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Thachil Mathoo Tharakan

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Thachil Mathoo Tharakan (1741–1814) played a key role in Kerala/Travancore/Cochin History towards the latter part of the Eighteenth century and early Nineteenth century.

Trader and exporter

Mathoo belonged to Alengad, near North Kuthiathode, in the present Paravur Taluk of Ernakulam District, Kerala, India. He was born into a well-to-do family. His father was a "Karyasthan" (minister) of the King of Alangad (Alangad Karthavu), a native state which was later annexed by Travancore, another native state. Mathoo had a comfortable childhood. However, when his father died early, the fortune that he inherited made him a spend-thrift, and he literally squandered everything that he got. Although he thus became a pauper, the friends that he made during that period later took him to a position unimaginable to the members of his Christian community then. His powerful friends included Captain Eustachius De Lannoy, the Dutch commander who became head of the Travancore Army, and Colonel Munro, who was the representative of the British East India Company and later British Resident of Travancore and political agent of Cochin Rajah. Through such friends he not only set up a highly successful trade, but also got introduced to the Kings of Travancore and Cochin.

Mathoo Tharakan thus became a leading trader and influential Christian leader, from among the Syrian Christians of Kerala, India. The title 'tharakan' is granted by the King to indicate 'a noble trader'. Mathu Tharakan was a timber and spices merchant and was reportedly the first timber exporter from Southern India. He helped Dewan Raja Kesavadas in building the Alappuzha port. He controlled the exports from Alappuzha and Cochin ports.

Minister of Travancore

Mathu Tharakan was Commerce Minister to Dharma Raja and Maharajah Balarama Varma of Travancore (the biggest post ever handled by a native Christian in any of the Indian Princely States). His best years were during the reign of Dharma Raja, when Raja Kesavadas was the Dewan. However, during the following period of Jayanthan Sankaran Nampoothiri's Dewanship, there was an uprising and revolt engineered by Velu Thampi Dalawa. This led to Velu Thampi becoming the Dalawa (Prime Minister) in 1801. Velu Thampi Dalawa punished Mathu Tharakan (his nose and ears were cut and he was exiled from Travancore) considering Tharakan's friendship with the former Dewan and British Resident. He ordered confiscation of Mathoo Tharakan's landholdings and assets alleging that Mathu Tharakan had to pay huge revenue arrears to the Government of Travancore. This order was later cancelled by the British Resident. Mathu was offered refuge by King Sakthan Thampuran of Cochin who also symbolically gave him a golden ear. Velu Thampi's subsequent revolt against the British led to Velu Thampi's suicide in 1809 in Mannadi Temple, Adoor.

Social and religious leader

The Udayamperoor Synod (Synod of Diamper) held by the Portuguese in 1599 to Latinize the indigenous Christian liturgy led to the Koonan Kurisu Declaration/revolt (Coonan Cross Oath) in 1653. As a result, the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Christians separated from the Syrian Catholics in Kerala. Nearly a century later, Thachil Mathoo Tharakan made attempts at reunion of the Christian communities. But his efforts were apparently thwarted by the Portuguese. His efforts had the support of Bishop Joseph Kariattil of the Syrian Catholics and of Bishop Mar Dionysius I of the Jacobite faction. But Bishop Kariattil's death in Goa and Rome's silence, ultimately led to the Jacobites remaining separate as Jacobite Syrian Christians and the Syrian Catholics accepting the jurisdiction of the Latin Bishops in India. He was actively involved in organising the historic journey of Mar Joseph Kariyatty and Paremmakkal Thoma Kathanar to Rome in 1782 for representing before the Pope the grievances of the Syrian Catholics.


  • Thachil Mathu Tharakante Thankakompan (Malayalam) by K M Varghese, Manorama, Kottayam (1927)
  • Thachil Mathu Tharakante Suvarna Kamalam (Malayalam) by John Peter Thottam, Kalavilasini, Trivandrum (1933)
  • Francis Thonippara, 'Saint Thomas Christians of India--a period of struggle for unity and self-rule, 1775-1787.
  • M.O. Joseph Nedumkunnam, Thachil Mathu Tharakan, (Malayalam) Kottayam, NBS, 1962.
  • Thachil Mathu Tharakan by C C Lonappan Ookken (1966)

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