Dedicated to the royal composer
R.P. Raja says his book on Swati Tirunal is to confirm that the royal composer was a true vaggeyakara.
Photo: S. Mahinsha
DOCUMENTING FOR POSTERITY: R.P. Raja's book is the culmination of 16 years of search.
"I would only liken myself to a small boy collecting pebbles from the sandy stretches," says R.P. Raja about his book, `New Light on Swathi Thirunal.' The final product, a culmination of 16 long years of search, has been published by the Centre for Inter-Disciplinary Studies and is scheduled for release on December 1 by Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma.
To explain why he embarked on such a project. Dr. Raja takes us back to the days when certain voices had raised doubts about the authorship of the Swati kritis.
"I had access to information to establish the authorship of the compositions by Swati Tirunal and undertook the task of documenting the works of the polyglot poet-prince," explains the author. He is very clear that such a work would not have emerged if it were not for the controversy that had been raised, but adds, "The work is an exercise in collating all available material from the Padmanabhaswamy Temple records, and a deduction from the available resources."
What started as a monograph acquired the present shape as the search yielded information that would reinforce the content he had in his possession. While shedding new light on the blurred portions in the history of the period with evidence drawn from almanacs, works of history and cadjan leaves, he has played the deductive role of a historian.
`Gayakalochanam' by Pachur Shingaracharalu, `Thiruvithankur Charitham' by Vaikathu Pachimuthu (a contemporary of Swati) and `The History of Travancore from Earliest Times' by P. Shungoony Menon are, according to the author, seminal works that have been of immense support in his task. "Shungoony Menon was very much a part of the Travancore establishment for four decades, till 1879, and for that reason I feel his work has a strength which has to be recognised."
The book lists 324 Swathi compositions for which the author has been able to provide documentary evidence in the form of Swati mudras. Dr. Raja explains that the works on Swati Tirunal by Dr. V.S. Sarma, Dr. T.K. Govinda Rao, Chidambara Vadhyar, S. Ranganatha Iyer and Venkatasubramania Iyer have also gone a long way in establishing that the king was undoubtedly a true vaggeyakara.
Filling the blanks
The instrumental music (kurumkuzhal, thakil and kuzhitalam) in the Padmanabhaswamy Temple is rendered by a group of musicians who are inheritors of the tradition. This book has a chapter devoted to the compositions played in the temple as part of the daily offering, as well as on special occasions like the aarat. The inclusion of a chapter on this aspect is a major step to filling many blanks that still exist in recording traditional practices in the region.
"Dr. Balamurali Krishna had with him some of the cadjan records of the Swati compositions and he readily handed the matter, which also helped take this work ahead," says Dr. Raja, who reminds you ever so often that, "This book is to put down in black and white all available facts to confirm that Swati Tirunal was a true vaggeyakara and bring together as many of his compositions out from grey territory."
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