Maharaja Swathi Thirunal was a rare genius. It would be difficult to find a parallel. Like all such men of extraordinary genius he also passed away in his early thirties. Erudite scholar,enviable linguist, rare aesthete, builder of vision, administrator of varied dimensions, conneisseur ofeverything artistic and above all a great poet and composer, Swathy Thirunal compressed into ashort period of 12 years was of the most magnificient achievements of human capability. Generationsafter him have wondered at his miraculous achievements. Scholars havce despaired at the great
heights of glory he had reached. Sahrdayas still continue to be dazzled by the blazing trail of enjoyment of beauty (Soundarya aswadana) left behind by him Swathi Thirunal was born into a family with justifiable pride of ancestry. There wasVeermarthanda Varma who in the midst of his battle worn life, while carving out a whole state called Travancore did not forget to patronise some of the greatest poets of Kerala. Dharmaraja who followed the conquerer was an incomparable scholar. An authority on natyasastra, he found time while fighting the tiger of Mysore on the borders of the state, to sit down and compose several Kathakaliplays, a number of poetic works of merit and to crown them all, a detailed treatise on Natyasastrarenowned by the name of Balarama Bharata. Educated by a galaxy of scholars and aided by thebest private library of the South available in his own palace, Swathi Thirunal had mastered Sanskrit,English, Persian, Hindustani, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada in addition to his mother tongueat the early age of 16, when he ascended the throne and became Maharaja Swathy Thirunal.Although a great scholar and poet in his own right, he is remembered more as a composerBhakthimanjari, a devotional poem consisting of 101 slokas, Syanandoorapura varnanam,a Champudescribing the city of Trivandrum and the reigning deity Sri Padmanabha Swami, Sri Padmanabha Sathakam, another devotionoal poem in praise of Lord Padmanabha, Ajamilopakhyanam,Kuchelopakhyana, two musical pieces for Harikatha performances, Ulsava varnana and an intro-ductionto Prabandham describing the temple festival of Sri Padmanabha Swami and an introductionto Anyopadesa Sathaka. Another lasting work of his is a discourse on the various Prasas used in poetry particularly, the Moolanuprasa and the Anthyakshara Prasa.Swathy Thirunal composed over 500 songs. But so far we have been able to get only 313 of them. There is a common belief that his signature "Padmanabha" is there in all his works. That is not true. There are many compositions of Swathy Thirunal which do not contain that signature. Of the songs that are available 197 are in Sanskrit, 63 in Malayalam, 37 in Hindustani, 8 in Telugu andone in Kannada. In addition he has also composed 5 Thillanas. He has used with eclat rare ragas like Poorvakamodari, Sudhabhairavi, Dyujavanthi, Lalithapanchaka, Malavi and Gopika Vasantha. Some of these however were popular in the Kaathakali literature which was there before him. His Hindustani compositions include Drupat, Khyal, Thyal, Thumri, Gasal and Tharanas. He also adopted from Marathi, ragas like Saki, Bhindi, Ovi, Panchachamara and Kekavali.His kirthanas are all devotional mostly addresssed to his family deity Sri Padmanabha of the 188 Kirthanas composed by him 150 are in Sanskrit, 37 in Hindustani and one in Kannada.So far we have found 65 padas composed oby him for Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam.50 of them are in Malayalam, 10 in Sanskrit and 5 in Telgu. He has also composed 19 Chaukavarnasand 2 Thanavarnas, of the 19 Chaukavarnas, 17 are in Sanskrit, one in Telugu. Every compositionof Swathy Thirunal is distinguished by the choice of the most appropriate words,a regal flow of poetry and a very enjoyable musical quality. When you start singing a composition of his, the intrinsic feature of the raga gets expounded in the very first line. Being a good musician himself he could bring into his works a rare content that any musicologist would envy. Swathy Thirunal was to an extent a contemporary of the great musical composersThyagaraja Swamikal, Muthuswamy Deekshithar and Syama Sastry. While Swathy Thirunal died at the age of 34 in 1847, Thyagaraja Swamikal outlived him by a year and died at the age of 88 in 1848.Muthuswamy Deekshithar died at the age of 60 in 1835 when the Maharaja was 22 years old.Syamasastri died at the age of 64 in 1827 when the Maharaja was only 14. At the time of Swathi Thirunal the most popular compositions in karnatic music were no doubt those of ThyagarajaSwamikal. There is reason to Swamikal's compositions which were also dedicated to Rama, an avathara of Sri Padmanabha.Shatkala Govinda Marar who began as a student of percussion instruments like the Chenta, Thimila and Itakka had to give up that line due to a severed attack of rheumatism. Thereafterhe came to Trivandrum and studied music under Haripad Ramaswamy Bhagavathar and became a great exponent of Thyagaraja's compositions. He met Swathy Thirunal in 1831. The Maharaja was drawn to him like a magnet and honoured him in severeal ways including a presentation of a vaijayanthito be attached to Marar's seven stringed Thampuru. Govinda Marar called on Thyagaraja in 1837. When he offered to sing before Thyagaraja, Thyagaraja was a bit doubtful whether this rheumaticlooking musician from Kerala could sing at all. But when Govinda Marar's music began to flow mellifluously and reach to the heights beyond the then prevalent Thala and Kalaa, the great composer was spell bound. It was Marar's music that inspired the great composer to create his famoous Krithi, Entharo Mahabhavalu and simultaneously sing it for the benefit of Marar. During the period of Thyagaraja and the other great composers we do not find any sig-nificant musical compositions in Tamil. The only one that attracted spontaneous attention was Nandanar Charithram, by Gopalakrishna Bharath. It is significant that we have not so far been able to locate a single song, Kirthana or Pada by Maharaja Swathy Thirunal composed in Tamil . He too must have felt like his great contemporaries, the inadequacy of the Tamil alphabet. Much later pattanam Subramanya Iyyar, Bharatiyar, Papanasam Sivan and others have composed delightfulsongs in Tamil.Sri Rangaramanuja Ayyangar in his " History of South Indian Music from Vedic Times tothe Present" observes that "Maharaja Swathy Thirunal has covered a wide range in patterns ofcomposition, Geeta, Thavarna, Jarati, Ragamalika and Hindustani songs. For sheer variety inlanguages and patterns Swathi Thirunal songs. For sheer variety in languages and patterns SwathyThirunal has no equal. It may be said of him in truth that theory and practice of Carnatic music found their fulfilment in his unfolding.The Maharaja's unique concept of the aesthetics of various ragas are clearly seen in hisfamous Navarathri Kritis. He has chosen the raga with particular case to be in tune with the mood orSankalpa of the Mother in each kriti. Thus his Devi Jagajanani is in Sankarabharana, Pahimam SriVageeswari in Kalyani, Devi Pavane in Saveri, Bharathi Mamava in Thoti, Janani Pahisada in SudhaSaveri Pahi Janani in Nattakurinji and Pahi Parvathanandini in Arabhi.The beginning of the 19th century was the golden age of Thanjavoor. Sharabhoji Maharaj,a great Sahrdaya with a distinguished Marathi lineage was the leading light of the time. His court was crowded with artists of quality, musicians of eminence and scholars of depth. That was the time when the famous tanjavoor quartet, Ponnayya, Chinnayya, Shivandam and Vadivelu, the Nattuvanars of Dasiyattam emerged as the saviours of our national heritage, the bharatanatyamwhich had decayed through centuries of sensuality when the leaders of society were more inter-ested in the artists than in the art form. Dasiyattam, which had during the time of the legendaryMadhavi of Chilapathikaram, driven the Urvasis and Menakas into envious despair, had reached astate of social stigma and condemnation. The four Nattuvanars who could distinguish the woodfrom the trees, decided to cleanse the depraved art from that was Dassiyattam at the time. It was
an uphill task; but their sincerity of purpose attracted the attention of sarabhoji who gave them allthe support necessary. Within a decade thes Thanjavoor quartet rechoreographed the old Dasiyattaaminto the new and delectable Bharatanatyam . They picked and chose students, subjected them tothe severest of discipline and presented them before discerning audiences after prescribing a traditional sequence followed in the performances since than namely, the Alaripu, the Swarajathi,the Sabdam, the varnam, the padas and the Thillana By their effrort, Bharatanatyam the padasthe recaptured its classical stature and its remarkable beauty. The quarte's sudden rise to fameand their privileged position in Sarabhoji's court roused green eyed jealousies. Taleswere carried toSarabhoji who whoo in one of his drunken moods, banished them from his territory. It was indeeda sad fall for the quarte. they had to flee the state. The only place that offered them a refuge wasthe court of Swathi Thirunal. When they arrived there in distress, the Maharaja received them withhonour and gave them every facility to devote themselves to the art.Vadivelu though eswsentially a nattuvanar, had also acquired the facility to play on theviolin, an instrument which was still then used only by the westerners. the Maharaja was im-pressedby this and he showed special consideration to Vadivelu. Vadivelu had come along with hissister and two other girls, one called Sugandhavally and her elder sister. Sugandhavally and her sister had their origin in south Travancore. Their ancesters had moved over to Thanjavore a few decades earlier. there they had got Sugandhavally and her sister trained in Bharatanatyam under Vadivelu. During the presence of Vadivelu and the three girls that the Maharaja got the idea ofrechoreographing Mohiniyattam. Like Dasiyattam in Tamil Nadu, Mohiniyattam of Kerala had over the centuries, undergone considerable decay. Again it was the leaders sof society whose preferencefor the artist to the art form that led to the social ostracisation of Mohiniyattam. At the time of theMaharaja, Mohiniyattam was not considered decent enough to be presented in respectable society.When the Maharaja had learned from Vadivelu and others now they had revitalised the degenerated dasiyattam and recreated an exquisite Bharatanatyam out ofo it, the creative genius in the Maharajaroused itself. He had excellent companions sto stimulate his thought and ideas. They were the grand uncle, Irayimman thampi and the famous poet Kilimanoor Vidwan Koyithampuran, familiarly known as Karindran. Thus a Travancore trio obegan to reincarnate mohiniyattam and give it a respectable form and content. Sugandhavally's mastery of dance.A few years after the death of Sarabhi Sivanandam, Chinnayya, Ponnayya went back to Vadivelu stayed over for some more time. Earlier the had taken Sugandhavally as his second wife. His first had taken Thiruvattattu Narayani Pillai was a distinguished Veena. She was also known for
her beauty. Sugandhavally was only years old when the Maharaja took her as his second wife. She died 4 years later. Vadivelu had hopes that the Maharaja would, in the re-bound, take his sister in place of Suganthavally. That was why he stayed behind. But a year later he realised that the Maharaja was no longer interested inthe pleasure of the flesh. So he went back with his sister to Thanjavoor.The last 5 to 6 years of Swathy Thirunal were years of mental agony and distress. Thenew Britissh Resident, General Cullen was in the hands of an intriguing clerk who aspired to become the Dewan of Travancore. Although it was a sad commentary on a man of General Cullen's standing,it turned oout that Cullen was a mere play thing in the hands of his clerk, Krishna Rao. The resulting intrigues, controversies and the increasing interference of Cullen in the internal affairs of the administration led to a major conflict between the Maharaja and the Resident. The artist in theMaharaja was too sensitive to the outrageous conduct of the thick skinned Cullen. The Maharajabecame despondent and began slowly withdrawing from his administrative responsibilitiess. It wasindeed most unfortunate for the state administration by like the curse3 of Urvasi, it was indeed aboom to the music lovers of the future. It was in his most agonising moments that the Maharaja soughot refuge at the feet of Sri Padmanabha. Some of his most melodious songs came out onsuch occasions in unpremeditated strains of proofound sorrow and sweetness. An example isSarasakshaparipalayamam in Pandvarali.Swathy Thirunal spread his rays of kindness and glory like the sun an everyone aroundhim. They in turn had, lilke the moon, enjoyed othe splendour of that borrowed glory.of music and the choreographer of Mohiniyattam, the indigenous dance form of Kerala.With all the administrative talent available around him, one can imagine the plight of a16 year old lad, when placed in charge as the ruler of a state faced with many problems, social,political and financial. History has recorded that during his reign he had handled thoseproblemswith the sagacity of a far more mature man of wisdom and administrative experince. It was side byside with the first survey and settlement for the whole state, he set up the departments of Publicworks and Irrigation. He modernised the state forces on a par with the British army though limited in numbers. He conducted the first census of Travancore. It was during his time that a comprehensive manual of Laws, both civil and criminal were introduced and several courts of justice established invarious parts of the state to render fair and impartial justice to the opeople. The credit for setting upthe observatory, the museum and the zoo also goes to Swathy Thirunal. Being an avid reader andlover of books, he built the Government press and organised both the public library and the manuscript library. It was during the period when he was busily engaged with all these activities, at a timewhen talent was few, modern education was in its infancy and the attitude of society, far too conser-vativeto absorb the benefits of modern civilisation, that Swathy Thirunal also composed hundreds of lasting works in poetry and music. His Sanskrit works other than musical compositions includes

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