20 Rare  facts of King Serfoji ll (Maharaja of Thanjavur from 1798 to 1832 A.D) in the field of Dance and music 

  1. Swati Thirunal Maharaja of Travancore kept contact with King Serfoji even before he came to the throne and exchanged scholars, musicians, and even their personal compositions. Saint Tyagaraja, Syama Sastrigal, Muthuswami Dikshitar, the musical trinity were the contemporaries of Rajah Serfoji ll. Eminent dance masters like Gangaimuthu, Salapathy, Subbarayan,Mahadana Annachi, Tanjore quartet (four brothers) and Sundari were patronised by Serfoji.
  2. Maharaja Serfoji ll was also called “SARVENDRA RATNADHI PATI” since he was the author of the 72 Volumes of The “SARVENDRA RATNAVLI” a compilation of the immense Knowledge & Wisdom of all the Shastras & Kalaas (Natya Shastra).
  3. King Serfoji ll wrote hundreds of songs in Sanskrit,Telugu,Marathi and all are set to music and dance and recitals.
  4. He is the author of several dance pieces of Alarippu, Jatiswara, Sabadam and Padam. He has composed numberless kavuthuvam,slokavarnam and prabhandas all adopted to Bharatanatyam,Sollukattu,Swaras Jathis and Sathiyas with their respective notations in indian swaras are given for every items with merticulous care.
  5. His collections on bharatanatya dances are the largest in the whole of India. Nowhere in India in one single place can be seen such a huge collections of sampradaya natyam. Such rare types of dances like jakkini, perani, dharupad, desi navadadam and kuravai were in vogue and we have evidence of their being practiced at his court. These type of dances have now become obsolete.
  6. He was also praised by Lord Valentia who visited him in the year 1804 as capable of composing tunes in English. His orchestra comprised of several native and English instruments richly ornamented with diamonds and pearls.
  7. He also composed songs in several Indian languages capable of orchestration in western musical instruments. Maharaja Serfoji also composed tunes in English. He further records as having heard “God save the king” Malbrook played in his orchestra.
  8. His band consist of both European and Indian musical instruments called Tanjore Band.
  9. He composed songs on several Indian languages capable of orchestration in western musical instruments.
  10. Indian tunes and ragas were set to European staff notation fit to be used on his orchestra.They are recorded in several of his music books.
  11. Bharathanatya was then at his peak and several prodigies whose compositions are now considered the best that South India has every produced flourished at his court.
  12. The traditional Bhagavathamela, the oldest type of drama of the south received support at his hand. To the artists of Bhagavathamela of the villages of Saliamangalam, Thepperumanallur, Needamangalam, Serfoji Rajah gave gifts of land and cash.
  13. To many of his chatram Bhagavata melas were attached and provisions were made for them in the chatram.
  14. He patronised poets and scholars at regular intervals.He used to call for vidwat sadas and delighted in hearing extensive poetry, panegrice and discussions on tharka sastra and subjects on music and dance.
  15. Serfoji devoted his attention not only towards revival of serious types of dances but introduced to Thanjavur.Some lighter types of folk dances like modi dance with bag pipes,kanchin naatch and a kind of street dance drama with some adaptations from the kathak dance of north india and dummy horse dance, a kind of folk dance in stills of the nomadix religious mendicants of maharashtra accompanied by sammela kirikatti like twin drum used by gondhalakar of Thanjavur.
  16. Works like kumara Sambava Tika, Mudraraksha Charya, Smriti Iswagraha, Palakappuja and Gaja sastra pradhandam are attributed to his authorship.
  17. Serfoji Rajah invited learned scholars and distinguished poets from different parts of India to adorn his court.He patronised poets and scholars and flooded them with gifts of cash and lands.
  18. He encouraged folk art forms,Such as Kuravanji dance drama,and authored a book called “Devendra Kuravanji”.
  19. Kottaiyur Sivakkolundu Desikar composed the Sarabendra Bhupala Kuravanji, a ‘Natakam’ or dance- drama of the Kuravanji genre. In praise of Serfoji, it was danced by a group of selected Devadasis on festive occasions.
  20. A palace dancer of his period whose name became a legend was Veenabhashini Ammal. She is supposed to have been the Rajamohini or princess in performances of the Kuravanji in Thanjavur. The gurus of the Thanjavur palace also directed the ‘Manmatha Nataka’ in the temple on special occasions. Artists were flourished. His permanent gift to the Tamil tradition is the vast collection of manuscripts housed in the Sarasvati Mahal Library, an adjunct of the Thanjavur palace. Serfoji himself composed many songs for dance, and lent his name as a signature to compositions by court musicians.

Reference: Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoji’s Sarasvati Mahal Library (TMSSML).

        Canvas Painting of King Serfoji ll in Saraswati Mahal library of size 10*12 feet.This painting is a copy of the original which was drawn in 1908 and retouched in 1947.This painting was brought from Mukhamba Chatham School at Orthanadu in 1992.

        Artists performing in front of King Serfoji ll. Gouache on mica. Trichinopoly style (c.1850) Courtesy: British Library.
        Ivory violin gifted to Vadivelu (one of the brothers in the list of Tanjore quartet) by Swati Thirunal Maharajah in 1834 A.D © Photo Courtesy: Pratap_rpb.
        Maharaja Swati Thirunal of Travancore.

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