|Marata rulers of Thanhavur.|
It is needless to say the Maratha rulers' contribution to this part of Tamil Nadu was vast. they improved the cultural image of the delta districts and patronized Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Sanskrit. Their native language was Marathi. The Thanjavur Maratha kingdom of the Bhonsle dynasty was a principality of Tamil Nadu between the 17th and 19th centuries. Venkoji was the founder of the dynasty. He was the half-brother of the Maratha king Shivaji. During his reign, Shivaji invaded Gingee close to Villupuram, TN and Thanjavur in 1676–1677 and made his brother Santaji the ruler of all lands to the north of the Coleroon river. During the last years of his reign, Venkoji had an alliance with Chokkanatha of Madurai Nayak Dynasty to stop an invasion from Mysore kingdom.
|Darbar Hall, Thanjavur palace, TN depositphotos.com|
|Raja Serfoji, Thanjavur, TN .indianetzone.com|
|Thanjavur kingdom, TN. en.wikipedia.org|
|.Saraswati Mahal library, Thanjavur, TN. dtnext.in|
Maharajah Serfoji and later rulers safeguarded the Hindu temples, the countless valuable brass idols and temple treasures in their small Kingdom. They did periodic maintenance of many historical temples including the big temple temple of Thanjavur. In short, they acted as custodians to the Hindu temples built by early Chola rulers and Nayaks in the Delta Districts and renovated several of them during their reign.
Perhaps old timers like me remember the annual Big temple festival in the summer and, as part of it, the the utchavar idol of Shiva used to be taken out in a religious procession all along the four main Raja streets. Each day the God would appear in a unique alangaram. The famous one being Baisaheb Rishaba Vahanam. The idol of God Shiva would be taken out on a silver plated big Nandi Vahanam. It was meant for the Maratha ladies who wanted to see the lord sitting majestically on his mount (vahana Even now, this ''Rishaba vahana Ooorvalam'' is quite famous first introduced by the Maratha rulers.
Yet another interesting fact is the Maratha rulers had a secular approach to other communities living in their kingdom and treated them with respect. The Schwartz Church in Thanjavur city adjacent to the well-known Sivaganga Park and the big temple, and the Nagore Dargah in Nagore town received grants from Maratha rulers and later under Raja Serfoji II.
|Fr. Schwartz,Thanjavur. navrangindia.wordpress.com|
|The Schwartz church, Thanjavur, close to the big temple .thanjavurtourism.com|
|The Schwartz church (1779), Thanjavur,.thanjavurtourism.com|
|Nagore Durgah, Nagore, TN. thanjavurtourism.com|
Little do we know that it was Serfoji II who started the first Zoological Garden in Tamil Nadu, besides erecting a shipyard at Manora. Also established during his reign was a meteorological station to facilitate sea trade. A gun factory, a naval library and a naval store with all kinds of navigational instruments were also part of his developmental work.
He had great interest in painting, gardening, coin-collecting, martial arts and patronized chariot-racing, hunting and bull-fighting. The Maratha rulers, including Raja Serfoji II was a patron of traditional Indian arts like dance and music. Some of his popular compositions are "Kumarasambhava Champu", "Mudrarakshaschaya" and "Devendra Kuruvanji". He had introduced western musical instruments like clarinet and violin in Carnatic Music.
The 5-story Sarjah Mahadi in the Thanjavur palace complex on East Main st., Thanjavur and the Manora Fort Tower at Saluvanayakan pattinam came up during Raja Sefoji's rule. He encouraged the installation of lightning rods atop the monuments to avoid damages to the historical sites. On his orders lightning rods were installed atop many of these monuments.
On the South-western walls of the big temple, Thanjavur, one can see stone inscriptions on the history of the Bhonsle Dynasty which is believed to be the lengthiest inscription in the world. He was also a philanthropist and a member of the Royal Asiatic Society. He had a secular outlook as mentioned before, funded churches and schools run by Christian missionaries. He was a patron of Thanjavur Bade Hussein Durgah. He ruled for almost 40 years and is considered as one of the greatest kings since Rajaraja Chola I.
The act of dragging the name of a respected Maratha royal family of Thanjavur who has been resident for centuries here shows the intolerance of the fringe Tamil groups, who earn the ire of the public by using the Tamil language as a pretext to create confusion among the tolerant people of Tamil Desam.