Sunday, 2 February 2020

Dragging the name of former Maratha rulers of Thanjavur by the fringe Tamil Nationalist groups in connection with consecration of the big temple.

 Marata rulers of Thanhavur. gopixpic.com
The  unfortunate and unsavory demand by  the so called Tamil Nationalists groups indirectly backed by some  anti-Hindu political parties in Tamil Nadu  of the removal of  the descendant of the Marathas- the present prince of the Bhonsle family  from holding hereditary trusteeship of the Thanjavur Palace Devasthanam that manages 88 Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu including the Big Temple is unwarranted and uncalled for. The historians of south India know very well the fabulous contribution made by the Thanjavur Maratha rulers in this region. They  effectively ruled this region for some time  after the Nayaks. The Tamil groups who have no nationalist outlook  wanted all the Hindu temples  brought under the State Agency HR & CE that manages more than 34,000 Hindu temples and vast temple properties and agricultural lands.

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
Among the Maratha rulers,  Thuljaji was succeeded by his teenage son Serfoji II in 1787. The young ruler  was deposed by his uncle and regent Amarsingh who, out of greed,  seized the throne for himself. With the help of the British through his mentor and tutor Fr. Schwartz, a Protestant evangelist, Serfoji II ascended  the throne in 1798. A subsequent treaty, however forced him to hand over the control of the kingdom to the British East India Company and consequently the Tanjore District then comprising other districts -Tiruvarur and Nagapatnam became part of  Madras Presidency. The district collectorate system was  introduced then to manage the revenues.  Serfoji II was, however,  was entrusted with the control of the Fort area and the surrounding places. He reigned till 1832. His reign saw the cultural renaissance in the Delta area. He encouraged the growth of languages, culture, arts and music and dance.  He developed the Saraswati Mahal Library first initiated by the early Nayak rulers (from 1535 CE till 1676 CE) into a well-known international library that contains vast amount of  rare historical books and palm manuscripts covering an array of  fields including medicine and languages.  It is one of the oldest libraries in Asia . The collection includes well over 49,000 volumes, though a small portion  of these are on display. The library has a complete catalog of holdings, which is being made available online. Included are a collection of 3076 Marathi manuscripts from the South Indian Maharastrian of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including the works of  Saints of Maharashtra Sri Ramadasi and Dattatreya Mutts. The Marathi manuscripts are mostly on paper but a few were written in Telugu script on palm-leaf. There are 846 Telugu
.Saraswati Mahal library, Thanjavur, TN. dtnext.in
manuscripts in the holdings, mostly on palm leaf. There are 22 Persian and Urdu manuscripts mostly of 19th century also within the collection. The library also holds medical records of Ayurveda scholars, including patient case studies and interviews in the manuscripts classified under the Dhanvantari section. In short Raja Serfoji's  reign is noted for the literary, scientific and technological accomplishments of the Tanjore country.

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
Above image:  Fr. Schwartz was Raja Serfoji's tutor and mentor. Christian Frederick Schwarz (Friedrich and Schwartz or Swartz) (8 October 1726 - 13 February 1798) was a German Lutheran missionary to India.
Very much impressed by the Christian
missionary's saintly  care,  attitude  and integrity, the  young Raja became close to  Schwartz  who  was responsible for  getting the kingdom  back from the British who were about to take over Thanjavur region as there was no legal heir. Fr. Schwartz was  himself not happy with the British rule and frequently complained of their i lack of integrity and aversion toward the natives.  In the Protestant Schwartz Church built in 1779 by Raja Serfoji in his honor, there is a monument, a  tablet made by John Flaxman on the request of the ruler. It shows the  young King holding the hand of he dying Lutheran missionary while  receiving his blessing. The monument in white marble is a popular attraction for tourists. Besides, the ruler donated  a vast track of land what is now called 'Manambuchavadi, a part of Thanjavur city for the settlement of Christian community. 
Nagore Durgah, Nagore, TN. thanjavurtourism.com
To the  dargah  at Nagore near Nagapatnam town where lie the mortal  remains of Sufi saint  Shahu Hamid (1490 - 1579 CE) of the 16th century,  Maratha rulers, like the early Nayak rulers, made vast grants by way of agricultural lands, etc. The Hindu Maratha ruler of Thanjavur Pratap Singh (1739–1763 CE), built the tallest minaret in Nagore Dargah complex.  They also helped the Muslim communities near Thanjavur build dargahs and mosques for their prayer, etc.
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.
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/syncretic-tradition-at-nagore-dargah/article22104294.ece
http://www.thanjavurtourism.com/schwartz-church-thanjvaur.html