Graphic Biography of Swathi Thirunal in comic book format is authored by Lakshmi Devnath, a Chennai-based Carnatic music researcher. The book is the sixth title in the series ‘Pictures of Melody.’ The book consists of 24 pages – the first 12 pages are on the lineage and Swati Tirunal’s achievements as the ruler. The next 12 pages are about his music.
“It was obviously no easy task compiling such an extraordinary legacy into 24 pages,” said the book’s author Lakshmi Devnath, a Chennai-based Carnatic music researcher. “The project took many months of research and my notes alone covered well over 300 pages.”
These notes - referenced from various sources including works of R P Raja, S Venkatasubramanya Iyer and P Shungoony Menon, old government records and journals of the
Music Academyin Chennai - have now been compressed into roughly 140 picture panels that tell the tale of the “rare gem that adorned the throne of the erstwhile .” kingdomof Travancore
Starting with the state of affairs that prevailed before Swathi Thirunal’s birth on April 16, 1813, the book takes the reader through his life, focusing on his contributions both as king and as composer.
“For example, there is a panel on the wedding of Swathi Thirunal in 1830 with Ayikutty Narayani Pilla. It shows Swathi Thirunal offering a ‘pudava’ to Lord Padmanabha while the bride places a gold ornament in the shape of a lotus at the deity’s feet. This is as has been documented,” said Achuthsankar.
In some cases, a single frame brings out several details known about the king’s life. One panel, for instance, shows Irayimman Thampi singing the famous lullaby ‘Omana Thingal Kidavu’ even as the queen coos over her ‘Little Ummini’, her pet name for Swathi. Other aspects portrayed in the book include Thanjavur Subba Rao being chosen as his tutor, Madras Governor Col Lushington’s visit to test the young king and scenes from Swathi’s time as ruler such as the appointment of Cunden Menon to draw up Travancore’s first formal code of laws, the setting up of Maharaja’s Free School in 1836, the construction of the Karamana bridge and Kerala’s first Observatory.
Maharaja Swati Tirunal
Authored by Lakshmi Devnath
Edited by Shreya DevnathArt by Ajay Krishnan