Kavalam Madhava Panikkar

(3 June 1895 – 10 December 1963 / Kingdom of Travancore (Kerala) / India)

Biography of Kavalam Madhava Panikkar

Kavalam Madhava Panikkar poet

Sardar Kavalam Madhava Panikkar (or K. M. Panikkar) was an Indian scholar, journalist, historian, administrator and diplomat. He was born to Puthillathu Parameswaran Namboodiri and Chalayil Kunjikutti Kunjamma in the Kingdom of Travancore, then a princely state in the British Indian Empire on June 3,1895.

Early Life and Education

Panikkar completed his basic studies at Kottayam and Madras and then read history at Christ Church, University of Oxford. After Oxford, Panikkar read for the bar at the Middle Temple, London.

He was the first president of the Kerala Sahitya academy. After his studies, Panikkar travelled to Portugal and Holland to research the involvement of these countries with Malabar, the results of which were published in the books Malabar and the Portuguese (1929) and Malabar and the Dutch (1931).


On returning to India, he first taught at the Aligarh Muslim University and later at the University of Calcutta. He turned to journalism in 1925 as editor of the Hindustan Times.

For the next 20 years, Panikkar served the Princely States, becoming secretary to the chancellor of the Chamber of Princes. He also served as the foreign minister of the state of Patiala and as foreign minister of Bikaner, and became the dewan of Bikaner in 1944. He served in China until 1952, building a relationship with Chiang Kai-shek, and remaining there through the Communist takeover in 1949 and the following period. He wrote of his experiences in the book In Two Chinas (1955). This period also saw the completion of his work Asia and Western Dominance (1953). He subsequently served as ambassador to Egypt (1952-1953), and France (1956-1959), before a severe stroke forced him to return to India. On recovering, he took up his academic career again, becoming Vice-Chancellor of Jammu and Kashmir University and later of Mysore University. During his political career Panikkar continued to publish articles and poems, and also translated several Greek plays into Malayalam verse. He died in Dec 1963.

Academics and Scholarship

Early on Panikkar had cultivated an interest in Malayalam literature, and was a lifelong friend of the poet Vallathol. He publishing scholarly works extensively and worked on ancient Indian history and more recent historical developments. Cambridge historian Arthur Hassall wrote that in his “long career as tutor of history at Christ Church” he had “never had a more brilliant student”. Panikkar’s interests stretched into diverse fields such as, art, notably novels, poetry & Kathakali and he wrote equally well in both Malayalam and English and published over 50 books and numerous articles.

Panikkar’s interest in European influence on Asia was reflected in his studies of the Portuguese and the Dutch in Malabar (in South India) and especially in his Asia and Western Dominance (1953). In Two Chinas (1955) revealed his sympathy with Communist China.

Kavalam Madhava Panikkar's Works:

Notable Works in English:
Essays on Educational Reconstruction in India (1920)
Sri Harsha of Kanauj: A Monograph on the History of India in the First Half of the 7th Century A. D. (1922)
Indian Nationalism: Its Origin, History, and Ideals (1923)
The Working of Dyarchy in India, 1919-1928 (1928)
The evolution of British policy towards Indian states, 1774-1858(1929)
Malabar and the Portuguese: Being a History of the Relations of the Portuguese with Malabar from 1500 to 1663 (1929)
The founding of the Kashmir state: a biography of Maharajah Gulab Singh, 1792-1858 (1930)
Federal India (1930)
Indian States and the Government of India (1932)
The New Empire: Letters to a Conservative Member of Parliament on the Future of England and India (1934)
The Indian princes in council: a record of the chancellorship of His Highness, the Maharaja of Patiala, 1926-1931 and 1933-1936 (1936)
His Highness the Maharaja of Bikaner: A Biography (1937)
The States and the Constitutional Settlement (1942)
Indian States (1943)
The Strategic Problems of the Indian Ocean (1944)
India through the ages (1947)
Asia and Western Dominance: A Survey of the Vasco Da Gama Epoch of Asian History, 1498-1945 (1953)
A Survey of Indian History (1954)
In Two Chinas: Memoirs of a Diplomat (1955)
The Principles and Practice of Diplomacy (1956)
Voice of truth, a topical symposium: replies to attacks on Christians and Missionaries in India (1957)
India and China: a study of Cultural Relations (1957)
The Determining Periods of Indian History (1958)
A History of Kerala, 1498-1801 (1960)
The State and the Citizen (1960)
Hindu Society at Cross Roads (1961)
Essential Features of India Culture (1961)
In Defence of Liberalism (1962)
India and the Indian ocean: An Essay on the Influence of Sea Power on Indian History (1962)
Studies in Indian History (1963)
The Ideas of Sovereignty and State in Indian political thought (1963)
The Foundations of New India (1963)
The Himalayas in Indian Life (1963)
A Survey of Indian History (1964)
Hinduism & the West: A Study in Challenge and Response (1964)
The Serpent and the Crescent: A History of the Negro Empires of Western Africa (1964)
Lectures on India's Contact with the World in the pre-British Period (1965)
The Twentieth Century (1966)
Caste and democracy & Prospects of democracy in India (1967)
Geographical Factors in Indian History (1969)
An Autobiography (1977)

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