Recherches en cours

Water, State, and People in Princely Travancore

Résumé :

The doctoral research work titled ‘Water, State, and People in Princely Travancore’ will probe the hydrological relationship between the rulers, their subjects, and religion – taking the case of the princely state of Travancore (encompassing areas that are part of the present-day states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu), from the mid-eighteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. The time frame of the work spans from the establishment of modern Travancore to the abolition of the monarchy and the linguistic reorganisation of Indian states in 1956. This research will elucidate the ways in which water became a tool in the process of state-building in Travancore. It will analyse the role of water in giving theocratic legitimacy to the state through rituals concerning water and other related traditions. This is apart from the varied ways in which water resources were managed and distributed in society. There will be considerable focus on the agency of the people amidst their historical experiences related to agriculture, folk traditions, and disaster resilience. The work will also analyse the contestations between the princely state and the colonial state over water resources in a condition of political asymmetry. In sum, this work will aim to examine Travancore in terms of a hydraulic state and society.


Mots clés : Water, Travancore, Urban Water Management, Agriculture, Princely States, Contestations, Colonial India
Directrice de recherche : 
Dr. John Bosco Lourdusamy

Principale activités :

  • My current research focuses on the following aspects majorly with regard to the princely state of Travancore, c. 1700-1950.
  • Contestations over Water resources and fluid ecologies in Colonial India Religious Underpinning of Urban Water Management
  • Rice Land Reclamation from Backwaters for Food Security Main publications and communications

Conference Papers:

  • A paper titled Land Reclamation and Energy: Historical Analysis of the Socio-Political Processes of Backwater Paddy Cultivation in Travancore State in Colonial India was presented at the 32nd Annual Conference of World History Association at the University of Pittsburgh, USA during 22-24 June 2023.
  • A paper titled From Divine to Public: Colonial transition of Urban Water Management in a Princely Capital was presented at The British Society of the History of Science PG Conference held at University of Oxford, UK during 30 March – 01 April 2023.
  • A paper titled ‘Water, Knowledge, and Princely State: The Role of Information in Water Contestations in Colonial India’ was presented at the Two-day International Conference on Information Infrastructure of Social Science Research in India held at Institute of Development Studies Kolkata, India during 02-03 March 2023.
  • A paper titled ‘Colonial Tactics in Tapping the Blue Gold: The Case of Kalathi Samban Dam in the Princely Travancore’ was presented at the 7th Annual International Session of Kerala History Congress held at Government Brennen College, Thalassery, India, during 27-29 January 2023.
  • A paper titled ‘Management of Irrigation Channels and Colonial Subordination of a Princely State: The Case of Kalangathakandi Channel in Travancore’ was presented at the 81st Session of Indian History Congress held at Madras Christian College, Chennai, India, during 27-29 December 2022.
  • A paper titled ‘Fluid Ecologies, Sovereignty and Colonialism: Princely Contestations for Riverine Islands in Colonial India’ was presented at the 23rd Congress of the International Association for Hydro Environmental Engineering and Research – Asia Pacific Division organised at IIT Madras, Chennai, India during 14-17 December 2022.


  • Sudhindranath, M., & Lourdusamy, J. B. (2023). Fluid Ecologies, Sovereignty, and Colonialism: Princely contestations over riverine islands in colonial India. Shima17(2), 7–34. 10.21463/shima.208
  • S, Mahendranath. (2023). Establishment of European Plantations in Travancore: A land concession and subordination of a princely state. Proceedings of the South Indian History Congress, 41(2023)


  • Statut Ph.D. Research Scholar
  • Rattachement institutionnel RWTH Aachen University
  • Discipline Histoire
  • Contact mahehist[at]