Sri Kerala Varma, Valiya Koil Thampuran of Kilimanoor Palace, celebrated his 100th birthday this year on May 31st, at his residence in Bangalore, where he has been residing for the past 67 years.
Born to Sri Vasudevan Namboodiri and Smt. Cherukutty Thampuratti of Kilimanoor Palace, he enjoyed a quiet, peaceful childhood, amidst the luscious green of paddy fields and coconut groves that belonged to the Kilimanoor royal family. He was a diligent student at the Government School, and after Matriculation went to Thiruvananthapuram to enroll for the B.Sc. course at Maharaja’s College.
In 1939 he married Princess Lalithamba Bayi of the royal family of Travancore, and thereafter discontinued his studies.
He was proficient in horse riding, tennis, and swimming. He had a flair for painting, which is not surprising, as he is the grand-nephew of Raja Ravi Varma. He continued to paint till his 84th year, making portraits and landscapes in oils and sketches in charcoal.
In 1949, he decided to take his wife and family of four young daughters to Bangalore, so that the children would have a good education. It was a bold step, for in those days the royal family members had to stay within the palace, and be content with the lessons that the governess was supposed to provide. It was a step for which his children would always be grateful, for it gave them an opportunity to live life like ordinary citizens of the country.
He was a successful entrepreneur, for he started his own small scale industry in Bangalore, Hindustan Machine Components, and later became Chairman of Hindcomp Pvt. Ltd as well. He continued to manage HMC until his son Balagopal Varma, returned from USA to take over management of the company. A philanthropist who has helped many patients in need of life saving operations, and many in financial difficulties, he found satisfaction in being a member of the Rotary Club. Widely travelled, he has a broad and charitable outlook on life.
Today, as he looks back over the eventful years of his life, the only regret that he has is that his wife, Princess Lalithamba Bayi, who passed away on November 7th 2008, is not with him to celebrate his birthday.