The road of music, trodden by the erstwhile Travancore king, Shree Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma was definitely not a bed or roses. Every one of the King’s actions as regards to administratiion those days was misrepresented before the British Resident, General Cullen, by Krishna Rao, a dependent of the Resident, and the British martinet hardly spared a chance to criticise it besides calling for an explanation from the King’s part. The disgust of the King toward some intolerable interferences sorely affected his outlook making him deeply discontented with the affairs of the world. It is evident from the many available historical documents that the King from 1843 had turned totally indifferent to the administration of the state.
Nevertheless, the surging natural enthusiasm levels in Swathi Thirunal hardly got suffocated, as it reflected in other fields shining bright more than ever. He definitely had in him the necessary preconditions suiting a moral change and spiritual rebirth. This was the time, the King chose to devote most to religious observances. Beside, happened as a result, the composition as well as accomplishment of some great art and literature works. The following works spontaneously reflect on them, the King’s religious fervour roused and fostered thus. Shree Padmanabha Sathaka, Syanandurapuravarnana Prabandha, Uthsava Prabandha, Bhakthimanjari, Ajamilopakhyana, Kuselopakhyana and Sangeetha Kruthis.
As the name suggests, Shree Padmanabha Shathaka is a cluster of a hundred verses written in praise of the prime deity of Travancore, Shree Padmanabha. Every word that enriches this piece is replete with the adoration of the King for his deity. And his style of writing along with his thoughts as well as dictation, bear a vivid resemblance to those celebrated sthothras attributed to the erstwhile seer Shree Shankaracharya. This work in Sanskrit boasts of ten Sthabakas or sub-divisions. Starting from the first one that deals with the offerings of a devotee, Divakara Yatheeshwara to the last one that is a realistic narration of the Lakshadeepa festival’s grandeur, this work has been written as well as composed in an extremely charming manner.
The Uthsava Prabandha of Swathi Thirunal is a description of a couple of annual festivals conducted in the Shree Padmanabha temple of the capital city. This work has been written in Manipravalam style (a harmonious blend of Sanskrit and Malayalam). The unique aspect of Uthsava Prabandha is the gems of musical compositions realised through a range of tunes of thalas, interspersing the variety of sweetly advancing metres. Ajameelopakhyana and Kuselopakhyana are a couple of the King’s works that are in fact innovations in the musical concerts of the land up to even the present times. Composed in the Hari Katha Kalakshepa style in Sanskrit, the story element has been derived from the inexhaustible treasury of the Bhagavatha Purana.
Bhakthamanjari is perhaps one of the most significant productions of Swathi Thirunal. This work refers to a devotional themes following the example of Bhattathiri’s Narayaneeyam; and is less important in no way. Bhakthamanjari is divided into ten Sathakas, every one of those written in a different metre. It begins with the a Shree Padmanabha Sthothram (praise), and establishes the per-eminence of the Bhakthi Marga (the devotional path) for attaining the four-fold Purusharthas; by tests of reason as well as pramanas (proofs) and references to epics. In the remaining Sathakas, comes illustrated the first five forms of devotion in Sathakas five to nine, and the remaining four sorts in the last one.
The Sangeetha Krithis of Swathi Thirunal has been praised widely as a voluminous work. They comprise passionately a galaxy of songs with almost all Ragas being illustrated. The music world has classified these compositions of the romantic King under the wider subtitles of Keerthanas, Padas, Varnas and Thillanas. If the Keerthanas are all in God’s praise, Varnas are elaborate compositions that exhibits vividly the musical notation. Padas are those compositions destined to accompany the dance forms. Devotional in character, the Padas come in Jayadeva’s Geethagovinda model. Finally, Thillanas are light fragments set to the most savourable of the Ragas, mostly sung in praise of Hindu Pantheon’s various deities.