Showing posts from February, 2014

Vidwan Ettan Thampuran – My Great Grandfather

Padnichare Kovilagath Manavikraman (Ettan) Raja, Zamorin of Calicut.
The period following the accession of the British over Malabar was a time when the Zamorins of Calicut, those suzerains who ruled over vast swaths of territory in Malabar for over 500 years, had descended into holders of simple titular positions with just a small privy purse from the British Government. Gone were the days of pomp and splendor, gone was the palace and fountains in the middle of Calicut, burnt to cinder or carted away by merchants. All they were left with was some property and oversight of temples, but with little malikhana income. The administrative staff and the Nair pada they once commanded was no longer in the payroll. The cheer that you see mentioned in a formal report quoted below was notably absent.
Quoting law journals - In 1792 Tippu ceded Malabar to the East India Company and ever since it has been under the rule of the Government of India. On the cession, the ruling powers of the rajahs and t…

Tanjore and its Carnatic music legacy

Some weeks ago I delivered a short talk on this subject to a few friends in our music group and as it involved some study, I decided to write an article around it.We enjoy these Sunday afternoons trying out some songs under the watchful eyes and ears of our much beloved and patient teacher Sunitha and at times we go over a little bit of theory and history. With that backdrop, let’s get started and go over the matter presented in that short talk, not to be considered in any way an exhaustive treatise on the subject.

The Carnatic has variously been described as the land to the south of the Vindhyas or the land between the Krishna and Kaveri. While Carnatic music should simply mean as the music of the Carnatic, this blend of Indian classical music has also been defined using the various meanings of Kar and Karna, with the word Kar meaning old, black, or that which pleases the ear. So it could be music of the old, music that pleases the ear or music of the darker skinned people. All debata…

Mata Hari the femme fatale and Malabar

History has many an interesting character but there is only one person whose name is synonymous with spying, espionage, intrigue, and sensuality, it is none other than Mata Hari, a purported German spy who was executed by the French during the First World War. This gorgeous, 5’10” feet tall woman could be easily described as the most famous or for that matter, the most talked about spy in the world after James Bond. But there is one large difference; she was a real person, a horizontal agent as Toni terms her, unlike Mr. 007. What would you think looking at her name? Variously explained as sunrise, the mother of Vishnu or eye of the day by just translating the Hindi or Sanskrit words, she was an exotic dancer with a very interesting life story. From the depressing streets of Pre-World War 1 Holland, she moved to sunny Java and back to Europe to set a blazing trail through the night club scenes of Paris, Germany and Holland, and sharing her bed with scores of bigwigs along the way. Fro…