The Thanjavur Amma Veedu , Thiruvananthapuram and its inspiring link with a Thanjavur danseuse


Thanjavur Ammaveedu, Thiruvanathapuram

Above image: Thanjavur Ammaveedu, Thiruvananthapuram. ettukettu structure mostly made of wood. Note the gable on either side on the slanting tiled roof and a jharokha on either side on the first floor.  this type of windows with lattice window is placed in the facade of the building overlooking  the road.  The inmates can watch the road, etc., but are not visible to the outsiders. Mostly this type of window is used in the women quarters in the palace or the northern states. The other striking features are   symmetrical arch openings, louvered shutters (to allow good air indoors), fluted pilasters, heavy cornice with ornate floral motifs, and the use of coloured glass . A good example of harmonious blend of different design styles. without compromising on native architecture..................

Jharokha drawing.

Does it give you any surprise that Thanjavur (Tanjore), once the capital of the composite delta district of Tanjore, then called the  granary of south India, had link with the Maharajah of Travancore centuries ago. Once ruled by the dynasties of Chola, Nayak and Maratha, for centuries this region has been a popular  center of dance, music, drama and arts (Eyal, Esai and natakam)  

Interior Thanjavur

In the wake of the demise of  Rajah Serfoji II in 1832, a polyglot and a patron of music and dances rupted poets, musicians, vocalists, dancers and artists in the royal  court had a setback and it affected their livelihood.  This led to gradual exodus of talented artists from this area to other kingdoms. Many of them made beelines to the princely state of Travancore because the rulers had been patrons of classical music, dance, etc for a long time. As a matter of fact Maharajah Swati Thirunal himself  was an excellent composer of many classical songs in Carnatic and Hindustani style which are sung widely  by the carnatic musicians of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra. 

Swati Thirunal  Rama Varma welcomed the artists and encouraged them to settle down in his kingdom. On account of the arrival of talented artists from Tanjore along with local famous artists, a cultural renaissance was in the making in Travancore,

Among the several dancers from the delta district of Tanjore  who enthralled the royal court,  in 1840  two young sisters,  Sundara Lakshmi Bai and Sugandha Parvathi Bai  drew the attention of the court and the people there. They were extremely talented dancers besides being affable and intelligent. The king having become a serious patron of Sundara  Lakshmi Bai liked her very much.  Perhaps attracted by her extraordinary flair for arts  and dedication  Swathi Thirunal was drawn closer to her  In 1843, King married  her upon  Sundara's  adoption into  Vadasherri Ammaveedu. This matrimonial link  did irk a section of  prominent people of the day, however,  the gossip subsided later as Sundara won the heart of every body she ran into. 

In order to make her comfortable and feel at home, the ruler had a big house built  for Sundara Lakshmi  on the vast premises of  ancient Vadasherri complex in Perumthanni. The house built in  traditional native  ettukettu style  is built  entirely of wood, including  walls and roof frame, gables on either side at the roof level Yet another feature, not native to Kerala is the incorporation of jharoka - projected roof covered balcony, a Rajasthani architectural element which the Martha rules of Tanjore adopted in their buildings, - Saarja Madi in the palace and Mangala Vilas building in Thanjavur, and Maratha house in Thiruvidaimaruthur near Kumbakonam. The  house was known as Vadasherri Padinjarae Ammaveedu.’It came to be known as Thanjavur Amma Veedu.  The workmanship and artistic splendor of the structure is a reflection on the exalted status of the occupant.  

King Swati died in 1846 and  Sundara Lakshmi lived in the Vadasherri Padinjarae Ammaveedu with her elder sister till her death. Sree Moolam Tirunal Rama Varma (1885-1924) bought it for his son Narayanan Thampi. Being a man of good disposition and character it was  Thampi who with a view to preserving the  memory of  Tanjavur Sundara Lakshmi,built a two-story structure mālika in front of the courtyard house and named it Tanjavur Ammaveedu. .What a fine gesture on the part of Thambi!

Some alterations were made to the‘arattu’ path  during the reign of Gowri Parvathi Bai, it was done to cut down inconvenience to the very influential Thampi brothers.