Saturday 25 May 2013

When Munro became Munrolappa

One of the most outstanding achievements of any human being is when his name is perpetuated by people who respectfully take his name and also name their children after him.
There are only a handful of  such people in India and one among them is perhaps the first foreigner and the first Britisher to see Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru seated in his Brindavana and also talk to him in 1800. (Raghavendra Swamy entered Brindavana in 1691).  He is also the man who banned people from eating Tirupathi parasada with their bare hands at the holy town in Andhra Pradesh  and forbade the custom only to revere it later after he began suffering from acute stomach ache.
His stomach ache was miraculously cured after he reversed his order on eating Prasada. He is none other than Major-General Sir Thomas Munro, (May 27, 1761 – July 6, 1827).
A  Scottish soldier and colonial administrator, he joined service in the East India Company as an Army officer and fought both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.  However, he is even today remembered not as a soldier or an a man who spoke to Rayaru but as an outstanding administrator and a superb civil servant who introduced the ryotwari system in agriculture which continues to this day.
Born to a merchant named Alexander Munro, he was educated at
at the University of Glasgow. While at school, young Thomas was came to be known for his mild manners, courage and presence of mind. A robust boy, he easily surpassed all his school mates in athletics. At school, he came to be known as a boxer.
In 1799, he was appointed to an infantry cadetship in Madras. He served with his regiment during the hard-fought war against Hyder Ali (1780–1783) and also in the first campaign against Tipu Sultan (1790–1792).  He was then chosen as one of four military officers to administer the region of Barahamahal. This was part of the territory acquired from Tipu and Munro remained in the post for  seven years. He learnt the principles of revenue survey and assessment which he applied throughout the presidency of Madras.
After the death of Tipu in 1799, Munro spent a short time restoring order in south Karnataka; and then for another seven years (1800–1807) he was in charge of the northern districts ceded to the British by the Nizam of Hyderabad, where he introduced the Ryotwari system of land revenue.
He then left to England and came back to India in 1814 with special instructions to reform the judicial and police systems. When the Pindari War broke out in 1817, he was appointed as brigadier-general to command the reserve division formed to reduce the southern territories of the Peshwa.
In 1820, he was appointed as Governor of Madras, where he founded systems of revenue assessment and general administration. These systems continue even today and he is fondly regarded as the father of the farmer friendly Ryotwari system.
When Munro was the Collector of  Bellary, the Madras Government in 1800 ordered him to procure the entire income from the Raghavendra Swamy Matha located in Manthralaya village. Munro asked the Revenue officials to comply with the order but when they failed to do so, he himself visited the Matha.
Munro removed his hat and shoes and entered the Matha.  He stood before the Brindavana and Raghavendra Swamy conversed with him for sometime about the resumption of endowment.
The venerable Madhwa saint was visible and audible only to Munro who also received the Manthrakshathe.
Munro then went back and wrote an order favouring the Matha. This order and notification was published in the Madras Government Gazette in Chapter XI and page 213, with the caption ``Manchali Adoni Taluka. This order is still preserved in Fort St. George and Manthralaya.
Coming back to his administrative achievements, Munro earned renown for his compassion and innovative schemes when he was principal collector of  the Ceded districts from 1800 to 1807. He  then had his headquarters at Anantapur. He took over office on November 1, 1800 and he had four able assistants or sub collectors-Alexander Stodart who worked from Kadapa, James Cochrane from Harapanahalli, William Thackeray, father of novelist Theckeray who is the author of Vanity Fair, from Adoni and James Ravenshaw from Kambam. Maj Gen Dugald Campell was appointed Commander of the Ceded districts.
It was during this time that Munro evolved a policy towards the local chieftains or poligars.
Under the ryotwari system, the entire cultivated area was surveyed and this process was begun in 1802 and completed in 1807. Each field was surveyed, numbered and the name of the holder registered. The land revenue was directly collected from them, thus making the ryots owners of the land. The ryot was at liberty to sublet, rent or lease his piece of land. As long as he paid his dues, he could not be ejected from his land or displaced. Before cultivation commenced in 1802, Munro made advances to the ryots for purchasing seeds, agricultural implements, bullocks and repair wells and dig new ones. When heavy rains breached more than 100 tanks in the Ceded districts in 1803, Munro went ahead with relief and rehabilitation measures without waiting for government approval. He repaired damaged and breached tanks and lakes. The repairs were so timely that in 1804, there was a bumper crop and the government collected 100 per cent revenue.
Munro to the Indians then came across as a man with deep concern for the common man. He left an indelible impression on several score families. Many people liked him and called him father. His tale of generosity, magnanimity and deep concern so grew that people compared him to a divine being. Even today, rustic people in and around Anantapur and areas that formed part of the Ceded districts sing ballads remembering Munro and his everlasting contribution.
If his conversation with Raghavendra Swamy made him a legend, the blessings of Srinivasa in Tirupathi made him into a demi god. Munro’s name is also associated with two other temples-Kadiri Lakshminarayanaswamy in Ananthapur district where he wanted to attach lands of the temple and Narasimhaswamy temple at Gangapur in Kadapa.
People of the ceded districts believed him to an incarnation of Mandava Rishi and began naming their sons as Munrolappa. Even today, that name stands. Check out the Ceded districts and you are sure to come across thousands of Munrolappa. All their names owe their origin to Munro. This is how Munro became Munrolappa.
How many politicians in Indian today, barring film stars and cricket players, can claim to have such a distinction. Politicians should read about Munro and learn from his achievements. The stocks of politicians in India has sun so low that few would like to name their children after them and fewer would prefer to be associated with them.              

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