Swati Tirunal Maharaja (1813-1846)

Swāti Tirunāļ was born in the Travancore royal family. Precocious as a child, he learnt brilliantly and became an accomplished composer by the time he was 16 years of age. His early education included English, Malayalam and Sanskrit. Later on he took up study of Persian, Hindustani, Arabic, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Canarese and gained proficiency. Music, however, was his forte and he lived in a atmosphere of poetry and music.

Swāti Tirunāļ's songs covering all types of compositions such as varņam-s, svarajati-s, křti-s, padam-s, tillana-s, jāvaļi-s, rāgamālika-s, dhruvapada-s, tappa-s and khyal-s are noted for their beauty, sweetness and depth of emotion. A majority of his compositions are in Sanskrit. The other languages handled by him are Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam and Canarese.

He has composed a large number of varņam-s in a variety of tāļa-s. The varņam-s bear ample testimony to his musical eminence. A special feature of his varņam-s is the introduction of svarākshara. His pada varņam-s are rich in bhāva.

Swāti Tirunāļ has composed about 400 křti-s in a number of rāga-s. He has composed in popular rāga-s like Shankarābaraņam, Tōďi, Kalyāņi, Bhairavi, Kāmbhōji and also in rare rāga-s like Lalithapañchamam, Ghanta, Gōpika and Dwijāvanthi. The peculiar charm of his křti-s is that his thoughts are clothed in suitable words and in the correct modes. He, having been both a vocalist and a vaiņika, has composed křti-s in both madhyamakāla and viļambakāla.

He has composed two group křti-s – the Navarātri kīrtana-s and the Navaratna mālika kīrtana-s. The navarātri kīrtana-s are intended to be sung during the Navarātri festival held in Trivandrum and the Navaratna kīrtana-s are based on the concept of navavidha bhakti as described in Bhāgavatham.

Swāti Tirunāļ has composed many sparkling rāgamālika-s. Pannagēndra sayana consisting of eight rāga-s is the most famous. The dasāvatāra rāgamālika Kamalajasya and the chatur rāgamālika are also well known.

Swāti Tirunāļ was a master of Bhartam and has shown himself quite at ease in composing padam-s. In all, he has composed 65 padam-s. In the jāvaļi group, sāramaina and itusahasamulu are well known. He has also composed five tillāna-s. Of these, Dhanasri tillāna is popular. Swāti Tirunāļ has also composed two pieces – Kuchēlōpakhyanam and Ajamilōpakhyanam under the realm of Harikatha Kālakshēpa. There is another narrative written by him called Utsava Prabandha, a work in Manipravāļam giving an account of the ten days festival celebrated twice annually at Srī Padmanābhaswāmy temple.

It is astonishing that he was able to compose more than 500 pieces of music in addition to literary works like Bhakti mañjari and Padmanābha satakam. Swāti Tirunāļ is the only composer of repute who has composed songs in Hindi and this some 140 years ago. As long as classical music lasts, he will undoubtedly be held as a shining star.