September 14, 2017

Sir Thomas Munro - The Desi Videshi

Sir Thomas Munro - this man was not born in India, but he was truly an Indian by heart.  He was the Governor of Madras Province from 1820 CE to 1827 CE. He was a great reformer and was loved by Indians.

Munro is called as the father of the Ryotwari system. The Zamindari system of Bengal was followed across India. In that system, the Zamindars were given the task of collecting revenues. Munro felt that it was not suitable for South India. He introduced Ryotwari system in which the taxes for agricultural land were directly collected from the land owners. (The land owners were called as Ryots).

In his earlier days, Munro had served in the army and fought against Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali.

When Munro served as the Collector of Bellary earlier, Sri Raghavendra Swami appeared to him and gave details about the land of Mantralaya Mutt. It should be noted that Swamiji was not alive and had died around 130 years before. This incident is recorded in the Madras Government Gazette.

It is said that Munro was a great devotee of Lord Balaji of Tirupati. He gifted a vessel to the temple, which is used to offer Pongal prasad even today. The vessel is called as Munro Gangalam. He made arrangements for the revenue to flow from a village to the temple so that Pongal prasad would be offered everyday. The tradition is still followed in the temple.

It is said that many of the Indians named their children as Munrolappa in those days.

Munro died of cholera on 6th July 1827 CE. He was buried at Gooty in Andhra Pradesh. The Governor's Council in Madras decided to have a bronze statue of Munro. Francis Chantrey, the English sculptor, was entrusted with the task of making the statue. The work began in 1828 CE and the sculptor took more than ten years to complete the task. The magnificent Munro statue which is weighing about six tonnes was ultimately brought to India and was opened to public view on 23rd October 1839 CE. Holiday was declared on that day. The public gathered in large number on this occasion and offered their love and respect to their beloved leader.

The Munro Statue is located in Anna Salai in the Island area. This magnificent statue attracts a lot of visitors and has found a permanent place in the itinerary of Chennai travel right from the 19th century CE.

The statue has Munro seated on a horse without saddle and stirrup. Due to this, this statue has been criticized a lot. Even the way how Munro has placed his sword on his foot has been made fun of. Nevertheless, this remains a major landmark of the original Madras.

Happy travelling.

1 comment:

  1. Ellis and Sankaraia had delivered a Treatise on Mirasi Rights, where in they discussed the kaani aatchi காணி ஆட்சி system of Tamilnadu very different from the zamindari system of the north, which was mostly a persian formulation. Munro wrote a Minute, which argued for overturning the Ellis system (more accurately kaani aatchi) for Munro's ryotwari system

    I think Ellis was right, and Munro was wrong. I wonder if there is much scholarly debate on this issue.