FAQ on Swathi Thirunal
Swathi Thirunal was born on 16th 1813 under the asterism “Swathi” (Chothi) and died on 25th December 1846, living for a span of 33 years and 8 months. 11 days after the demise of Swathi, saint Thyagaraja too passed away. He was a contemporary of the Trinity of Carnatic Music, as indicated below. Also shown below are some other prominient composers of the century.
Changanasseri Raja Raja Varma Koithampuram, a Sanskrit scholar, was his father. Gouri Lakshmi Bhai was his mother. She ruled Travancore from 1810 to 1814.
Yes. Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma (who succeeded him in the Throne) was his younger brother and Ayilyam Thirunal Rugmini Bhai was his elder sister.
Thiruvattar Amma Veettil Paanapillai Ayikutti Narayani Pillai was Swathi's first wife. Later, he is said to have accepted Thanjavoor Sugandhavalli alias Sugandha Parvathi Bhai as his wife.
Yes. A son named Anandapadmanabhan Thampi was born to him and Narayani in the asterism Chithira. No information is available regarding Suganda Valli.
Very much. He belongs to the Chera dynasty, the founder of which is believed to be author of Chilappathikaram. More close to his life time, his grand uncle, Dharma Raja (Karthika Thirunal) was the author of Balarama Bharatham, a treatise on Natya. His close relative Irayimman Thampi was a composer, poet and Kathakali exponent. Thampi's daughter was also a composer (Kutty Kunju Thankachi). Even Swathis' sister has composed one song. His brother has written an Aattakatha.
Swathi's sister's son, Aayilyam Thirunal, who later became the king of Travancore in 1860, was an accomplished musician. The mother of the last Travancore Maharaja Sri Chithira Thirunal, Sethu Parvathi Bhai was a great scholar of music & fine player of veena. In the current times, the prince of the Travancore family, Sri Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma has risen as an accomplished vocalist who has already given numerous concerts all over the world.
There are 106 ragas in which he composed. Please see the "Select Composition by Raga" link.
A few. Swathi's repertoire of rare ragas is not as impressive as Thyagaraja's or Deekshithar's. Among the rare ragas are Saindhavi, Kukubha, Jingala, Abhang, Sohani, Deep, Bhooshavali, Desakshi, Sudha Bhairavi, Poorvi Kambhoji, Manji, Behag and Mohana Kalyani. The last two are not seen used by anyone of the Carnatic composers before Swathi. In Behag he has composed many pieces, and seems to have been his favourite non-conventional raga. Mohanakalyani is believed to be invented by Swathi.
Let us answer the second question about existence of Swathi first. Look at the exhaustive historical records included in this web site and come to your own conclusion!
On authorship of Swathi kirthis, the controversy is blown out of proportion (believed to be out of some very personal grudge entertained by an otherwise great musician). Out of 381 compositions listed in this site, a handful of compositions may be of mistaken attribution. This is due to the fact that, as a king, Swathi did not have a Sishya parampara. He had many composers in his court like Shadkala Govinda Marar, Irayimman Thampi, Vadivelu, Ponnayya, Palakkad Parameswara Bhagavathar and it is quite likely that some of their contributions were wrongly attributed to Swathi (and other way round also?). The common mudra used by Thampi, Parameswara Bhagavathar etc has increased the confusion.
There have also been cases of modifications or tuning of composition by others. Bhavayami Raghuramam orginally in Saaveri was modified into a Raagamaalika by Chemmangudi Sreenivasa Iyyer. Lalgudi G.Jayaraman tuned the Thillana "Geethu Dhunikku Thaka Dheem" in Dhanasri and made it immortal. Dr.M. Balamurali Krishna has tuned the Thillana "Tham Tham" in Bhoopalam and is seen to have added Sahithya to it with both Swathi's (Padmanabha) and his own mudra (Murali) incorporated. Even if all compositions where there is even a shade of doubt is kept out, the remaining gems are enough to make Swathi a great Vaggeyakara.
Swathi has used the word "Padmanabha" or synonyms like Sarasijanabha, Jalajanabha, Kanjanabha, Pankajanabha etc. This is like Deekshithars' "Guruguha" and in contrast with Thyagaraja's use of own name and Shyama Sasthri's "Shyama Krishna". There are also a handful of compositions of Swathi which do not have his mudra.
Yes, but selectively. Most of his pada varnas have raga mudras. Some Keerthanas, Slokas and Hindustani Kritis have raga mudras. Among ragas he has used as mudras, we find Saveri, Varali, Kalyani, Sankarabharanam, Hamsadhwani, Revagupthi, Kamdamanohari, Tharangini, Mohanam, Lalithapanchamam etc.
Hmm…it seems this anonymous writer has to make a personal selection. Here it is for you:
Saksha – Panthuvarali
Chaleenada – Sankarabharana
Sarasijanabha – Kamboji
Soonna Sayaka – Kaapi
Visveswara – Sindhu Bhairavi
Geethu Dhuni- Dhanasri
Very rarely and indirectly, Yes. In some songs (Paahi Parvatha - Aaarabhi) he refers to "Vanchi Nripaalaka Vamsa Shuobhodaya" - One who brings rise in well-being to the king of Vanchi, or Travancore. In Jaya Jaya Padmanabha-Sarasaangi and Bhogindra Shaayinam-Kuntalavaraali, he mentions the name of his illustrious ancestor, Marthanda Varma, the maker of modern Travancore.
In this respect and in respect of language use, perhaps no one can compare favourably with Swathi. He has composed Varnams, Pada Varnams, Javalis, Thillanas, Bhajans, Khyals, Tappas, Dhrupuds, Keerthanas, Padams, Swarajathis, Raagamalas and Slokams.
Swathi was conversant with use of English, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi, Hindi and Persian. Of these, he composed in Sanskrit, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada (In Kannada only one composition).
Sree Swathi Thirunal Sangeetha Sabha
Sree Swathi Thirunal Sangeetha College
Well, this web site is surely a big start! In addition, see the Links & Resources Page.
Palakkad K.V. Narayanaswami, Chemmagudi Sreenivasa Iyer, Musuri Subbramanya Iyer, G.N. Balasubrahmanyam, Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, M.D. Ramanathan, M.S. Subhalakshmi, Dr. S. Ramanathan, Maharajapuram Santhanam, M.L. Vasanthakumari, D.K. Pattamal, D.K. Jayaraman, T.K. Govindarao, T.N. Seshagopalan, Madurai Mani Iyer, T.V Gopalakrishnan, Neyyattinkara Vasudevan, Dr.K. Omanakutty, Sri Aswathi Thirunaal Rama Varma, Radha Jayalakshmi, Bombay Sisters, Delhi Sisters, Bombay S. Jayasree, Dr.K.J. Yesudas, and the list has been, and is growing............