born in March 1888 (death 1950). Martha died few days after a daughter was born in July, 1889.The baby girl died in August, of,diarrhea. The Kuruvayi family still preserves a letter written by Fewkes to Krishnan, his brother in law,informing him of the death of Martha.Fewkes sent a telegram after Martha's death  from Royapuram on 08 July, 1889, to Krishnan,who was in Kozhikode. Martha was 24. The family has a letter  from John Hannyngton too.

Telegram on Martha

Fewkes remarried in March 1891.Harold was baptized only in 1894.

E K Raghavan,after clearing FA from Victoria College,Palakkad, was sent by his step uncle Dr Govindan King to Burma.He got a job in Survey Department of Burma,in Rangoon and he kept the King connection alive.Here is a picture of Dr King,taken in 1907 at the studio of D A Ahuja,in Rangoon.

A Butterfly comes to roost on Sugarcane

Janaki Ammal
Edavalath Kakkat Janaki Ammal(1897-1984), daughter of Krishnan,loved sugar canes and bamboos more,developing their hybrid varieties. She grew up in the large house,Edathil, by the sea in Thalassery.She studied at the Queen Mary's College in Madras and Presidency College and had a passion for Cytogenetics. She taught at Women's Christian College, with sojourn as a Barbour Scholar at University of Michigan, from where she did her Masters in 1925. She came back to India as Professor of Maharaja's College of Science in Thiruvananthapuram, and after two years, joined as Geneticist at Sugarcane Breeding Institute,Coimbatore.She became asst Cytologist at John Innes Horticultural Institute, London, Cytologist, Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley and Nehru invited her in 1951 to re organize the Botanical Survey of India,as its Director General.

She continued her research on sugarcane and egg plant, collected various medical plants from the rain forests of Kerala. She headed the Central Botanical Lab at Allahabad, Regional Research Lab,Jammu,before settling down at Madras in 1970, as Emeritus Scientist at Centre for Advanced Study in Botany, Maduravoyal, doing field work, until her death in 1984. She co authored, The Chromosome Atlas of Cultivated Plants. Vinita Damodaran, of Sussex University has written a wonderful paper,Gender, Race and Science in Twentieth Century: E K Janaki Ammal and the History of Science.

Birds,bamboos and butterflies in one family.Frank Hannyngton(1874-1919), was the youngest child of Hannyngton. He passed ICS in 1897, was Assistant Collector in South Arcot, as well as Malabar.As Commissioner of Coorg in 1912, he was more interested in the butterflies there and published a paper on them in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society; as Post Master General in Bengal, he sent collectors into the Chumb Valley to know more about butterflies.There he found a new species of butterfly which he sent to Andrey Avinoff, who named the species, after Frank, as, Parnassius hannyngtoni. Andrej Nikollejewitsch Avinoff (1884-1949), the Russian Entomologist,was one of the world's greatest butterfly collectors,and Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History for 20 years.Frank also made collections of butterflies of Kumaon.He married Magdeleine, daughter of Col Willoughby Edward Gordon Forbes,in 1905. He died in Bombay and was in the executive committee of the Natural History Society, till his death.


1.Early History of Soybean and Soyfoods Worldwide 1024 BCE-1899/William Shurtieff,Akiko Aoyagi
2.The Shaping of Indian Science 1914-1947,Vol 1 
3.Notes From A Diary,Kept Chiefly in Southern India 1881-1886/Sir Mountstuart E Grant Duff 
4.I am indebted to Premnath T Murkoth,for the pictures of the Kings,Kuruvai House,the telegram on Martha & a lot on the Kerala roots.

© Ramachandran 



  1. Wonderful compilation f Tellicherry connected History.Great facts

  2. good , atlast the photos of KINGS and Kuruvai House

  3. Dr.Janaki if remember correctly was the Vice Chancellor of the J&K university?Pl.check

    1. Officer on special duty at Regional Research Lab,J & K.

    2. It means she was the convener of the search committee to find a VC.

    3. What period was Janaki Ammal at the Regional Research Lab in J&K. I visited there in the 1960s when Dr. K. Ganapathi was the director of the lab. It is possible there are still some young people who remember her.

    4. 1962. She was OSD. Before that she was the first director of the Central Botanical Laboratory at Allahabad.

  4. Good piece. Glad to see a picture of the Kuruvey House finally. Mentioned often in a few 100 year old diaries kept by Janaki's sister.
    Shamini ( somewhere down the Hannyngton family) line)

  5. My God !!!
    I heard of Janaki Ammal when I was an school student (One Mr. Kandoth, an LIC agent told about her). I was searching for the details about her, and landed in this page. Amazing ! Amazing....

  6. Thanks, Ramachandran for this well researched, interesting piece.

  7. Wonderful work. Thank you sir

    I want to know more about these families.

  8. Janaki Ammal was a woman ahead of her times. She coauthored 'the chromosome diary of cultivated plants', researched for making sugarcane sweeter, participared in protecting the sacred heritage of the silent valley and was one of the first women scientist in India to get a Ph.D from Michigan University is no mean achievement. And, all this achieved in the early 21st century. As she believed 'it will be my work that will speak for me'
    Gender, community was of no consequence to her or her family.

  9. Excellent piece of information. Her name is given as E.K Janaki in Mitavadi when she cleared matriculation. But in all other works, her name is given Janaki Ammal. I have written an article in a journal under University of Kerala. I would like to know more about E.K. Krishnan, JanakiAmma's father.

  10. Sir , read with great interest you excellent blog post on Janaki Ammal . I note the references to Dr W G King . Since i am interested in the career of Dr King , would it be possible to where i can find the biographical details of Dr Kings life .


  11. 1.

  12. Thank you sir .. Your Blog seems to be the only one with Dr Kings picture and details of his Burmese sojourn . Info on sources would be helpful since i'm attempting a Wikipedia entry on Dr King . Regards Ravi




The Amazing Life of a Thiyya Woman S he shared three males,among them a British Resident and a British Doctor.The Resident's British ...