Sri Swati Thirunal Rama Varma was born on the 16th of April in the year 1813. He was the Maharajah of the ancient Royal Kingdom of Travancore during the rule of the English over India. He served as a ruler of this princely state for a period of 17 years (from the year 1829 until the year 1846). Swati Thirunal was not only a great administrator, but also a patron of music. In spite of being the Maharajah was a princely state like Travancore, he spent an equitable share of time praising and admiring music for its colossal beauty.
Not only was he a patron of music, but also a musician himself. He was ardent lover of music and spent a fair share of his life composing music. He was considered as one of the best composers of music. He has been credited with more than 400 different Classical compositions in both Carnatic and Hindustani style. His palace also housed many reputed and renowned musicians of his period. His love for music so immense, that he wanted his people to master the art of music. Hence, he encouraged his people to practice and pursue the Hindustani genre of music in spite of him being an ardent devotee of Carnatic music. Few of Swati Thirunal’s favorite pieces of music were Padmanaba Pahi, Deva Deva, Sarasijanabha and Sree Ramana Vibho.
When Swati Thirunal was a young prince of the kingdom of Travancore, he started to learn Carnatic music under the tutelage of the illustrious teacher Subba Rao. Little did Swati Thirunal’s teacher know that he was tutoring a student who was to become an immortal composer. Swati Thirunal’s family excelled in arts and poetry was one among the few arts they mastered. Poetry was their family tradition. Kulashekhara Perumal and Kartika Thirunal were two among the greatest predecessors of Swati Thirunal’s family who were exponents of poetry. These two great men were the composers of the Atta Katha Padams.
Swati Thirunal was deeply influenced by these great poets. He created a revelation when started to learn the traditions of the Carnatic music. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Padmanabha and he yearningly wished to express his passionate and divine faith to Lord Padmanabha by using the medium of Carnatic music. Swati Thirunal was inspired by the ever-present and all-absorbing devotion. He was also naturally equipped with a flair for writing poetry. Hence, he started to compose a variety of musical compositions of his own. He composed endless compositions and few of the most famous pieces of music among his compositions are Varnams (both Tana Varnam and Cauka Varnam), Jatlsvaram, Klrtanam, Padam, Tillana, Javali, Ragamalika, Ragamalika Shlokam, and compositions suitable for Harikatha. He not only composed music in his mother tongue Malayalam, but also in Sanskrit, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada and Hindusthani. He could be considered as the only musical composer of his time who attempted to compose many different forms of music in so many different languages. He composed each composition in various modes by making each of his composition distinctive in its unique way. He explored all regions of Carnatic music and he could be regarded as a composer who excelled in the entire range of the forms of composition in Carnatic music.
Swati Thirunal’s music was composed with a blend of Svaraksara passages. Not only did his musical compositions illustrate the basic modes in all their purity in their entirety, but also rose to an evocative eloquence. His compositions did make use of complicated Laya patterns that mutilate the Bhava. His compositions were a mixture of the mastery of several languages with the art of poetry and music. This enabled to articulate his Sahityams with the use of vivid imageries and elegant phrases. He was brilliant in the art of performing Padams (Esoteric allegories of the relationship between man and God in the form of musical compositions).
Swati Thirunal was also a well-learned leader. He became proficient and fluent many regional languages like Sanskrit, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Tamil, and Oriya and even mastered the foreign language English. Apart from his dedication to music, there are many other great achievements achieved by Swati Thirunal. Not only did he contribute colossally to music, but also sponsored to build up a number of renowned establishments like the Astronomical Observatory in Thiruvananthapuram, a museum, a zoo, for the government press, the Trivandrum public library, which is now, called the State Central Library, the Oriental Manuscript Library and other various units.