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Swati tirunal

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Swati tirunal

This article is about the king from the royal dynasty of Travancore. For the 1987 Indian film, see Swathi Thirunal (film).
Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma
Maharaja of Travancore
Born (1813-04-16)April 16, 1813
Died December 27, 1846(1846-12-27) (aged 33)
Predecessor Gowri Parvati Bayi
Successor Uthram Thirunal
Consort Thiruvattar Ammachi Panapillai Amma Srimathi Narayani Pillai Kochamma
Royal House Venad Swaroopam
Dynasty Kulasekhara
Royal anthem Vancheesamangalam
Father Changanassery Laxmipuram Palace Raja Raja Varma Koil Thampuran
Mother Gowri Lakshmi Bayi
Religious beliefs Hinduism

Sri Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma (Malayalam: ശ്രീ സ്വാതി തിരുനാള്‍ രാമ വര്‍മ)(Tamil:சிறீ சுவாதித் திருநாள் இராம வருமா (April 16, 1813 – December 27, 1846) was the Maharaja of the state of Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്‍)) ] ))in India. He reigned under the regency of his mother Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi from 1813 till 1815 and then under the regency of his aunt Maharani Gowri Parvati Bayi till 1829. In 1829 he turned major and assumed full powers of ruler and reigned as Maharaja of Travancore until his death in 1846.

Besides being an able ruler, he was a patron of music and was a musician himself. He encouraged both broad systems of Indian music, Hindustani and Carnatic music, though he was essentially a connoisseur of the Carnatic music tradition. He is credited with composing over 400 compositions[1] in Carnatic and Hindustani music. Some of his favorite compositions were Padmanabha Pahi, Deva Deva, Sarasijanabha and Sree Ramana Vibho. Swathi Thirunal was fluent in a number of languages including Malayalam, Sanskrit, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada,Hindustani, [2][3] Bengali, Tamil, Oriya and English.

The Astronomical Observatory in Thiruvananthapuram, the Government Press, Trivandrum Public Library (now State Central Library) and the Oriental Manuscript Library were started by Swathi Thirunal. The Maharajah was also an honorary member of the Royal Asiatic Society from 1843.[4]

Early life

Swathi Thirunal (as he is commonly known) was born into the Kulasekhara dynasty of the Royal family of Travancore state, which is now a part of Kerala State in India) on April 16, 1813. He was the second child of the Regent Queen Gowri Lakshmi Bayi who ruled Travancore during 1811 - 1815, and Rajaraja Varma Koyithampuran of Changanasseri Palace. Iraiyamman Tampi,the famous poet-composer and Swathi Thirunal's close relative, who wrote perhaps the most famous Malayalam lullaby Omanathinkal Kidavo (ഓമനത്തിങ്കള്‍ക്കിടാവോ), about Swathi Thirunal when he was born. He had an elder sister (Rukmini Bai) and a younger brother (Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma). Rani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi died about two months after the birth of her third child. After her death, her younger sister Gowri Parvati Bayi was in charge of the state and the children. Since Rama Varma was just seventeen months old when his mother died, Gowri Parvati Bayi ruled for fourteen years before Swathi Thirunal took over as the king. When he was just four months old, his mother invited Col. Munro (who was the representative of the British East India Company) and his officials and declared in the Durbar that she was entrusting the British East India Company with the care of her child and expected the Company to co-operate with him in future.


Both his aunt/foster mother, who was well-versed in music, and his father, a Sanskrit scholar. took special care about his education. Col. Munro also is said to have taken interest in his education. He started learning Malayalam and Sanskrit at the age of six and English at the age of seven. The young Prince studied several languages, including Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Hindustani, Telugu, Marathi, Sanskrit, English and Persian. He impressed all his teachers, and even guests from abroad, with his keen understanding of not only languages but also other subjects like geometry. P. Sankunni Menon (A History of Travancore from the Earliest Times, 1878) records an incident when Swathi Thirunal told Col. Welsh, a visiting British officer, that the word geometry and words like hexagon, septagon and so on were derived from Sanskrit.


Swathi Thirunal was deeply interested in music right from childhood. He tried to learn the languages in which he found good music. His education in music started with the first lessons from Karamana Subrahmania Bhagavathar and Karamana Padmanabha Bhagavathar. Later, he studied music from his English teacher Subbarao. He continued to learn music by listening to accomplished musicians and practicing himself. This was a period when music and art were thriving in many parts of south India. The triumvirate of Carnatic music, Tyagaraja (1767–1847), Syama Sastri (1762–1827) and Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775–1835), lived and enriched music during this period. Swati Tirunal's palace also was home to many musicians and artistes of the period, including the famous Thanjavur Quartet brothers, Tyagaraja's disciple Kannayya Bhagavathar, Ananthapadmanabha Goswami (a Maharashtrian singer known as Kokilakanthameru swami), Shadkala Govinda Marar, and many others.

Swathi Sangeethotsavam

Prince Rama Varma, the South Indian Classical Musician, is a descendent of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal. He is the organiser for Swathi Sangeethotsavam, a week long music festival featuring exclusively the compositions of Swathi Thirunal. This unique musical event is conducted every year from 6 to 12 January at Kuthira Malika, Trivandrum.

As a Ruler

Swathi Thirunal took over the reins of Travancore from his aunt (She was the regent for Swathi Thirunal in his boyhood) at the age of sixteen. He appointed his teacher Subbarao as the chief minister (Diwan). One of his first moves was to shift the government secretariat from Kollam (about seventy five kilometres away) to Thiruvananthapuram. This enabled him to give personal attention to government affairs. He took steps to curb corruption in the government, and told even the Diwan to resign when he heard that the Diwan had acted to favour a particular party in a land dispute. He started an English school in Thiruvananthapuram in 1834, which came to be called the Raja's Government Free School and later became Maharaja's High School and then Maharaja's College. It is now the University College. Later, similar schools were started at many other places. He also implemented reforms in the legal sector, starting Munsif, District and Appellate Courts and modernising laws. He identified one Kandan Menon from Malabar and appointed him as Huzoor Diwan Peshkar to bring about legal reforms. Another of his achievements was to settle many land disputes by carrying out a resurvey of the land, in which also Menon helped him. He also conducted the first census of the state in 1836. As per the census, the population of Travancore was 128, 068.

Swathi Thirunal was also instrumental in bringing modern medicine to the state. He appointed a European as the palace physician. He was also given the responsibility of providing medical assistance to local people, for which hospitals were started. It is this post that was known as Surgeon General till the formation of Kerala State. He also started an engineering department, which was placed under the command of one Lieutenant Horsley. The Karamana bridge was built at that time.

Another area where Swathi Thirunal took interest was in astronomy. He wished to compare Western findings with Indian knowledge. For this, he invited Caldecott, an industrial representative who lived in Alapuzha, who used to make instruments for astronomical observations. Finding that there was much common between western and Indian knowledge about the universe, Swathi Thirunal started an observatory and placed Caldecott in charge. Started in 1837, some of the equipment is still to be seen at the Thiruvananthapuram observatory (now under the Department of Physics, University of Kerala). He is also credited with starting the first government press (the only press at that time was CMS Press in Kottayam), and the museum and zoo in Thiruvananthapuram. HH Swathi thirunal put an end to the barbaric punishment called the 'SUCHINDRAM KAIMUKKU' According to which the accused was forced to prove his innocence by dipping his hand in boiled ghee at Suchindram temple,and he was punished if the hand get burnt.


Maharajah Swathi Thirunal was only a child when his mother Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi died and he grew up under the maternal care of his childless aunt, who was the Regent of Travancore on his behalf, Maharani Gowri Parvati Bayi. He had a brother, Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma, who succeeded him in 1846 till his demise in 1860. The Maharajah also had a sister, Maharani Gowri Rukmini Bayi, whose children ascended the Travancore musnud consecutively. Her only daughter was the mother of Maharajah Moolam Thirunal Sir Rama Varma.

Swathi Thirunal married Thiruvattar Ammachi Panapillai Amma Srimathi Narayani Pillai Kochamma of the Thiruvattar Ammaveedu family after the demise of his first wife. She was an expert carnatic singer and Veena player. She originally belonged to an ordinary Nair family in Quilon by the name of Aaikutty Veedu. Prior to her marriage with the king she was adopted into the Thiruvattar Ammaveedu along with her mother and siblings (her sister was married to the Maharajah's brother and successor Uthram Thirunal). From this marriage the Maharajah had a son, Thiruvattar Chithira Nal Anantha Padmanabhan Chempakaraman Thampi. In 1843 the Maharajah married Sundara Lakshmi, daughter of a Mudaliar who had migrated to Trivandrum. Sundara Lakshmi, a staunch devotee of Kanjirottu Yakshi, was a dancer. The Maharajah first adopted her into Vadasseri Ammaveedu, making her an Ammachi and bestowing the title of Thampi on her family members. In 1845 he constructed the Thanjavur Ammaveedu and Sundara Lakshmi, along with her family members resided here. The Maharajah's second wife, Thiruvattar Ammachi, whose sister was married to Uthram Thirunal did not approve of this marriage. Soon after in 1846 the Maharajah died. Legend and folklore has it that Sundara Lakshmi was banished from Travancore following which the Maharajah died broken hearted. However facts and records prove otherwise.

Sundara Lakshmi continued to live in Trivandrum at Thanjavur Ammaveedu until her own death in 1856, a full decade after the death of Swathi Thirunal, enjoying all the provisions and privileges she was entitled to as a royal consort. However soon after her death, her late husband's brother and successor, Maharajah Uthram Thirunal issued an order to attach the estate and properties that belonged to Thanjavur Ammaveedu on the ground that Sundara Lakshmi for whom they were made, had died. Sundara Lakshmi's sister Sugandha Parvathi Pillai Thankachi, who had been married to Singaravelu Mudaliyar the former Alleppey District Judge, then filed a petition in Madras. The High Court of Madras in 1858 permitted the Travancore Government to attach the properties after compensating the family. Accordingly Rs. 10,000, a princely sum, was given to Sundara Lakshmi's family and the Thanjavur Ammaveedu taken over by the Travancore Government. The Ganapathi idol worshiped by Sundara Lakshmi was moved and consecrated at the Palkulangara Temple in Trivandrum. Her sister later died in 1883 (This information is from "Thiruvananthapurathinte Eithihaasam").

In popular culture

In 1987, a Malayalam film titled Swathi Thirunal based on his life was released. It was directed by Lenin Rajendran and starred Anant Nag as Swathi Thirunal.[5]


For a list of 360+ compositions with 200+ MP#s, visit

Composition Raga Tala Type Language Other Info Audio Links
dEva dEva kalayAmi tE mAyA mALava gowLa Rupaka Sanskrit

MS Subbulakshmi -

gIta dhuniku taka dhIm dhana shRI Adi tillAna Hindi

TS Satyavati -

jaya jaya padmanAbha murArE Sarasangi Adi Sanskrit

Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna -

kamala nayana jagadIswara Vagadheeswari Adi Sanskrit

Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna -

pAhi shrIpatE hamsadhwani Adi Sanskrit

MS Subbulakshmi -

sArasAkha paripAlaya mAmayi pantuvarALi Adi Sanskrit

MS Subbulakshmi -


See also


[1] : Articles and compilations by Dr Achuthsankar S Nair

External links

Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma
Born: 16 April 1813 Died: 25 December 1846
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Gowri Lakshmi Bayi
(as Maharani Regent of Travancore)
Maharaja of Travancore
Succeeded by
Uthradom Thirunal
Kingdom of Travancore
Part of History of Kerala
Marthanda Varma 1729–1758
Dharma Raja 1758–1798
Avittam Thirunal 1798–1810
Gowri Lakshmi Bayi 1810–1815
Gowri Parvati Bayi 1815–1829
Swathi Thirunal 1829–1846
Uthram Thirunal 1846–1860
Ayilyam Thirunal 1860–1880
Visakham Thirunal 1880–1885
Moolam Thirunal 1885–1924
Sethu Lakshmi Bayi 1924–1931
Chithira Thirunal 1931–1947
‡ Regent Queens
Padmanabhapuram 1729–1795
Thiruvananthapuram 1795–1947
Padmanabhapuram Palace
Kilimanoor palace
Kuthira Malika
Kowdiar Palace
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