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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.