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The Maratha rules of Tanjavur

A BRIEF HISTORY of TANJAVUR
and its MARATHA RULERS


Thanjavur was named after Thanjan, a rakshasa, who once lived and terrified the people there. It took the combined strength of Lord Vishnu, Nilaperumal and Anandvalli Amman to vanquish him. A boon was granted to the dying demon and Thanjavur or the "city of refuge" (Thanjan means refuge) came into being. The British referred to it as Tanjore.
With the death of Rajendra Chola, the Chola rule came to an end and the state of Tanjavur saw an unsettling period of wars, annexations from greedy neighbouring kings.
(History is replete with examples of an alien force taking advantage of two warring factions. And Tanjavur was no exception to this. The strengthening Sultanates of Bijapur, Golconda and Bahamani were eyeing the throne of Tanjavur. )
The commander of the Bijapur Sultanate, Shahajirao Bhosale, took parts of Mysore, Vellore and Gingee for his ruler. Shahajirao Bhosale was the father of the great Chatrpati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha kingdom on the west coast of India and the first proponent of Hindavi Swaraj. His mother was the legendary Jijabai, who instilled in him the courage to fight alien forces and establish Swaraj.
Venkoji (or Ekoji), the second son of Shahaji from his second wife Tukabai, was the founder of the Maratha rule in Tanjavur. Ekoji was a great warrior and at the same time attempted to win over the people of Tanjavur.
Besides being a patron, Ekoji was a scholar of repute.
The interim period of Tanjavur history is a long line of the descendents of Venkoji, and a roller coaster ride from golden to dark ages for the people of the state.
Perhaps the most famous and lasting rule was that of Serfoji ll, who ascended the throne in A.D. 1798. By this time, the British had veritably ruled most of India and Tanjavur had to be handed over to the British throne. Serfoji was deprived of all power. The revenue and judicial systems were taken over by the Company, leaving Serfoji a mere titular head.
Tulajaji adopted little Serfoji, born in the royal Bhosale family, with all the relevant legal procedures before his death. Rev. Christian Fredrich Schwartz, a Dutch missionary was appointed as the boy's teacher and guide. Serfoji was trained and tutored in St. George School, Madras under the direct supervision of Rev. Schwartz and in course of time became a scholar in his own right.
Serfoji devoted his life to the pursuit of culture, and Tanjavur became renowned as a center for learning. His Saraswati Mahal Library was endowed with manuscripts collected from all over India, and books from all over the world. This library boasted of treatises on Vedanta, grammar, music, training of elephants and horses etc.
(His scientific bent of mind is demonstrated by his collection of various instruments like the air pump, electric machine, an ivory human skeleton etc. apart from his avid collection of books and manuscripts. )
Serfoji was more than a bibliophile. He established the Dhanvantari Mahal where physicians of Allopathy, Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha researched their systems of medicine. (He had the important herbs studied and catalogued in the form of exquisite hand paintings.) Serfoji patronized music, dance and the fine arts.
All in all, the Maratha rule in Tanjavur encouraged a golden period before its eventual culmination at the hands of the British. The two hundred years of Maratha rule left behind a rich legacy of art, music and architecture, the aroma of which still lingers within the city's structures.


Serfoji II: The last maratha king of Tanjavur

Item No. : P71


Sujana Devi

Item No. : P72


Serfoji in Procession


Length : 2ft
Breadth : 2ft

Item No. : P44


Peshwa on Horse

(new)

Length : 22"
Breadth : 18"

Item No. : P69



Sujana Devi in procession

Height : 26 "
Breadth : 24"

Item No. : P63

Serfoji on Elephant

Length : 2ft
Breadth : 2 ft

Item No. : P43


Peshwa on Horse
(Old Serfoji)

Length : 22"
Breadth : 18"

Item No. : P54

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