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Swathi Thirunal

Sri Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma (April 16, 1813 - December 25, 1846) was the Maharaja of the state of Travancore, in India. He reigned from 1829 until his death in 1846.

Besides being an able ruler, he was a patron of music and a musician by 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 in Carnatic music as well as Hindustani music. Some of his favorite compositions are Padmanabha Pahi, Deva Deva, Sarasijanabha and Sree Ramana Vibho. The king was fluent in a number of languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Tamil, Oriya and English.

The Astronomical Observatory in Thiruvananthapuram, the Museum & Zoo, the Government Press, Trivandrum Public Library (now State Central Library), the Oriental Manuscript Library, etc. were started by Swathi Thirunal.

Education

Both his aunt/foster mother, who was well-versed in music and dance, and his father, a Sanskrit scholar. took special care about his education. Col. Munroe 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 Earlier 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.

As a Musician

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.
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