Wednesday, 10 April 2019



Sometime back, my research on an old book on music led me to Kilimanoor palace. There, I met C.R. Kerala Varma (Sanyāsi Thampuran), a revered scholar who introduced me to the musical heritage of Kilimanoor palace and recalled the contributions of his own guru Sri. Kilimanoor R. Madhava Warrier. A few days back, as I went through my collection of old books, I was surprised to find a small book published in 1947, which never caught my attention before. This book, titled ‘Chaitrakshetram’, was a thullal composed by Kilimanoor R. Madhava Warrier! Kilimanoor R. Madhava Warrier (b.1878-d.1960) was a renowned scholar and musician and composer associated with the Kilimanoor royal family. He was the son of Lakshmikutty Warasyar and 'Marumakan Thampuran' of the Kilimanoor royal house. Today, he is mostly remembered as the composer of songs in the movie 'Bhakta Prahalada' (probably for the Malayalam remake).

R. Madhava Warrier
Madhava Warrier was fortunate to have lived in Kilimanoor palace during its golden age, i.e., during the lifetime of the legendary artist Raja Ravi Varma. The artistic tradition of the family was preserved by Raja Raja Varma, court painter to Swathi Thirunal, and his nephews Raja Ravi Varma and C. Raja Raja Varma. Mangala Bayi, the younger sister of Ravi Varma was also an artist of talent. Alongside the artistic tradition, the Kilimanoor royals claimed a rich tradition in music. Madhava Warrier's aptitude towards music was identified by his paternal family members and they arranged R. Samba Bhagavathar, the 'Mullamoodu Bhagavathar' to teach the young lad. Young Warrier found his mentors in Goda Varma (b.1854-d.1904), younger brother of Raja Ravi Varma and his cousin Chatayamnaal Ittammar Ravi Varma Coil Thampuran (d.1850-d.1936), who were both musicians and composers of repute.

After the untimely demise of artist C. Raja Raja Varma, who was an assistant and private secretary to his elder brother, young Madhava Warrier accompanied Raja Ravi Varma on his journeys. The artist who had the habit of picking models from among his family members once asked Warrier to sit as a 'model'. Little did Warrier know that he was being cast as Sree Krishna in the 'Sree Krishna as Envoy' (1906), an important painting ever done by the artist!
'Krishna as Envoy', 1906.

When Raja Ravi Varma passed away in 1906, the members of the royal house, especially the children were inconsolable. For them, the legendary artist was a lovable Valyammavan (patriarch) whose presence in the house always called for a festive mood. To ease the pain of the children, Madhava Warrier penned the following couplet:

Based on interviews with C.R. Kerala Varma, R.K. Varma, and Kilimanoor Chandran.
Sharat Sunder Rajeev