​Hunting and other activities of Maharaja Serfoji ll

Maharajah Serfoji  ll  was fond of hunting and frequently he went on shooting trips.He bagged tigers, deers, boars and birds.He had a number of muskets and guns in his personal armoury brought from Europe.He maintained a half a dozen reserved forests where he went for shikar (hunting). The records show that he shot a number of tigers in the vicinity of Thanjavur and the population gave him enthusiastic orations on his return with the trophies. All his reserved forests were under the control of watchman and supervised by the head of each forest to prevent poaching and unauthorised hunting. He had also a few hunting cheetas trained for hunting deers and boars. The cheetas or leapards were trained in stalking, so that the deer can be caught alive.

A Panther seated at Krishna Vilas garden,Sadar Mahal Palace.This art was done by an German artist Karen Knorr.

He also reared a number of falcons (baj pakshi) which were also trained in hawking smaller games like rabbit, iguana, and birds. He adorned the cheetas and falcons with gold collars and anklets of the legs. Trainers and attenders were appointed to look after them. In order to treat them for illness,he caused arabic and urdu works yujanamah (for cheetas) and bajnamah (for falcons) were translated into marathi for his use.it was recorded that his favouriter falcon was brought from the nawab of devagiri by bhujanga rao, hari rao, his courtier. falcon was a favourite pastime for the kings and nobles of those times. He held competitions and many times he invited european dignitaries and the Thondaman Rajah of pudukottai to witness his cheeta’s and falcon’s hunt.

King Serfoji ll with his favorite falcon

He also  encouraged bullock cart racing and several members of public participated in the competition.The race was known than as ‘Rekhlaw race’ he also got a treatise written on the art of rekhlaw competition called “Hehatula Tumani” in marathi which prescribed rules for the same with details on training and usage during the actual competition. There were many works on presciptions to treat the illness of racing bullocks.

Falcon,one of the birds of King Serfoji ll. The nawab of Udayagiri presented it for the King to Bhujanga Rao and Hari Rao when they were sent to Hyderabad.

One of his another hobbies was gardening. He developed the Shivaganga garden by planting several kinds of trees imported from Europe and some huge trees can be seen in his garden even today. He brought flower and fruit seeds during his wide travels and used them to enrich his gardens. His two other gardens are Huzur mahal and Dastan mahal gardens which were adjacent to his palace and mostly used by the Rajah’s family. There were ponds in the garden stocked with multi coloured fishes. king serfoji  ll  also authored a book on horticulture espeically  on grafting and the usage of fertilizers and soil maintenance.

View of remarkable Banian tree near Tanjore’. Coloured aquatint by J. Wells after a drawing by Capt. Trapaud, 1788

His another hobby was collection of old curious and scientific and usefull articles of western countries which were not available in Thanjavur. He collected various first edition books in English and other European languages which were printed at that time. He requisitioned such books as soon as they were published in Europe and got them shipped.

Lord valentia visited thanjavur on 29th january 1804. He records in his account of travel that he visited  Rajah serfoji and saw his library, his private museum, musical instruments, and other valuable articles kept in his palace. He says that Serfoji had one octogonal carriage with exquisitely carved windows with an organ that played sweet musical noted as the wheel went round with a clock and a machine to mark the distance travelled (speedometer). He had also assortment of many viz; an electrifying machine, air pump, astronomical instruments, arrow work, guns of different bores,gold and silver encrushed tables, desk and almirahs inlaid with silver and gold a rare valampuri chunk (conch) of big size, watches, and rare clocks,western musical instruments.velvets from italy, razor and pomades from England, costly almirah and Arab swords,rare paintings, cut glass chandeliers and hallmark silver candle stick. Similarly Lord Bishop Heber, Buchanar, Bishop Middleton have also recorded about Serfoji’s museum and two skeltons, one of bone and the other of ivory. 

Rajah serfoji  ll’s another hobby was painting. He painted several pictures and views of buildings.He painted 18 caste people, in uniforms of several military ranks from sepoy to the commander in chief and palanquins and sedan chairs, falcons etc.

The King Serfoji’s military costumes are drawn in 17 pictures. These paintings illustrate the rank of the military servants and the colour of the dresses offered to them in those days.  Photo Courtesy:  Saraswati Mahal Library

Serfoji  ll  Maharajah was a good wrestler. He learnt wrestling during his boyhood and continued the same physical exercise when he was at madras, until his coronation in Thanjavur. He patronised fencing and archery. Similarly he encouraged silambam (fight with sticks) an ancient martial art of tamilnadu usefull for defence purposes.

Sadar Mahal Palace was built by Maharajah Serfoji  ll  in 1824 A.D which was his residential Palace. 

Source: TMSSML 

185th Death anniversary of king serfoji ll on 8th March 2017. His funeral was attended by ninety  thousand  people.He still lives as god in many people’s heart and also an Inspiration to many people. 

Raja serfoji ll passed away on 8th March 1832. The sad demise of the noble king was reported by the acting resident J. Blackburn to the secretary to the government at fort St. George. A true extract of the letter is produced below, which will indicate the high esteem in which he was held by his subjects. 

“The Right Honorable The Governor will be much grieved to be informed His Highness Maharaj Serfoji is no more. 
His decease took place at 4 a.m yesterday morning and his life had been despaired of for 18 hours previous to the final dissolution. 
The ceremonies prior to the removal of the body in procession then commenced and by 6 p.m. The corpse was consumed in sight of an assembled multitude of little short of 90,000 persons; and I endeavoured that every possible honour should be paid on the part of the British government. 
During the protracted and varying state of His Highness’s illness I passed much of my time in the palace as did also Mr. Assistant Surgeon Bill and Mr.Acting Superintendent Surgeon Currie, and I cannot resist bearing my testimony to the firmness, perfect resignation and cheerfulness with which his highness bore it throughout. The time carried attendance, soliciture, and care of some of his highness’s relations, principal officers and servants was such as to impress me with the highest respect for the kindness of heart and social qualities that could have called them forth is so eminent a degree. The testimony of deep respect and regret shown towards the corpse on the whole line of the procession by all rank of people, two thirds of whom must have been in the intimate knowledge of his behavior,to and government of, his subjects goes far to prove the moderation the equity and liberality of his rule over them.  In some countries of Europe I have witnessed similar scenes but never Did I witness over where the expressions of regret were so touching or apparently so sincere, it seemed as the whole community were deprived of their common father and friend. 
Our common feeling of sorrow seemed to pervade the whole,and I am assured that the whole population of the fort in number about 25,000 abstained from good the whole day, and that upwards 30,000 persons again attended his highness Shivaji when he returned to collect the ashes of his father this morning.
It will be proper to bring to the observation of the right honorable the governor, that the fact of the queens having been dissuaded from ascending the funeral Pyle of  her husband will have most effectually and entirely broken the practice of this place such as permission can now never again be given from the palace.
May I request the favour of you to procure me the orders of the Government for the installation of his highness the Raja Shivaji ll.
May I request you also to bring to the right honorable the governor’s notice the extract from the general letter of the court of directors under date January 12th 1831, contained in yours of the 1st November 1831 directing the discontinuance of the office of resident in the demise of his highness the late Maharaja and with reference to the subsequent recommendation of the government for the continuance of the office and procure me his commands”


March, 9th 1832


Acting Resident

Source: TMSSML 

Oval portrait of King Serfoji ll, Raja of Tanjore, 1820 Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, The San Diego Museum of Art.