efflorescence of art has always been the best means not merely of the
expression but of thepreservation and perpetuation as well, of the cultural
progress of a State. Rather than through theachievements of the industrial
or utilitarian arts as practised by the artisans, it is through the masterpieces
fine art produced by the artist, that the cultural greatness of a nation is gauged and its cultural legacytransmitted from generation to generation. The manifestation of the aesthetic sense through the plastic,graphic or rhythmic arts into something exquisite, in symmetry of shape or beauty of form, magic of wordor colourfulness of sight, melody of sound or rhythm of movement, services to delight the visual or auditory impression. And the thing of beauty that it becomes, proves a joy for ever and to one that comes to love
it, "Its loveliness increases; It will never pass into nothingness". It makes life sweet and the world beautiful to live in.The period 1750 to 1850 was the Augustan age of South India. Swathi Thirunal, Thyagaraja,Dikshitar and Syama Sastri flourished during the period. Maharaja Swathi Thirunal died in his 34th year,but during the short period of his life, he put Kerala on the cultural map of the world. The fascinating storyof the achievements of a young Maharajah who squeezed into the short span of his life the work of an age,
is an instructive commentary on the meaning and significance of authentic eminence which transcends thelimitations of time and space. The tranquil consciousness of effortless superiority of a mastermind isdiscernible in the crowded programme of an eventful reign.Travancore providentially escaped the change of annexation in 1810 by the decision of the paramountpower to instal the talented queen Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bai as the Ruler of the State. The absence of amale heir to the Throne, which alone guaranteed security against the application of the doctrine of lapse,was keenly felt by the people, and more by the queen.The anxiety was soon allayed by the announcement on 16th of April 1813 that the Queen wasblessed with a male offspring. The people of Travancore were jubilant over the event, the British Residentoffered a Silver umbrella to Sree Padmanabha in commemoration of the happy event.
Soon after the birth of the Prince, a white elephant was caught from the forests of the State and thiswas regarded by the people as a very auspicious sign. On the 29th July 1813, the Prince who was only 4months old, was duly proclaimed Maharaja. A Durbar was held in 1814 when the infant Prince wasformally introduced to his subjects. The queen mother continued to rule in the name of her son. On herdemise Rani Parvathi Bai, her sister became the Regent. The young Maharani, the Valiakoyi Thampuran,and Col. Munroe, the British Resident, who was also the Dewan, decided to give the prince the besteducation possible at that time. The father himself being a scholar, selected competent teachers to impartinstruction to the Prince. The precocious Prince amazed his tutor, his father and all those who came incontact with him by his easy grasp not only of the language but of the other subjects, as well.Col. Welsh, who visited the State first in 1819 and later in 1825 has left a memorable account of theimpressions he had formed about the education of the Princes in his book 'Military Reminiscences'.
He says :"Being on a tour of inspection during the month of May (1825), and stopping to pass a few days atthe Residency, with Colonel Newall, I had the opportunity of witnessing the studies of the young Rajahs inprivate, and forming an estimate of their progressive acquirements and abilities....... The elder boy, now thirteen, seemed greatly improved in mind though rather diminutive in person.He read a chapter of Macolm's 'Central India'; the Governor General's Persian Letter on the capture of Rangoon; a passage inSanskrit; another in Malayalam, and seemed equally clever at each. He then took up a book of Mathematicsand selecting the 47th proposition of Euclid, sketched the figure on the country slate but what astonishedme most was his telling us in English that Geometry was derived from the Sanskrit which was jaw meter, tomeasure the earth, and that many of our mathematical terms were also derived from the same source, suchas Hexagon, Heptagon, Octagon, Decagon, Duo-dacagon etc. This promising boy is now, I conclude,
sovereign of the finest country in India; for he was to succeed to the Muanud, the moment he had attained his 16th year".This accomplished Prince attained his majority on the 20th of April 1829 and on that day he formallyassumed direct charge of the Government of the State.He took over the reigns of Government when he was only 16. During the short period of his reign,he initiated extensive reforms in almost every Department of administration. A revenue survey and settlementof land was undertaken and completed. Better breeds of cattle were brought from other parts of India and
even from England. A commercial agent was appointed at Alleppey, at that time the Chief Port of Travancore for Trade with foreign countries. The first hospital in the State was organised. A Vaccination Department
and an Engineering Department came in later. The first Code of Regulations after the model of Britishenactments of law was framed. High intergrity was expected from public servants. When his old Tutor,who had become the Dewan, was found guilty of accepting bribes, the young Maharajah did not hesitateto sack him. The first English School run by Government was started by him. The Trivandrum PublicLibrary was founded with a liberal grant from Government. Scholars like Rev. Peet, who wrote a Grammarof the Malayalam language, were encourged by liberal donations. The language of official correspondencewas an unique mixture of Malayalam and Tamil. The maharaja reformed the language as well as the script.He was interested in astronomy and set up the first Observatory in the State with John Allan Brown F.R.S.
as Director. Government Press was organised. One of the first publications from this Press was anAlmanac in English and Malayalam. Painting was given great encouragement and an Artist from Tanjoreand another from Europe were brought to Trivandrum and given all encouragements and full facilities for
carrying on their work. It is in the field of Music and Dance that H. H. has captured the imagination ofIndia, and may I say of the civilised world, though his achievements in the field of administration are equallygreat. It is surprising that he found time amidst his multifarious duties of the state for creative work inliterature, Art and Music. His court could be compared to that of Bhoja and Sree Harsha. He encouragedseveral great Poets and Musicians in his Court.He lived for 34 years and ruled over the State for 18 years. His was a life full of achievements. Hewas a master of 12 languages and composed songs in seven of them, enshrining the sublimest thoughts inreligion and philosophy, an achievement without a parallel in the history of world music. He was one of those who produced perfect types of poetic and musical compositions, uniting in themselves, devotion,poetic gift, and a wide knowledge of "an art which was wedded to Science and a Science that touched thedeepest springs of human emotion." His compositions have sought to reconcile word with melody and often both with the demands of Natya. The scholar and writer Vidwan Koil Thampuran, Iravi Varman Tampi, the consummate composer Kanniah Bhagavathar, a disciple of Thyagaraja, the famous Nattuvabrothers of Tanjore Ponniah, Chinniah, Vadivel and Sivanandam disciples of Dikshitar Tanjore RengaIyengar, a talented Hindustani Musician, Tanjore Chintamani, an expert Sarangi Player, Meruswami, who
introduced Harikatha in Travancore, Sulaiman Sahib, Halawati, Parameswara Bhagavathar, were all thestars that adorned the musical canopy of the Court of H. H. Sri Swathi Thirunal. Endowed with highintellectual qualities, and surrounded by the above mentioned celebrities, nowonder His Highness developedhimself into such a brilliant prodigy in the musical world.His genius is apparent not only in his mastery of the different languages butalso in his composing alltypes of compositions, that we have in South India, like Swarajathi, Tana Varam, Pada Varnam, Krithi,Kirthana, Ragamalika, Padam, Thillanas and even Upakhyanas. His handling of Ragas peculiar to Marathi
and Hindustani, is proof positive of his proficiency in these languages. His devotion to his family deity inconspicuous in his compositions. The sungeetam or Namamudra as Sree Padmanabha, Neelajaksha, orsome other Paryayapadam of Vishnu is the hall mark of most of his compositions. He, however, believedin the universality of the Hindu religion as is evident from his compositions in praise of other deities.Sri Swathi Thirunal, our royal poet and composer lived at a time when the famous musical Trinity ofTanjore Sree Thyagaraja, Dikshitar and Syama Sastri flourished. He ranks with the giant in South India bythe number and variety of his compositions in the different languages. His style combines the excellence of
Aryan and Dravidian Music while avoiding the defects of both. In fact theRoyal composer combines in hisstyle the elegance of Thyagaraja's with the grandeur of Muthuswamy Dikshitar's.The Renaissance in Music in Kerala is thus intimately associated with the memory of a Maharajahwho was a musician among kings and a king among musicians. The devotional songs of classical excellencewhich His Highness composed in Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and other languages embodying sublime sentimentscouched in simple mellifluous langauge and turned to melodious music are rare gems constituting a rich
heritage to humanity.Equally important was the resuscitation of Indian classical dance based on "Natya Sastra". In thesimple purity and resplendant beauty of its from, Dance is no longer a mere device for whetting the jaded
appetite of the idle rich, but is ennobled into a rhythmic movement, made to suit the music of the spheresand to sweeten life with an occasional hour of solace and repose.It is really gratifying to remember that His Highness's contribution has made Natya Kala really comeinto its own in which every motion is a word and every rest is eloquence. Such an artistic background
provided for life in general, lays the proper foundation for the edifice of cultural eminence, for "each art ispart of that greatest of all cultures, the creation of a comprehensive , full and manysided life, which ishumanity's climax and crown, its liberation and salvation".
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