This book "Tanjore as a Seat of Music" of Dr. S. Seetha, Retd. Professor and Head. Department of Indian Music, printed in 1981, has been out of print for quite some years now. The three centuries, 17th, 18th and 19th, that this book covers, have been very crucial in the cultural history of Tamil Nadu in general and that of the Tanjavur region in particular. The contribution of the great Cholas to the cultural heritage of the Tamil Country already stands acknowledged as significant and unparalleled. The devotional hymns of the Saivaite Nayanmars, Alwars, Siddhars, Saint Arunagirinathar and others had been the pace setters for the cultural fusion that was to emerge later. From 17th Century onwards this region became once again culturally productive. Of course during this time the region witnessed a lot of cross – cultural activities. The Telugu and Maharashtra rulers built edifices of arts and culture on the foundation htat had been laid by the Tamils for centuries. It is this period that saw the Sadir of the Tamils incorporate the dance genres of the Telugus; the Kirtan of Maharashtra placing its imprint on traditional art of Storytelling Telugu Yakshagana and the Marathi poetic forms influencing the musical drama forms; and the art music of Tamil region absorbing features music from other cultures. The last phase of this period saw the rule of the British. The presence of other cultures was instrumental in establishing a cosmopolitan atmosphere in the region and helped bring about a cultural integration. When the foreign rule gradually made an exit, the art and culture of the Tamils surfaced again, now in a refreshed and renewed form. Consequently Tamil Nadu has come to occupy a very high place in arts in this country. The confluence of the other cultures with that of the Tamils is still reflected in the life and arts of the Tamils. The Saraswathi Mahal Library founded by the Maratha rulers remains an important and valuable archive that serves as a link for these diverse cultures.
An outcome of zealous and serious study based on the primary sources in the Saraswathi Mahal Library, this comprehensive book has not only given a vivid and detailed picture of the musical and musicological activities in the region but also provides an inspiration and starting point for many other research projects in this area. I take great pleasure in writhing this foreword to the reprint of this book which that is one of the gems that the University of Madras has brought out.
This book is a humble token of the author's adoration of the great traditions of music that evolved in all its glory in the Tanjore region of the south. As a teacher and researcher the author had many occasions to visit the Serfoji Sarasvati Mahal Library at Tanjore to consult the valuable manusoripts and was deeply impressed by the rich material relating to music, dance and drama which has been so carefully preserved in the cadjan leaves over the centuries by the benevolent royal artists of Tanjore. It had been the fond hope of the author to explore and assess the musical worth of the contents of these manuscripts. The source material for this book is drawn from the Telugu, Sanskrit and Modi manuscripts on music and dreams at the T.M.S.S.M Library, other contemporary literature, soulptural evidence and oral tradition.
The work is in the nature of a chronicle on the music and its history of the most active period, the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries A.D. in the development of karnatic music. Further, it is not an isolated study of a single concept, author composer or ruler, but a study of three centuries of development of various aspects in succession. Tracing the evolution of several aspects in every realm has since become inevitable. The subject matter is a wide canvas dealing with historical, practical and theoretical aspects of music. To explain the contribution of Tanjore so the cause of Karnatic music, it is necessary to present an integrated picture of the backdrop of Tanjore scene and hence the available literature (published and unpublished manuscripts) on music and drams had been consulted. Further in the process of investigation, it was quite heartening to find a treasure of information in she manuscripts which has a significant dearing on the on the development of Karnatic music. Incidentally, the research data has led to certain vital clarifications and also to the correction of some misconception. Also the fact that Laksya and Laksana are always interlinked has been proved in the process of tracing the evolution through the three centuries. With respect to the historical account of the data the style has had to be descriptive and narrative.
The musical heritage of Tanjore had always been identified as representing one of the finest and authentic of the classical traditions of South Indian Music. The musical potentiality of Tanjore since the days of Colas is well known. The first chapter analyses the various factors that was responsible for Tanjore blossoming gradually into an enlightened centre of musical learning such as liberal royal patronage flowing continuously for many centuries, ideal geographical location, fertility of the soil, peaceful and philosophical environment far removed from external political influence, the rise of saint singers on the musical horizon and the musical wisdom of the people of the South as a whole. To quote Dr. Radhakrishnan "for thinking minds to blossom, for arts and sciences to flourish, the first condition is a settled society providing security and leisure. A rich culture is impossible with a community of nomads, where people struggle for life and die of starvation." It is hence not surprising that the far south produced in successive generations eminent scholars, poets, composers, musicians, royal artists and a rich output of a beautiful culture.
In the history of music and its evolution, the significance of royal patronage is very often not given the due emphasis. The present study has made a pioneering attempt to bring forth the royal contribution to the cause of Karnatic music in the right perspective. It is generally known through historical researches, that the dynasties of Cola, Nayak and Maratha were liberal patrons of art and letters. An intensive study of the nature and extent of their contribution to the growth of South India Music during the last three centuries has been done in this book. What is most revealing is that almost all the Nayak and Maratha rulers were themselves linguists, composers, artists, performers on musical instruments musicologists of repute. Three of the four standard laksanagran-that which are so vitally connected with the present day Karnatic music Viz. Sangita Sudha, Caturdandi Prakasika and Sangita Sangita Saramrta were respectively written by king Raghuntha Nayaka Venkatamakhin, minister of Vijayaragha Nayaka and Tulaja Maharaja respectively within a span of one hundred and fifty years. The contents of "Sahaji Ragalaksanamu" by Sahaji Maharaja, a rare work preserved in the manuscript from in the T.M.S.S.M. Library, have been dealt with in this work. Patronage, royal or otherwise, provides the necessary impetus for the expression of talent and is thus essential for the growth of any art. It is therefore apt that royal patrons have been dealt with in a separate chapter followed sequentially by composers and their contribution, developments in the sphere of musical forms and the critical analysis of the concepts. The continuity of the subject matter is thus sought to be maintained.
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