Born: 16 April 1813, Travancore (Kerala)
Death: 27 December 1846
For his work: Maharaja of Travancore, composer and writer
Swathi Thirunal Ram Varma was the king of the ancient princely state of Travancore. Along with this, he was also a great patron of ancient Indian Shastri music and himself a Siddhastha musician. He also gave place to many famous musicians in his court, which shows his special love for music.
Swathi Thirunal ruled as Maharaja of Travancore from the year 1829 to the year 1846. Although he himself was particularly familiar with South Indian Carnatic music, he encouraged the people and music lovers of his state to adopt the Hindustani music style. He is also credited with producing over 400 musical compositions. Among these compositions are his famous compositions – Padmanabha Pahi, Deva Deva, Sarsijnabha and Shri Raman Vibho.
It is also said about them that they were experts in many indigenous and foreign languages, such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Tamil, Oriya and English etc. Despite being a king, he made an unforgettable contribution in the development of other areas besides special interest in the field of music. The major ones are – Construction of Astronomical Observatory in Thiruvananthapuram, Museum, Zoo, Government Press, Trivandrum Public Library (now also known as State Central Library), Oriental Manuscript Library and various other famous establishments etc.
Swathi Thirunal Ram Varma was born on 16 April 1813 in the ancient state of Travancore (present-day Kerala state) of South India. These were the second children of Maharani Gowri Laxmi Bai and Rajaraja Varma. He was raised in the palace of Changanassery in Koyithampuran. His elder sister’s name was Rukmini Bai and younger brother’s name was Uthram Thirunal Martand Verma. His mother died two months after the birth of his younger brother. At this time Swathi Thirunal was only 17 months old. His mother’s sister (aunt) Gowri Parvati Bai took charge of the state until she grew up. He was crowned at the age of 14 and took charge of the state. At that time both his father and aunt were well educated, who paid special attention to their education and initiation.
He started learning Sanskrit and Malayalam at the age of six and English at the age of seven. By the time he was young, he had mastered several languages, such as Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Hindustani, Telugu, Marathi, English, Persian and Sanskrit etc. Apart from languages, he also took great interest in grammar, poetry and drama at a young age. As a learned king, he gave special importance to art, culture and music in his kingdom.
Shri Swathi Thirunal Ram Verma was married at a young age, but his first wife soon died. After this, he was married to Thiruvattar Ammachi Panapillai Amma Smt Narayani Pillai Kochamma, who belonged to Thiruvattar Ammavidu family. His second wife was a Carnatic-style singer and a skilled veena player. A son was born to these two, whose name was Thiruvattar Chithira Naal Ananth Padmanabhan Champakaraman Thampi. In the year 1843, Swathi Tirunal got her third marriage with Sundar Lakshmi Ammal, daughter of Mudaliar, who was displaced from Trivandrum. Sundar Lakshmi was also known as Sugandhavalli, she was a dancer. It is also said that Thirunal’s second wife did not recognize this third marriage, so Sugandhavalli left for Travancore. Because of which Thirunal was very sad. In this context, it is also said that Thirunal could not bear this virah and due to this he died in the year 1846 due to a heart attack at a young age of 33 years.
Life dedicated to music and art
Seeing the history of the life of Shri Swathi Thirunal Ram Varma, it shows that he had a special love for music since childhood. He thought that music could be made a best medium for mastering different languages. His music education training started under the supervision of Karaman Subramania Bhagwatara and Karaman Padmanabha Bhagwatara. After this, he also got music education from his English teacher Subbarao. Later, he gave special emphasis on listening and practicing himself to the famous musicians of the time to learn music.
This was the time when music and other arts were flourishing in different parts of South India in their early forms. Renowned as the trio of Carnatic music at that time, Tyagaraja, Shyama Shastri and Muthuswamy Dixitar were making their special contribution in promoting music in South India. At that time, in the court of Swathi Thirunal, often many famous musicians and artists used to perform their arts. Prominent among them were the quartet of four famous brothers from Thanjavur, Kannaiah Bhagwatar, a disciple of Tyagaraja, Maharashtrian singer Ananthapadmanabh Goswami and other contemporary artists of the same kind.
Their contribution in the rise of Indian music
Swathi Thirunal has made his matchless contribution in advancing Indian music. He himself composed more than 500 songs. In addition, he has