Saturday, 13 June 2015

Rich Indian Maharajahs and their pursuit of passion

In the case of former rulers world over and, in particular, Indian Maharajahs under the Raj, the symbol of royalty was more than a necessity to carry on their pelf, power, and legacy. Such symbols not only assured them of a place in the Indian history but also of respect and reverence in the society. 

Some Indian rulers were great builders of palatial palaces, avid collectors of gemstones, diamonds, jewelry, etc. For some, games such as Polo, Golf, and Cricket were major attractions, even obsessions. A few Maharajahs were first class and even test cricket players. The Maharajah of Patiala Bhupinder Singh - 1900 to 1938, best known for his extravagance in Cricket, was not only a famous cricket player but also owned the highest cricket ground in the world at Chail (1893). He also had a good collection of expensive jewelry and gemstones. So were the Maharajah of Holker Dynasty, Indore and others. The Nizam of Hyderabad had a vast collection of Jewelry and diamonds - one of the best in the world. Maharajahs of Mysore, S, India were builders of great palaces which attract lots of visitors even today at Mysore and Bangalore. So were the many rulers of Rajasthan, who had built big palaces in lavish style and architecture. One could see and wonder about their height opulence in a broad perspective.
In the case of Maharajah of Travancore state, Kerala, South India  and early rulers, they led a simple and pious life. Ruler, Rajah Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma II (1829–1846), a music lover, composed over 400 classical compositions in both Carnatic and Hindustani classical music. His famous  Swathi ''Thirunal Keerthanas''  are widely sung today by some stalwarts of Carnatic vocal singers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Besides, he founded the  first library for manuscripts, printing press, and Observatory in that state. His passion was far away from the shadow of materialism.
Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma II.
 Incidentally the rulers of Travancore were devout Hindus and  donated lots of valuable jewels, etc to Sri Padmanabha swami( Lord Vishnu) temple at Thiruvanantha Puram.
This temple, as it came to light for the first time a few years ago, has fascinating treasures in gold, silver, precious stones, etc worth roughly 22 to 25 billion American dollars - whooping sum!! This value does not include antique value. One more treasure Safe vault below the temple has still remained unopened for various religious reasons.  Even today the ruler of Travancore and his family, almost daily after finishing their morning ablution,
visit the Sri Padmanabha swami temple for prayer. The male royal members like others also enter the temple with the bare body, a custom followed for many centuries. Female members should wear saris to go inside the temple. This custom implies that before the Almighty everybody is equal.
Shri Ranjitsinhji.Maharajah in
So, the rulers, based on their taste and money power pursued their  interest with passion and got a name for themselves. Ranjitsinhji (September 1872 – April 1933), the ruler of the Indian princely state of Nawanagar from 1907 to 1933, was a world famous Test cricketer who played for the English cricket team. He also played first-class cricket for Cambridge University, and county cricket for Sussex, England. Ranji became "Maharajah Jam Sahib" of Nawanagar, Gujarat in 1907. In the world of cricket, even today, he is an immortal personality.

 Raja Ravi Varma Coil Thampuran, painter, and artist from the princely state of Travancore (presently in southern Kerala & some parts of Tamil Nadu) married to Pururuttathi Nal Bhageerathi Thamburatty of the royal house of Mavelikkara. He, who had royal connections, was considered among the greatest painters in the history of Indian art and his paintings are still famous. He was honored by Viceroy Lord Curzon in 1904 on behalf of the British King-Emperor. The Nayaks of Thanjavur and Madurai, being pious Hindu rulers, made valuable contributions to temples in Tamil Nadu.
Mahamaham tank, Kumbakonam,
 Above image: Mahamaham tank, Kumbakonam, Mandapams built by Minister Govinda Dikshitar under the patronage of Ragunatha Nayak(1600–1634), ruler of Thanjavur.

The sixteen Mandapams (halls) on the banks of  Kumakonam Mahamaham temple tank were built by Minister Govinda Dikshitar under the patronage of Ragunatha Nayak (1600–1634),the king of Thanjavur. Ragunatha Nayak was famous for his patronage of literature and other scholarly research, besides being a gifted scholar in Sanskrit, Kannada and Telugu languages, as well as a talented musician.

He established. ''Sarasvati Bhandar'' where the manuscripts of Raghunatha's prolific court scholars were collected and preserved. This library was developed and enriched later by Rajah Serfoji II into the currently famous Saraswati Mahal Library.

Likewise the Thanjavur  'Maratha rulers' (the Bhonsle dynasty: the 17th to the 19th-century C.E) passion was temple construction, art, literary work, and science. The great ruler Maharajah Serfoji II (September,1777 – 7 March 1832) developed and enriched the first ever library (established by Ragunatha Nayak) and named it ''Saraswathi Mahal Library'' that has a vast collection of well-preserved palm manuscripts, rare books in many Indian languages on various subjects including medicine. Lots of researchers from foreign countries and India visit this library for research work and reference.He was a scholar in Marathi, Sanskrit and was well versed in Telugu and Tamil (the local language) 
Serfoji II,Maratha Maharajah of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. en.wikipedia.or
In  the case of  early rulers and  dynasties  such as Chola  (Established first period: 300s BCE; 985–1014 CE;1010–1200), Pandya (from around 600 BCE - Early Pandyan Kingdom); to first half of 17th century), Pallava (existed between the 3rd and 9th centuries CE, ruling a portion of what is today southern India),
Nayaks of Tamil Nadu, Chera (3rd century BC;12th century AD) of  Kerala and  part of Tamil Nadu, Vijayanagara (established in 1336; lasted until 1646;  power declined after 1565)  of Andhra  and Hoysala of Karnataka (the 10th and the 14th centuries), etc of S. India, 

 Several centuries ago, their passion was building huge, tall artistic temples made of hard rock. However, being pious with unalloyed devotion to God,  they did not waste their money on building lavish and luxurious palaces for their personal use. They created fantastic sculptures, huge halls with ornate rock pillars and wrote the sermon in the rocks for the progeny to enjoy them. Apart from it, they donated their vast collection of costly jewelry and fertile lands to  their family deities in the temple, so that they could be maintained by the later generations without any monetary constraints. The early Indian Hindu rulers always ruled their land with justice and  fairness in the name of God.
The Rolls-Royce 10 hp car
As the time and tide changed, so were the Indian rulers, especially after the advent of the foreigners in India. Under the British Raj, the Indian rulers, who lost much of their affluence, became materialistic and spent money for their families' extravagance such as costly jewelry, diamonds, valuable gem stones, etc. Their passionfor literary work, arts, etc saw marked decline.

The introduction of automobiles in the 1930s on a large scale in the west grabbed their attention. The car was a novelty in those days and, no doubt, the Indian rulers found them trendy and useful for their personal use. Some of the Maharajahs mentioned above became patrons of costly cars. The British and American car companies had taken the intense passion of rich Indian rulers seriously and understood their affluence and their ability to buy expensive automobiles in multiples.